May 18, 2018

Life Lessons Learned in Military

Army Reserve Capt. Andrew Gaydos puts his military experience to work every day as Bell Bank’s physical security officer in charge of making sure the bank’s buildings and grounds are as secure as possible and the policies and procedures are created to maximize security.

Jason Hoopman, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, doesn’t use his military experience as part of his job as user support supervisor in Bell’s IT department, but he credits his experience with giving him the drive to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals.

While their experiences were different, both men say they wouldn’t be where they are today without the lessons they learned in the military.

‘Civic Duty and Service’

Growing up, Andrew knew he wanted to be an officer in the military, so he joined JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps) in high school. He went to St. John’s University on an Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship, which included monthly land navigation and mission training.

“I wouldn’t have gone to college otherwise,” Andrew notes. “I didn’t have much of an interest in college, but I wanted to be an officer in the Army, so I had to go through school first.”

Both Andrew’s dad and great-grandfather were in the military, but Andrew was the first officer in his family.

“I graduated during the recession, so I had friends who had student loans and were working at Starbucks or Target,” Andrew remarks. “I had no student loans and a job already lined up.”

After graduation, Andrew spent 2 years stationed in Ft. Polk, La., where he served as a platoon leader in charge of 43 military police soldiers, before he volunteered to spend a year in Afghanistan.

“It’s what you train for,” Andrew says. “That’s why I joined was to go fight bad guys.”

As a military police officer, Andrew assessed physical security of government facilities and made recommendations for improvements at various outposts as well as Afghan police and army stations.

After returning home in 2013, Andrew, who had married in 2010, wanted to settle down but maintain a military connection, so he joined the U.S. Army Reserve, which allows him to work for the Army part-time.

“Civic duty and service is important to me,” comments Andrew, who switched from military police to civil affairs last year.

In balancing work, family time and serving his country, Andrew says having a supportive employer, like Bell Bank, is crucial. While employers are supposed to give Reserve soldiers their required time off, Andrew says it’s nice when employers are willing and supportive.

In addition to spending one weekend a month and two weeks a year with the Reserve, Andrew also often spends time after work on conference calls, planning training, and distance learning for the Reserve’s 407th Civil Affairs Battalion.

‘A Turning Point’

After graduating high school, Jason says he wasn’t ready for college, but he didn’t want to sit around, either, so he joined the U.S. Navy.

“Both my dad and my grandfather had been in the military, but I wasn’t so much following in their footsteps as I was trying to do something with myself,” Jason notes.

During the 4 years he was in the Navy, Jason worked on an aircraft carrier stationed in Japan launching and recovering jet aircraft.

“It was exciting,” he remarks.

Before joining the military, Jason, who grew up in Richfield, Minn., had only traveled outside of the country to Mexico. His work in the Navy allowed him to visit Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and the Philippines.

“It was a great experience traveling,” he comments. “I was really exposed to different cultures, not only in visiting the countries, but also on the ship. I got to work with people who grew up in a totally different environment than I did.”

His experience in the military, Jason says, changed the course of his life for the better.

“It provided me with a lot of self-discipline and taught me attention to detail,” he notes. “It gave me a lot of direction. It made me more ambitious and helped me achieve my goals. My time in the military was a turning point.”

Instead of being okay with the status quo, Jason was motivated to constantly strive to advance. His experience also gave him confidence in knowing how much he was capable of doing.

“Working on the flight deck is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and everything we do is high-pressure,” Jason remarks. “What else could happen that’s going to be harder than that? It made it easier to work in high-pressure situations in other aspects of my life.” 

After his 4-year enlistment, Jason went to college and later pursued a career in IT. He’s been with Bell since 2014.

“If you don’t have any direction on what to do after high school, the military is a great transition where you’re going to get great experience and growth,” Jason comments.

National Military Appreciation Month

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month in May, Bell Bank would like to recognize and thank our employees who have served or are serving in the military: Rick Bigaouette, Burnsville, Minn., mortgage lender; Jonathan Donnelly, Hawley, Minn., branch manager; Marc Flanders, Minneapolis commercial lender; Andrew Gaydos, Fargo physical security officer; Gabe Gietzen, Fargo database administrator; Casey Gourde, Fargo mortgage servicing support specialist; Jason Hoopman, Minneapolis user support supervisor; Gary Kirt, Minneapolis consultant; Brent Kleppen, Nautilus and document design administrator; Adam Lund, Fargo information security engineer; Perry Rassler, Minneapolis commercial lender; Thomas Raymond, Fargo teller; and Michael Wagner, Fargo personal banker.