Veteran Stories and the Mission Critical Mindset

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Join Raymond Hawkins in a Memorial Day special as he explores the synergy between military skills and data center operations with Compass Datacenters’ veterans.

Join host Raymond Hawkins in a heartfelt Memorial Day special as he delves into a riveting conversation on the untapped talent of veterans in the data center industry with Compass Datacenters VPs, Garett Jaco and Wayne Watson

Raymond Hawkins, Wayne Watson and Garett Jaco are all veterans in the data center business. With Raymond’s and Garret’s Marine Corps background, alongside Watson’s Navy history as a nuclear electrician, their combined expertise forms the backbone of this compelling dialogue. 

Key topics:  

🎖️ Military Experience and Data Center Proficiency: The episode explores the overlap between military service and expertise in data center operations, highlighting the transferable skills that veterans bring to the industry. 

🔃 Transferable Skills: Compass veterans discuss the meticulous attention to detail and the importance of procedure adherence instilled through their military training, and how these skills translate into success in handling critical equipment within data centers. 

🪖 Personal Army Stories: They also share anecdotes and experiences from their military service, offering a glimpse into the lighter side of their time in the armed forces. 

🎗️ Mental Wellness in the Industry: Raymond addresses the serious topic of mental health within the data center industry, advocating for support and destigmatization of mental illness, especially among veterans transitioning to civilian life. 

As the episode draws to a close, reflect on Memorial Day with a profound appreciation for the sacrifices made by our war fighters, and a renewed commitment to honoring their legacy. Tune in for an uplifting journey that celebrates the resilience, expertise, and unwavering spirit of our veterans. 

Read the full transcript below:

Raymond Hawkins:        And then, I had to go get in on a 46-foot training ship, in what was probably six-foot seas, for the next four hours. You want to talk about a rough four hours.

Wayne Watson:            That’s not going to feel good.

Raymond Hawkins:        That was not good.

Garett Jaco:                  The real question, Raymond, did you clean it up before or after you left?

Raymond Hawkins:        That’s a great question. We did not have time, so it sat there all day.

Wayne Watson:            Oh shit.

Garett Jaco:                  That’s a great smell.

Wayne Watson:            That’s a good one.

Raymond Hawkins:        All right. Welcome to another edition of Not Your Father’s Data Center. I’m Raymond Hawkins, today coming from our Alabama Annex at Compass Data Centers, and joined by Wayne Watson out of our Dallas office. And Garrett, where are you today?

Garett Jaco:                  I’m actually at our ID site.

Raymond Hawkins:        Okay, so Northern Virginia, so you’re near home today. Today, we thought we’d spend a little bit of time talking about being vets, and being vets in the data center business. All three of us are vets and thankfully all three in the data center business. Today, we have two Marines and one sailor. We have no airmen and no soldiers. The soldier one was on purpose, and I just don’t think we have any airmen in the business, right?

Garett Jaco:                  I don’t think so. At least not in ours.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah, I don’t think so. All right. It probably takes at least two, maybe three Marines to balance out the sailor. So we’ll let Wayne go first. Wayne, if you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about who and what you do at Compass, and then back up and a little bit and tell us about what got you in the Navy.

Wayne Watson:            So I’m Wayne Watson, Vice President of North America Operations here at Compass Data Centers. All of the site teams that operate our equipment, switch gear, generators, cooling equipment, and interact with the customer on a daily basis. Hopefully, report up to me. A little bit about me. I grew up in a small town in South Mississippi, where farming and alligators and crawfish are the thing we do down there. Going through high school, 9-11 happened when I was in my junior year. So that catapulted the thought process.

Raymond Hawkins:        You’re making me feel old, Wayne. But go ahead.

Wayne Watson:            Well, dated myself there, sorry. Between 9-11 and having uncles and grandparents in the military that had served, gave me a sense of pride. And made a sense that I need to go help, get these terrorists back after that happened. Taking that as I have, and moving into offers from all the different branches. The Navy had the nuclear field, sounded like the right thing to do. Hell of an opportunity for a farm boy from Mississippi, and just catapulted me into something a lot bigger.

Raymond Hawkins:        Where’d you do basic, Wayne?

Wayne Watson:            It was in uh.

Garett Jaco:                  Oh my God. Come on. Wayne. Jeez.

Wayne Watson:            Well, I went to [inaudible 00:02:48].

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah. That’s all you and I need to know about what an impression the Navy basic puts on people.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah, exactly.

Raymond Hawkins:        I don’t even remember wear I was.

Wayne Watson:            It was Great Lakes, Chicago condo.

Raymond Hawkins:        Just for comparison’s sake, let’s do this, Garrett. Tell me what platoon, what company and where you did basic?

Garett Jaco:                  I did basic in San Diego, and I want to say we were 31-24.

Raymond Hawkins:        See knows his platoon number.

Garett Jaco:                  Delta Company.

Raymond Hawkins:        Knows his company, yeah. It made an impression.

Garett Jaco:                  No, that’s not true. Charlie Company, I’m sorry.

Raymond Hawkins:        Charlie Company. All right.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah.

Wayne Watson:            I do know how to patch pipes and the knife goes in the left hand.

Raymond Hawkins:        All right, good.

Wayne Watson:            I don’t know what my company’s for.

Raymond Hawkins:        All right, good. What was your, do y’all call them MOS’s in the Navy? What’d you do for the Navy, anyway?

Wayne Watson:            Yeah, I was a nuclear electrician. So EMN, is what we’re called? Yeah, it was on board an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson.

Raymond Hawkins:        All right.

Wayne Watson:            For 93 days at sea, and then pulled her back in for a refueling complex overhaul in Newport News Virginia, and spent four years there. The carrier apart, putting it back together, toasting all the systems, took it out for sea trials for two weeks and that was the end of my career.

Raymond Hawkins:        So 93 days at sea on the front end?

Wayne Watson:            Yes.

Raymond Hawkins:        Gotcha. Very cool. That’s a big boat.

Wayne Watson:            It was quite large. We had the air wing and everything. It was 5,000 people tops, when we had the air wing. And just feeding that many people, and living around that many people, was a heck of an experience.

Raymond Hawkins:        It’s like a floating city. I mean those elevators with the planes on them are just unbelievable.

Wayne Watson:            Yeah, it was pretty amazing. Pretty amazing experience.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah. Good stuff. All right. Farm boy from Mississippi makes good and becomes a nuclear engineer. We love that. All right Garrett, what got you in the Marine Corps?

Garett Jaco:                  Much like Wayne, I was in high school when 9-11 happened. I was a senior.

Raymond Hawkins:        God, y’all both are going to do it to me. Okay, fair. Okay.

Garett Jaco:                  I just wanted to double on.

Wayne Watson:            You knew it was coming.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yes, I’ll say it. Okay. I was 38 when 9-11 happened.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah. I mean, at the time my dad was a Marine Recruiter. I had grown up being a military brat, living in California. Then at Fort Knox where my dad was a tank instructor. Raymond, I know you’ve been there.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yes.

Garett Jaco:                  Did that. And at the time we were living in what I consider home, Jackson, Missouri, and 9-11 happened, and it made the decision pretty easy. So I joined the Marine Corps, I went to San Diego, as we talked about for basic training.

Raymond Hawkins:        Hollywood marine.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah, exactly.

Raymond Hawkins:        I see the tan lines. You can see them still.

Garett Jaco:                  I wish, I’m headed back to LA tonight. Maybe I’ll work on that. But no, so I did that. I started out as a nuclear weapons security guard at Banger Washington. Did that for a few years. Moved back down to 29 Palms, California, where I grew up as a kid. Spent a few years there, I deployed Iraq with third Battalion seventh Marines, came back. Had the fortunate opportunity to go out and be a Marine security guard, which were the people who guard embassies overseas. I was lucky enough to get to go to London and to Kiev, Ukraine. And then I spent some time in Ottawa, Canada and then a short stint down in Mexico City, Mexico. When I finished that, I thought I was going to get out, and actually ran into a guy that was an active duty criminal investigator for the Marine Corps, and figured, “Hey, let me go give that a shot.”. And I did the last four and a half years, I was in the Marine Corps as an active duty criminal investigator at Quantico.

Raymond Hawkins:        Very cool. That’s neat. A, you got deployment time and combat time. You got to go see multiple embassies and be on the investigator side. That’s a pretty cool stint, but both of y’all’s career is far more impressive than mine. I got a post-it note here that holds everything about my career on it. It’s very short.

Garett Jaco:                  It’s still a career, Raymond.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah, that’s right. I joke all the time. The only person with a less illustrious career than me is George Bush, 43. Both of us had a very easy role of it. So Garett, when you got out, what were you?

Garett Jaco:                  I was a sergeant when I got the Marine Corps. Yeah.

Raymond Hawkins:        Gotcha. Awesome. E-five, right? If I remember right.

Garett Jaco:                  E-five, yep.

Raymond Hawkins:        Wayne, how about you?

Wayne Watson:            I was also an E-five second class petty officer.

Raymond Hawkins:        All right. Between the three of us, we ought to figure out how to do something. There’s three of them. Well, cool. Well guys, I appreciate you telling a little bit about yourselves personally. So I’m significantly older than both of you. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1984. So I don’t know if the of you were born in 84′? Yes, no?

Garett Jaco:                  I was born November of 83′. So I just caught you.

Raymond Hawkins:        So you just made it, so you’re less than a year old. So I enlisted the Marine Corps in 1984. I graduated from High School and two days later I was on the yellow footprints in Paris Island. I was super fortunate that the Marine Corps allowed me to pick my job. And you go, “Well, they let you pick your job. Why did you pick tanks?”. But I thought that would be fun to drive a tank, so I chose to be a tanker. So after bootcamp, I went to Fort Knox. Kentucky and went to Marine Corps Tank School. And the Marine Corps was pretty passionate about me not being an enlisted man, but asking me to go to college. And my whole family had been career officers, and I was pretty passionate about being a Mustang. I was like, “No, I’m going to do an enlisted hitch first and then I’ll go.”.

                                    And the Marine Corps was not okay with that. They pushed very hard, and after 13 months, I took what was called an FMF, the Marine Corps Scholarship, and that’s how I went to school. So the Marine Corps sent me to school. And so my last three years on active duty, I got paid to go to college. Which is embarrassingly, easy, when I say that George Bush and I had similar career trajectories. So the Marine Barracks were bombed to Beirut in 83′, I enlisted in 84′. And then we didn’t put the first boots in the desert, until the very end of 89′. And I got out in the beginning of 89′. So we were at peace the whole time. I drove tanks on and off of train cars, because that was all we needed them to do at that time. We weren’t fighting anybody. And the Marine Corps was gracious enough to send me to college. And that was my four years.

Garett Jaco:                  Great choice on the Marine Corps. Terrible choice on Auburn.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yes. You know how I ended up at Auburn, Garrett? This is so funny. So the Marine Corps had the scholarship I had. They gave me choices. You could pick your schools, right? And you got four slots. And I picked Ohio State number one, because it’s where my girlfriend lived. I picked Georgia Tech number two, because it’s where my father had gone to school, and I wanted to be an engineer. And I picked Vanderbilt number three, because I thought long term I probably would like to study law, and it’d be nice to already have some time at Vanderbilt. Thinking long term about going to Vanderbilt Law School. And I didn’t have a fourth choice. Those were the only three schools I put on the form.

                                    And my father had just moved from Seattle, Washington, to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama for Boeing. He had retired from the Air Force and gone to work for Boeing. And I was like, “Well, my dad lives in Alabama. Does my program, the FMS scholarship, do they have a slot in the state of Alabama?”. Well, they had one slot and it was at Auburn. So I just filled it in, just to fill my form out. I couldn’t find Auburn on a map. I had no idea where it was.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah.

Raymond Hawkins:        And of course, the Marine Corps came back four weeks later and said, “Congratulations, you’ve gotten your fourth choice.”.

Garett Jaco:                  It was still a choice.

Raymond Hawkins:        It was still a choice. Yeah.

Garett Jaco:                  That’s right.

Raymond Hawkins:        So that’s how I ended up at Auburn. And amazingly enough, it is the place I love and where I’m calling you from today, 35 years later. Because I have such a special place on my heart for here. And both my kids are in the great state of Alabama, and all my family’s here now still. So that’s how I ended up there by absolute accident.

Garett Jaco:                  Awesome.

Wayne Watson:            Love it.

Raymond Hawkins:        For us at Compass, we’re recording a little ahead of time, but certainly thinking about Memorial Day. It is why we’re doing this veteran episode. Want to talk about why we feel vets play such a key role in the data center business or why the data center business is such a great fit. So if you guys are willing? Wayne, if you’ll hit lead off? If you’ll talk with us a little bit about when you first heard of the data center business, how you got in it, and maybe some of the lessons that you learned in the Navy that carry over to what we do in the critical equipment side of our business.

Wayne Watson:            Yeah, sure.

                                    Getting out of the Navy, I really didn’t even know data centers existed. They were a niche market, 15 years ago. Being in the Navy nuke fields on a boat, you just don’t really get to reach out in a networking perspective, to be able to find out these opportunities exist. So I went to a couple of military veteran hiring conferences, ended up being interviewed by a data center company at that time, that was there at that conference. It was switching data at that time, based out of Tampa. The person that was interviewing me was also a prior Navy nuke, from Louisiana. So we had a lot of similarities. There’s a funny story that comes behind that. My wife’s a veteran as well, and she was at that same hiring conference getting interviewed by the same company. And come to find out, they actually liked her just a little better than they liked me.

Raymond Hawkins:        Now were y’all already married, Wayne? Are you’re just finding that you or y’all found this out afterwards?

Garett Jaco:                  No, we were married at the time.

Raymond Hawkins:        Okay. You were married at the time. All right.

Wayne Watson:            We were vying for the same job, and she ended up taking a different position at a different company. So the joke’s always been, your wife would’ve done a better job had she taken this. You know how we rouse each other.

Garett Jaco:                  I’ll make sure to talk to Lindsay about that next time I see her.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah, I can see this getting brought up again.

Wayne Watson:            That was always the joke. But yeah, it was the luck of the draw. It was going to the military hiring conferences, not knowing what’s out there. And I think that’s a lot of importance behind that, is that companies may not know the value of the veterans or understand their background. We can go to those conferences as a sponsor looking to hire veterans and find there’s a plethora of different talent. Background, technical fields, non-technical fields, whatever needs to be settled. I mean, it doesn’t have to be a Navy nuke field every position. There’s a lot of other good people out there that can do really good work.

Raymond Hawkins:        Gary and I wrote down plethora. After I look it up, I’ll forward you the definition.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah, thank you.

Raymond Hawkins:        Two Marines. I have no idea what he’s saying.

Garett Jaco:                  I also want to revisit this. We don’t need a Navy nuke for every position thing.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah.

Garett Jaco:                  Because when I talked to him about hiring, it seems like we always need Navy Nukes.

Raymond Hawkins:        That’s all he’s interested in.

Wayne Watson:            I know.

Garett Jaco:                  Exactly.

Wayne Watson:            All right. Fair enough.

Raymond Hawkins:        Was there not a Navy nuke in the interview process? What’s going on here?

Wayne Watson:            If there’s not one, they need to get hiring. If there is one, they got a good chance.

Raymond Hawkins:        They’re looking solid. Got it.

Wayne Watson:            That’s pretty solid.

Raymond Hawkins:        Got it. As you think about some of the things you learned as a Navy nuke, how has that translated? Switching data gave you a job, that was great, got you in the data center business. But how do you see the disciplines and things that you learned, being on the carrier, carrying over to the critical equipment side of our world?

Wayne Watson:            Absolutely. There’s two big things in my mind that carry over. First, is just the critical facility mentality that everything down there is hot and spinney, or sharp, or electrified. So it gives you a respect of where you are. And you know what sucks, what not to touch. If you need to operate something, you know what personal protective equipment to go get. And then that anything you do could have a skating effect through the other systems and through the entire plant. So that mentality coupled with the importance of procedures. MOPs is what they were called there, SOPs, here are Compass. We call them EEPs, Error Eliminating procedures. They cover all the disciplines. But just the importance of knowing that each piece of equipment should have that. So it covers the unknown. It’ll tell you you need to go do this here and that there, and then you can do what you need to do, in order to operate safely and correctly. So just that critical facility mindset and use of procedures really translated really well.

Raymond Hawkins:        Wayne. something you said reminded me the very first day of tank school. A tip of the hat to your father’s work at Fort Knox. So my first day at tank school, they walk us around the tank and they say, “Hey, you see this tank doesn’t have any eyeballs. It does not know what uniform you wear. It is 120 thousand pounds of steel and it will kill you just as easy as is it will kill the enemy.”.

                                    And just trying to get us to develop respect for the lethal nature, and the seriousness of the pieces of equipment we’d be working around. And even though the stuff in our critical equipment space isn’t designed to kill people, it has the same lethalness that the tank did. And being able to show that equipment respect and be careful around it and how important procedures were. I’m not trying to stir up current events notion. But the procedures around that movie making, where the young lady got shot, right? It’s just someone didn’t follow procedures. There happened to be a live round in that weapon. And the notion that you never point a weapon at anyone, I mean to me that’s a great example of “Hey, someone missed a procedure. Someone didn’t follow attention to detail”. And in our business bad things happen when that goes around.

Wayne Watson:            Absolutely.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah.

Wayne Watson:            We had a saying on the carrier, they’d run on 4,160 volts is the main distribution. And the old saying was “4160, don’t care.”. They don’t care who you are, they don’t care where you from, they don’t care anything about you. 4160 don’t care. So just know what you’re doing.

Raymond Hawkins:        Doesn’t care what your rating is, it’ll kill you if it touches you.

Wayne Watson:            Exactly. Yeah.

Raymond Hawkins:        All right, Garrett. Talk a little bit being on the security side and the investigator side, but your time in the Marine Corps. How’d you find the data center industry and what are some of the things that translated over?

Garett Jaco:                  Same as Wayne, I just lucked into the data center industry. I was working at a financial institution and they had an in-house data center. Which all I knew were a bunch of servers in a room, in an office building we had, and we were looking to outsource that. So I went around and I started doing security questionnaires and interviewing different providers about their security procedures and policies. And I left on one day and they called and said, “Hey, actually, we’re looking to hire a regional manager. Is there any interest in coming to work for us?”. And so I ended up taking a job there and that’s how I got into the data center industry, which fortunate enough led me to hear at Compass. The things that really stick out to me, and I think you mentioned it a little Raymond earlier. Is attention to detail.

                                    It’s something you’re taught very early on in the military and something that’s stressed throughout your career. But it is super important here at the data center, especially out and operating sites. Who are you letting in? What are you seeing when you walk by? Have breakers been switched from the on position to the off position? And that’s something that we also expect of our security guards, when they’re doing patrols to help notice that there’s changes in the environment. That’s something they need to report up to either Security Leadership or Ops Leadership on site. So we can get ahead of some of those issues as soon as we recognize them.

                                    And then the other thing I would say really translated over is that 24-7 mentality. Being able to be on call, being able to respond whether it’s the middle of the night or two o’clock on a Saturday. Infrastructure doesn’t sleep. People are using the internet just as much Saturday at six A.M., as they are Monday at 2:30 in the afternoon. So the ability that we have to keep businesses up and running, and our teams needing to be prepared, literally, 24-7. Is something that I think a lot of vets that transfer over into the data center field are used to. And it probably finds a little solace that this is a routine I’m used to doing.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah, I think you hit one point really well there, Garrett. The notion that we work Monday through Sunday and in any hour, is completely normal in the military. And I think that there’s a good chunk of civilian life that says, “Oh no, my job’s from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, or 9:00 AM to 5:00 P.M.”. I would tell people I said, “Hey, we had mustard at six A.M.”. Right? We were at the office by 6:30 and that’s completely normal. That’s just the way the day went, and that was six days a week and it was totally normal. And I think that’s a mindset that translates from that’s nicely, to the 24-7, 365 nature of the data center business. Wayne, you probably live that even more than me and Garrett. I know security is 24-7, but I mean your whole staff is 11:00 AM on Sundays just as important as 8:00 AM on Monday.

Wayne Watson:            Absolutely. And they understand that, there’s that 2:00 A.M. time. People on shift understand that I’m here for the reason. A lot of that ownership translates as well. There’s something to go bump in the night, and that’s what we’re here to help prevent. And prevent the extent of how bad that is, and be able to respond and call the appropriate vendors to come fix it. So yeah, I would absolutely agree.

Raymond Hawkins:        All right. I’m going to put you both on the spot, a little. I’ll do it to the Marine first, because that way you get some time to prepare, Wayne. So tell me one story from your time in the Marine Corps, Garrett. Intentionally, some story that when you hang out with family or buddies, that you think is the funniest or the quirkiest or the weirdest. The thing that you go, “You would not believe this happened.”. There’s such a comradery, I think, from being in the military, connected to the people in your unit. And when I talk about leaving the military and going to civilian life. That’s one of the things I missed, is the esprit de corps that you had. And that’s where those great stories come from. So I’d love to hear some story from some unit or some commander or something you experienced while you reg, Garrett.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah. So I’ll tell on myself, I’ve been out long enough that even if anyone sees it, it is what it is. So I was in the MSGE program, it’s a small unit, you have five to maybe 15 Marines at some embassy overseas. And at the time I was in London and it was New Year’s Eve. We went out to a masquerade ball, New Year’s Eve, several Marines, several of the people who worked at the embassy.Ne, It’s a local party. Fireworks go off at midnight. We lived very close to Hyde Park.

                                    Hyde Park closes at a certain time, police have blocked off the roads and everything. And me and two other Marines decide we need to make it back curfew. So the way to make it back for curfew is to cut through Hyde Park, even though it’s closed. Unbeknownst to me, I have butt-dialed my mom at the time, and all she hears us screaming, “Oh, we’re going.”. She hears cop sirens in the background, she hears someone yell, “Stop.”. And then the phone cuts out. At that time, I’m pretty sure is when we were jumping the fence to Hyde Park, to cut through Hyde Park. I ripped the pants of my suit. But we do get back right at curfew.

Raymond Hawkins:        I was going to say, do you make muster? Yeah.

Garett Jaco:                  That’s what we’ve said since then, we’ve got back right at curfew.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah, good.

Garett Jaco:                  But I talked to her the next day and it was just, “Hey, you called me and I was so nervous all night.”. So that’s the story that’s brought up quite often.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah, I love it.

Garett Jaco:                  It’s something even with the Marine that was out with me that night, we bring up regularly.

Raymond Hawkins:        There you go. All right, Wayne. You got a, I butt-dialed my mom on New Year’s Eve story?

Wayne Watson:            Don’t know if I have one that good. No, that’s pretty epic. But I’ll translate that into the nuke world. When you’re on watch and you’re on shift, you’re supposed to be awake, all the time. And we had a particularly bad three days, where we didn’t get to leave. You got to eat two meals maybe, because there’s just so much wrong and we’re trying to fix things. Everyone’s pitching in. You went to go smoke, more than you got to eat. We have one guy who was relatively senior, he had just been busting his butt for two and a half days and he was on watch. It was one A.M., and I go in the switch gear room as the roving electrician.

                                    I see him just slumped down in his chair asleep, not legs kicked up, not nothing but just being near pure exhaustion. Right? And I said, “Well, last thing I want to do is get this guy in trouble, but I’m going to mess with him.”. So I quietly docked the door back down, I turned the lights off in the room and then I swung the door open and I was like, “What are we going to do?”. And he wakes up and he sees the lights are off, and he’s just like, “Oh my gosh, what happened?”. And he’s checking the panel, it’s like we just lost everything. And I turned the light switch back on like, no, that’s fine. If he’s like, “Get out of here, or I’m going to kill you.”.

Raymond Hawkins:        That’s a good one. All right, I’m going to tell one on me. So I’d gotten the good fortune of being sent to the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. We were at a bar, a gentleman comes in and I’m going to date myself. It was Colonel North. And of course everyone in the bar is excited to see him drinking, in celebration of seeing Colonel North in the facility. And to say that I partook, would be an understatement. And being a young Marine and now this legendary figure who’s been on TV, is there. The next morning I was supposed to go out on a ship for a training session. And so we’re up early. I don’t remember something like 4:30 or 5:00. And me and my roommate wake up and the room just reeks. It reeks like someone had thrown up and we’re like, what?

                                    There’s nothing on me. There’s nothing on you. There’s nothing on our clothes. There’s nothing on our racks. What has happened? Did somebody spray a vomit bomb into our room? Is there a prank? How could this happen? I mean, so we’re getting ready and we’re both trying not to throw up, the room stinks so bad. And we’re trying to get ready. We’re trying to get out, to get on the ship, and cannot figure out what’s going on. And I sit down to tie my shoes and I look under the rack and I had fallen asleep with my face on the wall and I vomited straight under the rack. I don’t fucking know. And it was spread all under the rack, so you couldn’t see it unless you looked under the bed.

Wayne Watson:            Solid breathe.

Raymond Hawkins:        And then I had to go get in on a 46-foot training ship in what was probably six foot seas for the next four hours. You want to talk about a rough four hours?

Wayne Watson:            That’s not going to feel good.

Raymond Hawkins:        That was not good.

Garett Jaco:                  The real question, Raymond, did you clean it up before or after you left?

Raymond Hawkins:        That’s a great question. We did not have time. So I sat there all day.

Garett Jaco:                  That’s a great smell.

Wayne Watson:            That’s a good one.

Raymond Hawkins:        We couldn’t figure it out. We’re like, what happened? Is someone dying here? Oh no, that was me.

                                    All right, well, all of us, I don’t know about you guys. Super grateful for my time in the Marine Corps. Super grateful for the opportunity to serve our nation. I think the comments you guys have both made, right? Respect for the equipment, respect for attention to detail, respect for procedures, respect for following a process. All of those things, I’d agree, just ingrained in us, in our time-serving the country. I do, just for a minute want to talk if you guys are willing about Memorial Day. Super grateful that we have Veterans Day, and that’s something where our country pays respects to the three of us and people that have served. But Memorial Day really about those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. And I don’t know where each one of you guys stand, but I’ve got not only friends that I’ve served with, but lots of family members who passed in service.

                                    And just want to say that to me, I’m a big fan of Easter, a big fan of Christmas. But Memorial Day holds a different place in my heart, because I think these people, the vast majority of them volunteered. They raised their right hand and took the same oath the three of us did, and said, “Hey, I’ll stand in that gap.”. And some of them, it cost them everything. And thinking about how special paying tribute to the people who are willing to sacrifice everything for us, and our freedom that we get to enjoy. And just remembering the reason we spend Memorial Day and we celebrate it. And I’ll just say for me, that lots of people my life, but my grandfather, Barney Hawkins, army officer. Served in World War II, passed later in life after he had retired. But certainly want to tip my hat and pay respects personally to him on Memorial Day. Guys, for you, Garrett? Memorial Day thoughts for you on what it means and anybody in your life that day reminds you of?

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah, I mean, it’s the ultimate sacrifice, I think you said it. And one thing, I think, it’s easy to forget is. The ultimate sacrifice is oftentimes given in a war zone, but there are times that people come back with injuries and with mental health issues from that time, and that ends up costing them their lives. And so I do think it’s just remembering all of those that ultimately have given it all, for all of us to be free and be able to sit here and have this conversation, and go to work every day and do what we do. And so yeah, that’s Memorial Day to me. And I do think making the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day is important, because I do think oftentimes people intertwine both of them. Like, “Oh, you serve, thank you for your service.”, and yeah, you’re welcome. The sacrifice is worth it. But really what this day is about, is those that don’t get to celebrate it.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah. I remind, I’m alive, so Memorial Day is not about me. I’m here.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah.

Raymond Hawkins:        Let’s pay respect to the ones that are not. And Garrett, you alluded to it. I think you’re right. I mean the mental anguish that our war fighters go through, and that they come home from. Often scarred in ways that none of us can imagine, because we can’t see it, right? In their heads and in their hearts. And how many of our war fighters we’re losing to the struggle of mental illness, I think, is something we ought to be mindful of on Memorial Day, as well. And do all we can to help them make that transition. None of us were designed to go to war. That’s not how we were designed or built. And man, it takes a toll that often is hard to see.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah, for sure. We’ve talked about this before. You send a 19-20 year-old kid off to war, and then by 22 expect them to be a functioning member of society, with little to no transition. And it’s hard, unless there is some help and some removal of that stigma behind it.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah.

                                    Wayne, Memorial Day for you?

Wayne Watson:            Yeah. It’s like Garrett said, you looking back at the ultimate sacrifice, knowing that could have been me. Thank goodness it wasn’t. But I remember the RDC of bootcamp asking everybody to raise their hands if they’re ready to die for their country. If they’re here to die for their country. And I didn’t raise my hand. And he comes up to me, he gets in my face and he’s like, “Do you realize that could happen to you?”. I was like, “Yes, but I’m here to make the other guy die for his country.”. And he’s like, “That’s a great answer, but you need to realize that can happen to you.”. And it made me realize that could happen to me. And I didn’t feel any different in that moment, other than the realization and the appreciation going forward. But it didn’t make me want to leave. I was there for it.

                                    But looking back. Memorial Day, I’m by no means a combat veteran. I was deployed, but mine happened in the belly of an aircraft carrier. They wouldn’t even let nukes qualify as guns on this ship. They wouldn’t even let us touch them. So we’re not proficient. But when you get down there and you do that service, you’re on the boat, you’re deployed for months on end. And then you have the people in the shipyard like I was, where you’re doing 12-hour rotating shifts for, I think we did it for two years. And you’re not coming in and just putting your feet up. You’re doing complex evolutions, you’re starting up coolant systems, you’re testing all these new systems. After we’ve ripped them apart, putting them back together, starting them up and testing them. So as a real mental toll, not only the work-life balance is awful, but you’re in it every time you walk into work.

                                    And then if something breaks, you may have to stay in that duty for days, where you’re there a lot often as well. So it is that mental health that we lost some people too in the shipyard. You look back on Memorial Day at those people, and you think about sacrifices. It comes in different times for people, in different ways. And I think that’s important to know, just because you’re struggling with it, because you were toting a gun. That’s understandable. Obviously just straight up, I get it, combat stuff. There’s other situations that are okay to feel about it as well.

Raymond Hawkins:        Yeah. Wayne, I appreciate the authenticity there. And man, I think about A, as men, and still today some stigma around mental health and being willing to talk about it. We lost one of our own here at Compass to Mental Health a couple of years ago, and just once. If there’s one thing to highlight it as we wrap up here. That if you’re hurting inside, if something’s up against you, find somebody to talk to. Doing that in silence is how really bad things happen.

Wayne Watson:            Of course.

Raymond Hawkins:        And whether it’s you’re pulling terrible shifts and you’re really struggling, or whether it’s because you’re struggling with something that happened in combat. Struggling is struggling, mental health struggles are mental health struggles, and it’s real. And because we can’t see a cast on you or see you in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean you’re any less injured. It would just encourage anyone that’s listening to us, male or female. If you’re hurt, find somebody to talk to.

                                    And especially in our Compass family, do not suffer in silence. We are set up to try to encourage each other and support each other. And there is no shame in saying I’m hurt. We do not want to lose anyone, and any of our own, to feeling like there’s too much pressure. Feeling like I can’t say something’s wrong with me, feeling like I can’t handle what’s going on. We work in an intense, very competitive business with very worthy competitors and demanding customers. And if it gets to you? It gets to you, and let’s talk about it. And let’s get you healthy, and let’s get you the rest you need. I mean, R&R is a thing for a reason, and that doesn’t stop just because we leave the military. Right? So I appreciate you bringing that up, Wayne. Well, guys, number one, I’m super grateful for both your service.

                                    Thank you Wayne, for spending a few minutes talking about it. Hearing about the farm days in Mississippi and time out on a big old aircraft carrier. I’m just amazed how big those things are. Wayne, we just thank you and grateful that you’re here at Compass. Garrett, what a cool story to hear about your transition from growing up with a military Dad and getting to be on embassy duty. I mean, when I think about poster Marines, right? Embassy duty is about as poster Marine as it gets, right? That or recruiter.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah.

Raymond Hawkins:        Those are the two glory gigs, and that you got to do one of those is pretty cool. And super grateful for how you help keep our facilities secure here at Compass. So both of you, thank you for spending a few minutes talking about it. We’re grateful for you here at Compass and grateful for the service you both gave to our nation. Thank you so much, guys.

Garett Jaco:                  Yeah, appreciate it.

                                    Thank you for having us.

Wayne Watson:            Safe travels.