Jeff Pratt’s decision to join the military is a story that essentially tells itself. It has a beginning and a middle and, encouragingly in this case, no foreseeable end.
That’s the way this Sanford Health supply chain category management analyst wants it. He’s not someone who dwells on limits in life. Better to focus on ways you can get things done rather than think up ways you can’t.
In this case, that’s the way it has always been.
“I’ve always had a very large imagination,” he said, laughing. “I dream big things that some people find completely outlandish.”
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Consequently, there was almost no guesswork involved in Pratt charting out a path early in his life. As a result, the native of Monticello, Minnesota, targeted the military as a career about the same time he learned to read.
Pratt’s early start
“It was one of those things where you’re 5 years old and you tell your mom ‘I’m going to join the Army,’” Pratt said. “And she’s like ‘No you’re not. You’re 5, so you’re not actually going to do that.’”
By the time Pratt was 15 he started seeing army recruiters at school. Similarly, he told them some of the same things he’d told his mother 10 years earlier. He even showed up at their office and asked if he could join.
“They said ‘no,’” Pratt remembers. “They said ‘No, you’re not even 16 yet. We can’t even talk to you until a month before your 17th birthday.’”
To which Pratt responded: “Deal.”
And so, exactly a month before his 17th birthday he called the local recruiter and asked what came next.
The recruiter had to talk to Pratt’s parents, he told the teenager. They have to sign a waiver.
“Does tonight work?” Pratt asked. “My parents are home now. Let’s do this.”
Hence, that was pretty much the end of the process.
“The day after my 17th birthday, I raised my right hand,” Pratt said. “I signed my first contract and the adventure began.”
Continues to serve
Now 29, this military veteran continues to devote one weekend a month and another two or more weeks per year to the Army Reserves.
Combining being a soldier with building a career outside the military can present challenges. In some cases, employers may try to avoid military personnel entirely. Summarizing, it has the potential to present inconveniences. In contrast, that has not been the case with Sanford.
Sanford Vice President of Supply Chain Management Dean Weber, who oversees Pratt’s work, has been part of a concerted effort to bring military people into the Sanford community.
Some of those people’s situations are similar to Pratt’s. Others are taking on roles outside the military for the first time.
As a result in both examples, Sanford support has been there.
Diversity of roles
“Here in supply chain we’re going to be welcoming a 30-year veteran very shortly into our team — he’s come from only a military lifestyle,” Weber said. “And then we have people like Jeff who is part of a dual-role where he’s a reservist and he’s a colleague here at Sanford. These are two philosophies that we embrace. How do we help someone who is in the process? And, how do we help someone transfer skills from a military background to a civilian role?”
For his part, Pratt took that welcoming environment into account when he made the decision to continue the civilian side of his career.
“I was energized when I heard Kelby Krabbenhoft say ‘I want Sanford to be the destination for veterans to come and work,’” Pratt said. “I was encouraged by that and I’m driven by that. A lot of places might talk like they support veterans, but Sanford really puts it into practice.”
Likewise, Weber, who comes from a military family and has a military background himself, is one of the people who is not just talking. He’s doing.
“I know some of the sacrifices they’ve made for all of us,” Weber said. “I also know they have a lot of really great skills. Where they sometimes need help is in helping others understand where those skills are transferable. At the end of the day bringing that diversity into our organization is really important.”
Pratt and people
As a supply chain category management analyst, he works with internal and external stakeholders to maximize value and reduce risk in acquiring goods and services.
While that responsibility might seem a little wonky, it comes back to working with people, understanding their challenges and, as a result, helping them move forward.
“Sanford is growing,” Pratt said. “Along with that growth comes a complex network of individuals. And Sanford does a great job of creating this family culture, and that’s very attractive. I have to effectively communicate with all of them.”
Find jobs: Search Sanford Health for jobs for veterans
Now a staff sergeant in the Army Reserves, Pratt serves as a psychological operations team chief.
A large part of his responsibilities involves assisting conventional forces in conducting deceptive operations. As an example, during a recent training mission he coached a light infantry company into appearing bigger than they actually were.
In this training mission, the light infantry company was going up against a much larger force than itself. The goal was to get the larger force to move around the battlefield in a way that made them less effective.
In this role he often works with people from backgrounds far different from his own. He considers it a compelling part of a mission.
“At one point in time, I was attached to the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment of the British Army,” Pratt said. “I spent weeks living in the woods with them. Integrating and being effective with a diverse population can be a challenging proposition. British people speak English, but they come from a very different background and as a result they communicate very differently. And that’s fine. When you effectively build a relationship, it becomes a brotherhood where we come together and get things done.”
The Warrior Ethos
Pratt’s military background inevitably leads back to one exceptionally adaptable philosophy that has served him well in places like Iraq and in places like Sioux Falls.
Above all, it starts with the Warrior Ethos, which states: I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.
“They’re words we’ve all heard in Army commercials,” Pratt said. “What military members bring to the table is putting the task at hand first. It means we’re going to see what needs to get done and we’re going to make it happen and we’re going to work as a team to do it. And we’re not going to leave anybody behind. That’s a really good benefit to an organization and Sanford recognizes that.”
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