Military service preps Guard captain for health care career

"Sanford Health doesn’t have rocket launchers, but the skills I developed managing millions of dollars of equipment were certainly marketable.”

Military service preps Guard captain for health care career

Jared Thomas’ resume reads renaissance man. He’s an athletic trainer, teacher, construction equipment operator, maintenance supervisor, leadership developer and life saver.

That’s what a dozen years in the South Dakota Army National Guard and one more at Sanford Health have included for the 30-year-old Chamberlain, South Dakota, native.

Thomas is one of many military veterans employed by Sanford Health in a variety of roles — from clinical to administrative. The health system believes in the diverse skill sets of service members like Thomas.

That appreciation led to the creation of a department of veteran and military services. Retired Navy Capt. Paul Weckman leads the department with the goal of helping Sanford Health become the employer, provider and partner of choice for those who have served.

Military family

Service to country is a family affair for Thomas. His father and grandfather were in the Army National Guard. After his freshman year at Dakota Wesleyan University, Thomas signed on with the 200th Engineer Company. He transitioned through different jobs before landing at the 139th Brigade Support Battalion based in Brookings, South Dakota.

“My dad really encouraged me to join,” Thomas said. “During my first year in college, a friend and I decided it was time, and we joined together.”

Now a captain who serves part time, Thomas began his military career as a construction equipment operator. He’s also worked in logistics and ammunition. His military training is complimented by a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and a master’s in education.

Hire Heroes USA

As Thomas transitioned from military to civilian life, he took advantage of Hire Heroes USA, a program that helps pair military personnel with employers around the country. He worked with a coach, conducted practice interviews and learned how his military training could be parlayed into a civilian occupation.

“In the military, I oversaw the maintenance of 18 rocket launchers,” Thomas said. “Hire Heroes USA helped me translate that. Sanford Health doesn’t have rocket launchers, but the skills I developed managing millions of dollars of equipment were certainly marketable.”

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Hire Heroes USA helped Thomas land a position as a human resources administration representative at Sanford Health. Recently, he accepted a new position as a leadership development specialist, helping Sanford Health identify and build effective leadership models. He credits his six years as a commissioned officer with preparing him for his new role.

Employees like Thomas, said Weckman, demonstrate the value veterans bring to Sanford Health.

“Jared received extraordinary training in the military,” he said. “He’s disciplined, motivated, organized and hardworking, and he brings a unique perspective to his job that benefits his colleagues and the entire organization.”

Saved a co-worker

Sanford Health’s commitment to veterans hasn’t gone unnoticed. It has twice received the Pro Patria Award from the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve organization. Sanford Health also was a semifinalist for the Secretary of Defense’s Employer Support Freedom Award.

While Thomas doesn’t serve in a clinical role at Sanford Health, his military and athletic training saved a life recently. When a co-worker went into cardiac arrest, Thomas used an automatic external defibrillator (AED) to give a life-saving shock before beginning CPR. Thomas had experience using an AED through his athletic training education and combat lifesaver training from the Army National Guard.

Thomas and other military members are honored every Veterans Day. For this husband and father of two, it’s about appreciating his fellow service men and women.

“Veterans Day is a time to reflect,” said Thomas. “For me, I use it as a time to be grateful. My military career has not included a deployment. But I know there are people out there who have had five or six deployments during that time. I’m so thankful for those who have served.”

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Posted In Brookings, Chamberlain, Health Information, Sanford Stories, Veterans