Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce Military Veterans in honor of Veterans Day.
Guest blog post by Warren Anderson, International Trade Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service – St. Louis
How did I get here? I find myself asking that question often. I especially found myself wondering that last summer on my 32nd birthday, looking at the Washington Monument from my office near the White House. Here I was: A small-town country boy turned Marine grunt and somehow I had this view. Only in America.
When people ask, ‘’What do you do,” I honestly never know how to answer or even where to start. Normally I tell them that I help U.S. companies do business overseas, which tends to pique their interest. They usually follow up by asking how I got into this field, which is where I find myself at a surprising loss for words. Like many veterans, it starts from humble beginnings and eventually takes many random twists and turns, but of course us Marines happen to be quite well at the ability to “improvise, adapt and overcome.”
I start by telling them how I majored in international business at the University of Missouri – St. Louis when I moved here in 2008. A fellow student I studied with in China told me about an internship with a federal government agency called the U.S. Commercial Service. I remember being nervous as I typed up my resume because this was the only experience I had:
U.S. MARINE CORPS, Camp Pendleton, California: Corporal, Non-Commissioned Officer
June 2003 – June 2007
• Deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a machine gunner in a mobile infantry platoon of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines:
- Operation Vigilant Resolve – Fallujah 2004.
- Operation Steel Curtain & Iron Hammer – Syrian border/Anbar Province 2005/06.
• Lead and supervised a weapons team in offensive and defensive ground combat missions.
• Trained Marines in preparation for operational readiness to and in Iraq.
I couldn’t see how the years I spent as a machine gunner in a Marine infantry battalion could translate into an international business office environment. How wrong I was. Looking back on my experiences in Fallujah and along the Syrian-Iraqi border, those were some of the best life lessons anyone could receive. I learned how to be part of a team. I learned the importance of supporting my colleagues and clients. I learned to not accept failure. For that I am grateful.
I continue to find myself amazed at how strong a correlation my current position and former role relate to each other. In the military we were told to win hearts and minds, that the interactions we have will dictate future opinions of us. I have learned that whether I am handing out soccer balls and candy to the children of Iraq or helping facilitate multinational trade deals, in the end, it is still all about people and our interactions with them.
Now on my sixth year with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service, I see my job as a continuation of my military service. I am proud to serve in my new capacity promoting mutual understanding and goodwill between nations through trade, knowing fully well the consequences when those people-to-people relations cease.
So as Veterans Day quickly comes upon us, I would like to thank all of those who have or are currently serving our great country. You truly are at the frontlines and serve as a beacon representing our core American values to the world. Semper Fidelis.