Each year, our country pauses for a day to celebrate Veterans, the individuals who put their lives on the line to protect our country. Given their protective nature, it’s not surprising that individuals who serve would pursue a career in insurance and risk management.
Clarence Easterday (Former US Army Field Artillery Officer), a prominent leader in the risk management and trucking arena, set aside time this month to be featured on the Ametros “It’s Settled” podcast. He shares how his military experiences impact his leadership and empathy for injured individuals in the settlement and litigation processes. When asked how he made the transition from the military into his insurance and risk management career he shared, “Everything in the military is safety and risk related. And when you have somebody get hurt, it’s just like the real world, except we don’t have workers’ compensation, it’s called profile. If you have a guy on profile, you want to help him get better. You have empathy on what he can and can’t do and you have an asset that you know if you drive him into the ground when he’s injured, it’s going to be longer before he’s back in your ring of offense.”
Three other leaders in risk management, Joe Frank Rodriguez, Terri Kiehlhorn, and Richard Regna shared how their military experiences lead them to success in the risk management field.
Richard Regna, Vice Chair at Arcadia Settlements Group, Marine Corps
Arcadia’s Richard Regna served in the Marines prior to beginning his career as a Vice Chair in Risk Management. When asked about how his military experience influenced his career, without hesitation Rich discussed how it shaped his career, gave him the wisdom to never give up, and taught him to be relentless toward his goals.
“The military taught me to never give up. If you lose something, always find another angle. If your people are letting you down, don’t give up on them.
“When you are working with people at a leadership level, you have to hold people accountable, walk alongside them, and make them shine,” he said. Rich values accountability and appreciation, and he holds his team accountable and to a high standard - not only for their clients, but also for their personal growth.
Though he learned this leadership from many great leaders in the military, one had a tremendous impact on him. “There is definitely one leader in particular that stands out to me, and ironically I met him in boot camp, which is only 3 months. It was my drill instructor, and his name was Staff Sergeant Lane. He had a presence to him where he was a great teacher, and he was compassionate. If you were hurt, he would make sure you were okay and would get you the right care. He taught us to respect him, but he also taught us to fear him a little bit and to seek his approval. In turn, he would push you beyond your comfort zone,” he said.
Outside of boot camp, his platoon sergeant instilled the “never give up” attitude in him. He revealed, “My platoon sergeant was a person of major impact – he would always say, ‘Plan B is for quitters. Plan A is what you carry out and you carry it out dying if you have to’. The military taught me to never give up. If you lose something, always find another angle. If your people are letting you down, don’t give up on them. The ‘Never Give Up’ mentality is huge in the military whether it’s Marines, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, or Air Force.”
At Arcadia, Rich focuses heavily on injured individuals and works alongside Ametros to make sure their future medical is handled appropriately. In speaking about his service and the risk management industry, he shared an interesting thought, “Wounded veterans would be great to work in our industry due to their ability to be compassionate and empathetic. It would be great to have someone who could relate to injured parties from their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. They may even be able to take it a step further by talking to injured parties about how they could invest their non-medical money toward their future.”
Terri Kiehlhorn, Independent Consultant, Navy
Terri Kiehlhorn, an independent consultant, formerly the VP of Risk Services at Dignity Health, attributes her success in the health care field to the opportunities the Navy provided her. The Navy funded her law school education, and she gained experience through the Judge Advocate Generals Corp prior to pursuing her civilian career.
“The Navy helped me realize that with enough determination you can figure things out and you can do a lot of things. You don’t have to be stuck in one paradigm of ‘I can’t do that'."
“The Navy was very good to me. When I went in, I didn’t expect to make it a career, but they gave me so many phenomenal opportunities and I worked with so many good people who helped me. The fact that they paid me to go to Law school and then gave me the time to do it was something that not many people get the opportunity to do. I did my mandatory tour in the military, but the fact that I got to work in health care and health law really helped me to get fantastic civilian jobs,” she said of her experience.
She added that the military taught her a lot about determination, “The Navy helped me realize that with enough determination you can figure things out and you can do a lot of things. You don’t have to be stuck in one paradigm of ‘I can’t do that’. In the Navy, you learn that you can do a lot.”
When asked about how the Navy developed her leadership she shared, “Rank wasn’t about positions, it was that you learned to respect people and whether they were an 01, an 06, or an E5, you treat people appropriately and you help them. You do your job and you do it well.”
Joe Frank Rodriguez, Corporate Risk Manager for Cotti Foods, Marine Corps & National Guard
Former Marine, Joe Frank Rodriguez serves in risk, safety, and fleet management at Cotti Foods. He believes that his protective instinct and sense of duty led him to be successful in this field. “When I joined, I not only wanted to protect myself, but I wanted to protect those who are weaker. My instinct is now to protect, which is why I was drawn to work in risk management.” Due to that safeguarding instinct, he is not surprised that there are other Veterans in the risk management field.
“We take an oath to serve and protect - I don’t think it ever leaves your heart that you took that oath."
Joe Frank believes that compared to the general population, you might find a higher percentage of Veterans in the safety and risk management field. He attributed this to their sense of duty, saying, “We take an oath to serve and protect - I don’t think it ever leaves your heart that you took that oath. You’ll find in Veterans that they have a sense of identity that is tied to what they do so they do it to their upmost.”
Clarence, Rich, Terri, and Joe are examples of the positive impact people with a military background can have on an industry. While we honor the military, both past and present on Veteran’s Day, we owe a debt of gratitude not only for their service, but for the way they have continued to use their military experience to positively impact our industry.
With the release of our special Veteran’s Day podcast featuring Clarence Easterday, our hope is that as an industry, we can pause for Veteran’s Day and thoughtfully consider the meaningful impact Veteran’s make daily to the field of risk management.