Veteran Voices Episode 21

In this episode of Veteran Voices, host Scott W. Luton interviews supply chain practitioner and U.S. Army Reserve logistics officer, Aaron Freed. In this wide-ranging discussion, Freed shares the best thing to ever happen to him: “getting what you need; not getting what you want.” He shares how important it is to acknowledge & own both your strengths AND your weaknesses. Freed shares exceptional advice to all individuals in transition, whether you are military or not. Aaron Freed also shares what “tikkun olam” means & why it’s so important to his journey.

Tune in – you don’t want to miss this episode.

Scott Luton (00:05):

Welcome to veteran voices, a podcast dedicated to giving a voice to those that have served in our country’s armed forces. On this series, we sit down with a wide variety of veterans and veteran advocates to gain their insights, perspective, and experiences. We’ll talk with many individuals about their challenging transition from active duty to the private sector, and we’ll discuss some of the most vital issues facing veterans today. Join us for this episode of veteran voices.

Scott Luton (00:49):

Come in our featured guests here today on veteran voices. Aaron Freed, warehouse slotting analysts with McKesson and us army reserve logistics officer I’d add a third one, incredible livestream subject matter expert. So Aaron, good afternoon. How are you doing?

Aaron Freed (01:04):

Afternoon, Scott. I’m doing pretty awesome. Thank you for that. I really liked the live feeds. It’s something I just bring up on my iPad while I’m sitting here doing warehouse analysis and I can just pop over, do a little type in answer response, see how things are going. So it keeps me, uh, gives me a little something to do in the background.

Scott Luton (01:22):

That’s why we do it. We really enjoyed your contributions and the conversations that come out of those. I really appreciate that. And it is nice, uh, in this day and age, as we’re working fast and furiously emails and phone calls and problems across supply chain and other parts of business world to kind of have a little friendly banner in the background, right?

Aaron Freed (01:41):

It is it’s you get a little bit of that from the office. And I still get that with the occasional teams, chat, texts back and forth, but you just don’t have that constant interaction. So it’s nice to have that bit of banter back and forth and actually feel, you know, that interpersonal connection.

Scott Luton (01:55):

Outstanding. I agree with your kindred spirits there. So let’s, uh, for the sake of this interview here, I’m really excited. Appreciate your time. And looking forward to this, let’s start out with the basics. So tell us where you’re from and you gotta give us an anecdote or two about your upbringing.

Aaron Freed (02:10):

Okay. I grew up in Ventura County. Uh, it’s a suburb just North, uh, you know, it’s just North of Los Angeles. So, uh, I was a bit of a Dodgers fan growing up, but I have since lost touch with sports, but of course today, you know, is a good day to be from LA, right?

Scott Luton (02:26):

And let’s fill in for the three listeners that may not have be aware. The Dodgers just won the world series for the first time. I think since what? 86, 88, maybe according to one of my friends on Facebook, a I think a 32 year slump as 32 year wait is now over and he’s not even 40. So he’s been waiting most of his life. So congrats to the Dodgers fans and our audience. But you, so you grew up, you said in North LA, is that right?

Aaron Freed (02:53):

It’s a, so Ventura is North of LA, about 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon how on the four Oh five and the one Oh one goes. Um, so it’s kind of between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

Scott Luton (03:05):

So when you look back and think of growing up in that beautiful part of the country, what’s a couple of things that, that, uh, you miss to this day.

Aaron Freed (03:13):

Yeah. I still missed in and out every time I came home from leave and the first thing that my parents and brother knew to do was we’re stopping it in and out because you just double, double as if it’s, it’s just, there’s just no substitute.

Scott Luton (03:28):

I’ve heard a lot from folks I know from the West coast and from California, that that’s the first thing they get when they go back to, so it must be a big thing.

Aaron Freed (03:36):

First time I’d really got home. I was actually, uh, mid to relief on my deployment to Iraq. I was brand new second Lieutenant. And that was just like, I’m been in uniform, haven’t slept or showered or anything, and maybe about 48 hours because it takes a while to fly back. And I just like, I need to now I need a hamburger, good hamburger. So, and that’s kinda started the tradition. So when I go back, that’s what we do.

Scott Luton (03:59):

Love it, love it. All right. So, so beyond getting your burger fix, when you think of your childhood, what else?

Aaron Freed (04:06):

When we sticks out, honestly, my parents, they were a huge influence on me. They, uh, my mom is a retired nurse and worked in pediatrics. My dad was a city planner for the city of Simi Valley and they really had a huge impact on who I am today, uh, because of what they did. That’s kind of why I do what I do. I really got that sense of service of helping people thinking about your community. And that has stuck with me really my whole life. And it’s one of the reasons I went into the military. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed working in supply chain and why I’m so proud to be on the McKesson team because it’s, it’s great to work for a company that’s not just making money, but actually doing something that is given back.

Scott Luton (04:55):

I love your answer to that. So let’s, let’s go to the step further because the next question I had for you is what did make you join the military? Why’d you join the military? I think you’ve given us a big chunk of the answer, but it’s

Aaron Freed (05:06):

You really point to I’m Jewish? And my family are immigrants. We came to America over a couple of generations, just looking for that opportunity for being safe for being, you know, not in a place that doesn’t, that doesn’t like you so are really wanting to kind of give back to my country. And because we had a, we’ve had a very good life, I got to live that sweet middle upper-class, you know, suburb lifestyle and all the wonderful privilege that comes with it. And I wanted to cash in some of that privilege and give back. So the military and government service, it seems to me like a good fit. And so that was, that was the plan. Originally. I was actually going to use the military as a stepping stone into law enforcement. But after the first couple of days of ROTC at San Diego state, I knew, no, this is, this is what I’m doing. This is my career. Uh, I’m sticking this out. Let’s talk about

Scott Luton (05:58):

Let’s continue on that path, college and RTC and how you got your commission. And then we’ll go more into what you did on active duty. So tell us more about that.

Aaron Freed (06:07):

I went to college originally actually tending to be a Marine. And then my roommate freshman year was a Marine. So I decided to go to the army. I just wanted to, you know, I loved it. It was great. Originally I tried to be a computer engineer, but calculus is super hard at seven in the morning. Uh, so I switched to a slightly easier major after a couple of years, criminal justice turns out instead of being up until three in the morning writing code, I literally could study for my final by watching law and order so

Scott Luton (06:33):

Nice. Trade-off right. Nice. Trade-off

Aaron Freed (06:35):

Definitely took some stress out of the picture and, you know, college was just a great experience. I loved it. Um, I met so many wonderful people. I’m still in touch with today from ROTC and it really helped shape me. I didn’t actually ever intend to be in supply chain. I wanted to be a tank commander. I wanted to be an armor officer, but turns out not so doing well in calculus meant I became needs of the army. And so heartbroken me. I was assigned a role as a transportation officer and, and my ROTC instructor, who was an armor officer, consoled me and said, Erin, it’s, it’s just like being in a tank only. There’s no armor and there’s no guns. And honestly, if I had been a logistics officer, I’d be retired right now with a six-figure job,

Scott Luton (07:22):

What could have been, but, but you’re having so much fun on this current journey.

Aaron Freed (07:27):

The best thing that could ever happened to me, uh, was not getting what I wanted, but getting what I needed that trying to always stay positive, stay flexible. Semper Gumby is my motto. That is logistics. That is supply chain. It’s what you do is you’ve always got to be prepared, adaptable, flexible. It’s what we keep talking about in, in the live streams is anything had happen at any moment. So I just kept staying flexible and I went off to Germany after commissioning sold my soul for three years, I was going to give it to them anyway. So got something in return. When did you graduate? What year was I graduated in 2008.

Scott Luton (08:01):

Okay. 2008, and then went into Germany on active duty as an army officer commissioned officer and spent three years there.

Aaron Freed (08:09):

So give or take a deployment to Iraq. I showed up and literally 40 days. Exactly. I was downrange in Kuwait with my company. I showed up. We were a truck company, uh, driving tractor trailers. So the [inaudible], which is basically just a giant Oshkosh trailer or tractor painted green with armor slapped on the sides. That’s what we drove. We did a lot of 40 foot trailer hauling, moving stuff up and down route what’s highway one. We called it MSR Tampa main supply, route Tampa, just up and down from Baghdad down to the Kuwaiti border moving stuff. As part of the retrograde in 2009, uh, thankfully it was incredibly safe. Deployment, never shot at never blown up. Everyone came home. I think the only injury we had was someone got hurt playing basketball, thankfully, and

Scott Luton (08:56):

Really appreciate your, your combat deployment. Cause that those were some dangerous parts of the world. As we all know, let’s talk about one of my favorite questions in these interviews is favorite people and think about, you know, folks either worked for you or folks at that that were your peers, or maybe some leaders you worked for that really had a big impact on not just your, your time served, but as you’ve already alluded to some of your lessons learned that apply to, you know, more broadly to your life experiences and globally,

Aaron Freed (09:26):

That is always the big one. And I can, I can just start listing the names of practically everyone I’ve worked with. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of serving alongside hundreds, thousands of people, uh, great men and women who were the enlisted folks that did the actual jobs, the MTOs who mentored me, advised me, supervise the soldiers, fellow officers, peers, and superiors, and even eventually subordinates as I Rose up who have made a huge impact. Everyone I’ve come across as left their Mark on me, just like I hope probably left a better Mark on them. First person I really want to talk about though, is my close friend, Hunter Berg. Uh, he was, he’s now major Berg. He’s still on active duty. Uh, I think he’ll be up for Lieutenant Colonel in a few years and I’m pretty sure he’s going to get it because he’s just one of those kinds of people who keep succeeding.

Aaron Freed (10:22):

He was my company commander after coming back to my rack and I was his executive officers. So we work hand in hand along with the company. First Sergeant Kermit Joseph to make things happen. And we very quickly became fast friends. Hunter’s the person who really taught me about the importance of people. It’s not just enough to be smart. It’s not just enough to know the manuals inside and out and know all the technical stuff. It’s people, you can’t get things done without people. And he was tough. You know, gruff. He was all about discipline, hard training. Like he worked that company so hard. We went from doing zero truck missions back in Germany, a week zero, we weren’t doing anything. And he was pushing to have us pull 22 missions a week, which was a hit. And within a few months we were getting it.

Aaron Freed (11:19):

He was just going around knocking on doors. Hey, give me missions, give me jobs. I want my truck drivers drive and trucks cause that’s the best training is doing. And even though suddenly we’re doing all this maintenance, we’re going to the field, we’re doing training, we’re running missions. People are away from their spouses. Their kids, everyone was happy because he, he knew them and he kept him busy and gave them what they needed without just not giving them what they wanted. And so even though he was this, you know, tough disciplinarian, he, everyone loved him. One of the most amazing officers I’ve ever the privilege to work with. So glad I get to call him friend. Uh, we still chat on the phone, periodically message on Facebook and stuff back and forth. But Hunter is honestly one of the most impactful people in my life for my career.

Scott Luton (12:06):

So that, that is, uh, currently major Berg. You mentioned that he a, he, uh, is up for Lieutenant Colonel around the corner. Good luck, uh, major Berg, if you’re listening to this, that’s awesome. And, and the relationship that endures, I really love that. Who else comes to mind?

Aaron Freed (12:24):

Another person who’s had a big impact, probably doesn’t realize it, but, uh, his Colonel retired, uh, Rob Campbell. And the reason I bring him up is because I was, uh, one of his company commanders. He was the brigade commander. Uh, so I was two levels below him. He commanded the battalions who yelled at me and I was the support company commander for the cavalry reconnaissance squadron one, three, two bandits, uh, Elvis unit. Really? Yep. Elvis is unit one, three, two calf. Uh, there are pictures of Elvis all over the squadron. HQ love that. And so he brought all of his commanders and to do this leadership growth thing that you can see it, a true growth, a bunch of senior retired colonels and generals to talk to us about leadership and being an authentic leader. And one of the things that’s on this card is like core purpose, which is what defines my core values, which helps shape my leadership behaviors.

Aaron Freed (13:31):

And my core purpose is to do the right thing, improve the lives of others and embodied to alum, which is a principle from Judaism about healing the world and restoring the world. Being able to like take time, sit down, put that on paper. And then he made us carry these cards with us. And eight years later, I’m still carrying the card with me, even though he’s retired. I’m out of the unit, I’m out of the active army. That meant a lot because it allowed me to really focus on what Simon Sinek talks about the why, right? Your why, why do you do well? I want to, I want to do the right thing and make lives better. So that’s why I work the way I work. And it’s why I do what I do

Scott Luton (14:10):

That I bet you’ve just made Colonel Rob Campbell’s day to have something stick with someone that, that worked for you or for, for him, or, I mean, that’s so meaningful and clearly it’s words to live by. And I, I think what was that phrase you shared about, about healing

Aaron Freed (14:26):

World to alum to come along to Kuhn? Uh, T I K K U N O L a M

Scott Luton (14:35):

Give, give my son and my daughters a similar card, uh, that, that really inspirational. The appreciate you sharing that beyond a major Burg and Colonel retired, Colonel Campbell, who else sticks out?

Aaron Freed (14:47):

Yeah, there’s been a lot of people. I’ve got a list right here. I’m just trying to pick who to who to talk about it. I’ve worked with a lot of amazing people bother. The next person I want to talk about would be, um, now Colonel retired Joseph power, the fourth, who was my boss’s boss and Kuwait, uh, later in much later in my career, I was the installation transportation officer, the ITO, and he was the brigade commander for area support group Kuwait. Basically he ran the base. He was the installation commander responsible for all the contracts, all the life support. So the dining facilities based security, the MPS, the morale, welfare programs, anything that was installation related, that was him. He ran a small city and now he runs a bunch of stuff for Amazon. Yep. He is a senior operations manager for Amazon and he, he really empowered his subordinates to go out there and do the right thing because he that’s what he embodied was every day.

Aaron Freed (15:53):

You know, look, what are the rules? If that’s the rules, then those are the rules. I don’t care about. You know, making people happy. I care, you know, I do care about making people happy, but I also care about doing it ethically. You know, we’re not going to break the rules. We’re not going to commit fraud, waste and abuse. We’re going to spend taxpayer money smart as the ITO. I oversaw all the transportation stuff, which meant all the leased vehicles. And there’s a good 1200 vehicles. We lease each year to support getting around on and off post because the Kuwaitis generally do not like us driving around with Humvees. It’s kind of disconcerting to their population, but you know, least as EVs. Totally good. Yeah.

Scott Luton (16:34):

It’s interesting. You should, that I spent a little bit of time, little bit of time, a 45 day TDY at, uh, Algebar air base, not too far from Kuwait city. And now I’m thinking about it. I never really connected the dots because our SPS aren’t security teams, some of the officers, they would all drop, not land rovers, but something similar rather than any military vehicles.

Aaron Freed (16:58):

What did we have? I’m trying to remember. It was the car names are bouncing around my head. Yeah.

Scott Luton (17:03):

Like in a zoo or whatever it is for your point. It was, yes. It was an SUV and I never really understood and connected the dots. Why, but now I guess you’re filling in the dots. Gosh, 18 years later. Yep. It was a community outreach, uh, initiative perhaps.

Aaron Freed (17:21):

Yeah. It was big part of how we maintain good relations with the Kuwaiti government and people is by being respectful with them and, you know, continuing to build off that, you know, trust. But to that tune, it was also a very expensive thing because, uh, they weren’t cheap. Leasing a vehicle is not cheap, especially when you’re the people providing it. No, you’ve got deep government pockets. And so making sure that we only got, say 1200 instead of 2000 vehicles, we want to make sure we have enough, but not too many. So we’re not wasting money. And everyone wanted a car. Everyone wanted to be able to drive around. And I was the person they had to go through. And I said a lot of no, because that’s just the way it works. You gotta do.

Scott Luton (18:07):

You gotta say no.

Aaron Freed (18:08):

Sometimes it being a leader means saying no. And being able to go, um, you, you don’t, we don’t need this. You don’t need this. You may want this needs. You’re not wants. Uh, just cause you’re a Lieutenant Colonel or a Sergeant major doesn’t mean you get a car, right. You get to use your feet. Just like everyone else

Scott Luton (18:26):

Ever legs. As a buddy there, dear friend of mine in the military once called it a Highland Wong, hopefully you’re doing well. How so? I noticed a few of the folks we want to recognize. I want to give you the opposite version of this question, but let’s, I want to make sure who else, who else? When you look back, you, you really, you have some special experiences with

Aaron Freed (18:44):

My first platoon Sergeant, Sergeant first-class, Cheryl Taylor, my motor Sergeant truck. I still call them truck starting. First-class Robert parish. My, my second platoon Sergeant Sergeant first class Dale Sponaugle tons, right? Hundreds. I’m just basically listing all the people I worked with. My fellow lieutenants. I worked with now major Abigail gage, major Sean Donahoe. Now out captain Kent Robbins, great guy from a completely opposite life from me, grew up, you know, Cal punching out in the Eastern part of, uh, Washington and very different from me in every single way, but we’re still close friends.

Scott Luton (19:25):

So let me, let me, let me throw a, not a curve ball, but a little bit of a we’ll call it a splitter. Sure. Not only do we learn so much from, from the best leaders we work with the best team members we work with, but, um, you know, the salt of the earth, people that you just listed, a lot of those folks that made a huge positive impact in your life, but let’s without naming names. I think we’ve all worked for some really let’s, let’s just say not ideal folks, maybe that weren’t meant to supervise or lead or even manage. And, and you know, those have been at least my journey, some really powerful lessons learned again, without naming names. Is there a lesson or an individual or an experience that comes to mind along those lines that you learned something?

Aaron Freed (20:06):

Absolutely. I’ve worked with people who sometimes they weren’t the right leader for me. Sometimes they weren’t the right leader for that position. People who should not have really been in a company command position, people who were in command too long and just needed to not do that anymore. And even myself I’ve had screw ups. I was an okay company commander. I was not great. I was not spectacular. I am a small teams kind of guy. I am, you know, surrounding you with maybe five, six people. And we work together. I’m amazing. Tell me, Hey, here’s 70 folks run it. That’s that’s not my bag. That’s not my expertise. That’s not where I shine. And that’s what I had to do. I was adequate and I own an accepts that short County because it’s the only way to learn from that to, to grow and better know who I am and where I should be doing and help others find out what they’re doing.

Scott Luton (21:03):

that it takes a, it takes a very experienced, confident, honest, transparent, and authentic person to share what you just shared. And, and, and those are the type of people that we want to work with and build with and do stuff with because it allows you to move faster because we’re all not built. I mean, I would heck I wish I was built to be an NFL quarterback, you know, with the golden arm and all that stuff and be able to lead, you know, 11 folks or 10 other folks in the battle play in and play out that wasn’t unfortunately in my DNA and, you know, to lead 70 or 700, I mean, I mean, you know, we’re all meant to do certain different things and, and, uh, I really appreciate what you shared. Let’s talk about accomplishment. So, because you’re already hearing you share some of your tidbits, different components of your career at different stops, different things, you’re responsible for different roles. Y’all still got a lot done, a ton done, especially during that really challenging time, it still is challenging to be in the military. It seems like we’ve been at, you know, at war and in conflict for forever. When you look back though, Aaron, and look back at what you and your colleagues and your team got accomplished, what are you most proud?

Aaron Freed (22:12):

Most proud of was probably the position I enjoyed the most was as the ITO in Kuwait, because I was given trust, given a great team to work with of civilians and military and contractors. And I enjoyed it because I got to actually eat, be technically, you know, smart. I got to be sometimes the smartest guy in the room, which I like it because, you know, Pat and I, I don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room because then I’m in the wrong room, but I got to and find out, okay, I might actually be the smartest person in the room. Then I’m going to use that. And I’m very proud of what we did because we, we actually helped to reduce some of those contract costs by $600,000 annually, taxpayer money by implementing data driven decision making, which analyze the utilization rate of vehicles across the entire fleet to come up with actual specific recommendations for what gets cut, who needs an extra vehicle added rather than what they’d been doing for well over a decade was some general, a PI says, I dunno, we’re spending too much money.

Aaron Freed (23:23):

Cut it in half. Why? Because it feels right. And then a board of colonels sitting there going, I don’t know, you don’t need a vehicle. Why I’m a Colonel feels right. You know, intuition, gut feeling takes you only so far. And being able to hand a bunch of spreadsheets and graphs and charts to those panel colonels and go, well, we need to cut these 10 vehicles because they get driven a hundred kilometers and they should be driven, you know, 10,000 miles is what we’re really looking for each year. They didn’t go anywhere. We’re wasting money and they can look at me and go, yeah, do it. One of the things I am most proud of was revising an entire system that I know it was still being used the next year because my replacement called me from Kuwait while I was backstage side to talk to me,

Scott Luton (24:12):

That’s just like, goes back to the card that you got from Colonel Campbell. It’s enduring. It works so well. So it means something to you. So for your successor to be used in a system that y’all created and were so successful with

Aaron Freed (24:27):

36 page, how to book, because I had two cars to buy, just completed a master’s degree in supply chain management. So I had all these analysis tools under my belt that I’m still using today that I knew most people didn’t. And I was like, okay, I not going to see them. Everyone else here knows how to calculate a standard deviation, let alone do that in Excel and build these pivot tables. I’m going to write a 36 page, how to Emmanuel of walking you through step-by-step so you don’t need to know anything about math, just do the things and it, and it’ll work out fine.

Scott Luton (25:00):

Love that. A continuity. What we call those when I was, I was active duty continuity book. Yes. There you go. Um, I hated typing those things up, man. Mine wasn’t nearly as complicated as yours was, but nevertheless, so now I want to switch gears. You’re still a reserve in the us army reserves. So you’re still serving us. We really appreciate that. Let’s talk about your transition from active duty into, into your first role. Talk about that. What, what was that experience?

Aaron Freed (25:29):

So that was, uh, a pretty interesting experience. I left active duty actually being, uh, involuntarily separated. I didn’t get picked up for major on active duty. I got my three looks and then by law had to be separated though. I kind of engineered that a little bit. I didn’t think I was going to get it. If I actually tried, I ran the numbers, but I do and going into like, well, I’ve got maybe a 10% chance of getting picked up. If I can’t get this excellent evil, I’m just coming off a urine Kuwait. I haven’t seen my wife in a year. I kind of really want to spend time with her and not be at the office late. And I was taking an instructor role that was incredibly rewarding. The most rewarding position I enjoy. I loved being the it on Kuwait, but it was the most rewarding experience being an instructor.

Aaron Freed (26:19):

And I was like, I really don’t want to kill myself with this job, which is supposed to be a bit more of a, take a knee type thing to try and get that evaluation that might improve my odds from 10% up to, you know, 30%. So I’m just going to plan that I’m getting out. But I also had some friends who steered me in the right directions that don’t put in paperwork to ask to leave, make them kick you out because you’ll get severance. And I went, well, no one told me that most people don’t tell you that if you get forcibly separated for, you know, honorable service, you’re going to hand you a big old check and say, thank you and have a nice day. So I told my bosses, this is my plan. And I got excellent leaders who worked with me major now, Lieutenant Colonel Sanchez and mr.

Aaron Freed (27:05):

Keith fake, who’s this civilian director for the department. They supported me a hundred percent and gave me an amazing write-up and evaluations so that when I went to my civilian employers, they would look at and go, wow, you look great. Cause they’re not going to know the difference between most qualified and holiday, highly qualified. They don’t care about, you know, this little check Mark box. They want to see the big fancy words. So I kind of engineered my own demise, but they supported me in that separation. And the big part about that transition was I thought I was going to be okay, that it was going to be nice, smooth sailing. And it really wasn’t. Even though I started almost like six, seven months in advance writing my resume, starting to submit job applications, talk to people, get to a feel for what’s out there.

Aaron Freed (27:50):

It was still a rough Rocky situation because it’s a world change for, I think this is what happens for every person who comes off military service and transitions is it’s a complete paradigm shift. You don’t even speak the same language at the time. I had to demilitarize my LinkedIn convert and translate all of my job assignments from no, no one knows what a platoon leader is. I was a trucks, you know, section junior manager and converting all. That was a huge challenge. And there’s not really anyone you can reach out to immediately for that help. And that’s improving. There’s a lot of good organizations out there that help with that help with resume writing, help with those situations. Hey Aaron, really quick

Scott Luton (28:36):

For context. When did you transition

Aaron Freed (28:39):

Doubt was [inaudible] I left active service in July, 2000, 2018, 2019. I always mixed that up

Scott Luton (28:49):

To your, to your point. There still isn’t there hasn’t never has been. I know there’s been different technology providers that have come up with different way. Hey, plug your MOS in here, your AFSE. And here’s what your quality quote unquote qualified to do. There’s not a, um, an algorithm or an AI that you can turn your LinkedIn profile over to and it spits out, you know, everything the way it should be for private sector consumption. Yeah.

Aaron Freed (29:16):

It’s rough. Yeah. It is rough. I’m actually working with my local apex chapter on that. The president of the local chapter spoke to me about that. Like, Hey, can you talk to us about your transition? Um, and what can we do to help the most right community? Because Fort Lee home of army logistics is right here where the supply chain folks, we want to support them and how do we help those people help ourselves get these great and supply chain folks into our businesses, our government agencies. Uh, so that’s actually something I’m, I’m talking with them about how do we build those relationships? How do we get that out there? It was, it was a rough transition. I actually did not have a job lined up. By the time I left active duty, it was very narrow. I landed something in the last minute with Pepsi, they had done a sent, one of their managers came by the, you know, the separation office to do some interviews.

Aaron Freed (30:08):

And I walked in the press, the crap out of them with my resume. I was like, I’m going to tell you you’re overqualified for this job. And I’m just thinking, that’s fine, but do I get money for doing a thing because I kind of need to eat. So I did it. I signed on, I was a supervisor for Pepsi and it was an intense nine months with them. Fascinating experience, getting to learn a business just like that and learning how the warehouse worked, learning how to work with people who don’t instantly jump. When I say now, because as you keep talking about in the, in the live stream and in the military, everyone’s all on that mission because you know that there’s something at stake people’s lives and then you’re at patching or like it’s sugar water, man. If it’s diabetes in a bottle, we’re not exactly super thrilled, motivated. I’m here for a paycheck and learning the law that and getting up my leadership skills, credible experience really set me up for what I do now, because I can’t really be a good warehouse fawning analyst, unless I understand a warehouse. So I’m really appreciative of that opportunity with Pepsi.

Scott Luton (31:19):

We’re going to talk about what you’re doing now, but before we do, I want to, for our listeners that may be either experiencing a transition. They’ve got a transition around the corner. Let’s make sure that, that you can share some advice with them. So clearly you’ve already answered one of the questions I’ll ask them. Folks. Was your transition more challenging? The unexpected oftentimes answers. Yes. Unfortunately, despite all the new found layers of support and, and folks willing to help, you know, now versus say, you know, 10, even five years ago, when you think about advice, you’d give for folks that are either about the transition or they’re in the thick of things. We all want to help a lot. What, what’s the short list of things that folks need to have in mind.

Aaron Freed (31:59):

I jotted some ideas down about that. And, and honestly, this isn’t even about people transitioning the military, but any kind of light life transition. You’re, you’re going off to college for the first time or the second time or third time, because you had to change jobs, your industry’s dying, you know, there’s something happening and you’ve got to transition who you are and what you do. And the first thing comes back to this card that I carry from Rob Campbell. You have to define you, what are you passionate about? What are you good at? And then figuring out what does that look like as a career it’s taken me well over a decade to figure out I like solving problems. And I like thinking about those problems. Well, gosh, darn turns out being a data analyst is exactly that. And it took me a decade to figure that out.

Aaron Freed (32:47):

I just went in like, I’m just going to tell people to job trucks and I’m going to go fight bad guys. And it’s like, so figuring out who you are and what you’re passionate about, that’s really, what’s going to set you up because once you know what you want to do and you can find those jobs and then start backwards planning, okay. And in order to get to that point, what are the skills I need? Oh, I’m going to need to be able to do ABC. And maybe right now, this is what I do and what I know. And I can start building those gaps and figuring out how do I translate what I do now into eventually becoming that the other thoughts are, there’s no such thing as too much planning or too much preparation. You can’t start planning too early. I mean, sometimes you’re just like, I don’t know what’s going to happen 10 years from now, but I do save money in retirement because I do know what’s coming.

Aaron Freed (33:37):

I can’t just start planning for retirement five years before retirement, I had to start planning for retirement when I got my diploma from college. Right. So there’s no such thing as too early to plan or too much prep. I started writing my resume in November the November before I was getting kicked out in July. And I went through like probably 30 revisions and was still talking to a resume writer in June because I’m like, no, one’s biting. Something’s not right here. And then finally talk to people outside your group. If you’re transitioning out of military, don’t talk to people in the military. You can’t talk to the people in uniform because they don’t, they don’t know. They don’t know what’s on the side. So I started reaching out to my friends who I’d met, who were in the reserves national guard, like, Hey, you actually have to like do this whole civilian thing.

Aaron Freed (34:25):

How does that work? Like, what do I do? What do I need to know? Right. And I started connecting with people on LinkedIn, like folks like yourself, listening to supply chain podcast to go, well, what the hell is actually happening out there in the industry? Start learning this, talking to my old professors, talking to just connections and people who I applied for with jobs and saying, well, taking apart the whole, whether or not I’m even a candidate for this, what can I do better? What should I know? What advice do you have because people really just want to help each other out.

Scott Luton (34:55):

And, and some of what I heard there, a couple of things, you know, really, I don’t, I hate to use the word, you know, thinking outside the box because it’s so overused. You know, there’s a lot of things when it, when it comes to resources and things you can lean on to help make a transition easier and help find the conversations that you need to have once you’ve determined what you like to do, what you love to do, what’s your passion and what you want to do. You’re really getting really thinking, sitting down and using sounding boards, identified that community of resources you can lean on. I think that’s a great point that you were speaking to. And then the other thing I think that really stands out because a good old resume, I think about my transition. And when I, when I think of all the conversations I’ve had with folks transitioning, I think a lot of folks and I’m guilty as charged here because once I, I paid 250 bucks or something to get a resume writer to do it. And then in my mind, I was like, I’m good here. This is not going to change. This is what I’m going to use. But those constant tweaks, as you, as you put out in the market and the feedback you get, or you might think of a highly leverageable skillset or experience, you had six months after you’ve had your resume or six weeks added in there, and it’s a living and breathing document. I think that’s a really valuable lesson for people.

Aaron Freed (36:03):

First thing I did after getting hired on at Pepsi was I put it on my resume because I was like, I don’t know. You know, you never know when you might need to pull that thing out. So first thing I did is I put on the resume and then just a thing I picked up from the military of always kind of keeping track of your achievements for that annual evaluation report. I started doing the same thing at Pepsi and just, I kept updating my resume because then it became well just in case I have to hunt for a job. You know, God forbid they closed the warehouse or whatever. I’ve got it ready. And then when it came time to sit down and do my end of year evaluations, like, well, I’ve actually kept track of the things I’ve done.

Scott Luton (36:40):

That’s so important. That is so important. So if you’re listening to that, whether you want to do it the old fashioned way and keep a nice little written journal manual journal, as you knock things out and get accomplishments, get feedback, you’re just keeping a, uh, an experience journal or say these days with email Erin, you know, you can do a save as on an outlook email and just create a folder. And it’s so easy. You don’t have to print anything. It it’s all portable. So that’s a great, great piece of feedback. I want to add that to my son, my conversations I have. All right. So before we talk about what you’re doing now and your company, you mentioned apex, you mentioned some of your industry association leadership and volunteer leadership. That’s an interesting point and valuable point. I think for our listeners that, that maybe they’re already started there. Maybe they successfully accomplished their transition, but now they’re in, you know, in their career and they’re trying to move up. Like we all are. Associations can be a great resource as well. Speak to that for a second

Aaron Freed (37:38):

Association, just really knowing people. It’s the old school network and it’s being brought into the modern age, just knowing people, like you said, thinking outside the box, it’s such a cliche and you can’t do it unless you, because you’re in your own box. Right? And the only way to think outside the box is to have someone outside, talk to you. So getting to start building those outside friendships, the people you don’t work with people you don’t necessarily always socialize with. They’re not necessarily friends, but they’re associates colleagues, and you get to hear new ideas. You get to hear other experiences and you get to, you know, continue to see more of what’s going on. It’s one of the great things about these professional associations. You yo you get to swap, you know, your occasional war stories over a beer. You get to hear guest speakers talking about what’s going on. I think we lined up a tr representative, the department of treasury to talk about some of what’s going on in financial markets, how that impacts supply chains. I have this job because of one of our professional development meets indirectly. I never even knew that McKesson was a company. I didn’t know. They existed until we held a professional development meeting at McKesson headquarters to talk about supply chain impacts on the medical field as a result of the tariffs in China, back in 2018, it didn’t know the company existed. So I couldn’t apply to them

Scott Luton (39:00):

If you’re listening to this that’s trillion dollar advice, because I think what I’ve been touting since I first set foot in the association is it gives you an opportunity to gather market intelligence, actionable market intelligence, to do exactly what you’ve done. Very smartly is connected dots. See a big opportunity and jump open up that door and jumped through it. I love that. So it’s, if you’re listing, Hey, that’s why you find, find the, determine what you want to do, figure out what your passions are, and then kind of work backwards to figure out how to get there, but looking at associations because they can, if you use them and engage in them, just like Aaron, you can really, you can really, um, it cruise for your benefit. All right. So much to talk about. So little time, Aaron, um, I know you’ve got a lot of passions and, and, and, and expertise and insights around the global supply chain world we’re living in, you know, one of the recent lab streams, we talked about, the noble mission we have as practitioners, you know, is the vaccine and vaccine, and more importantly, vaccine distribution. So tell us what you do now. Uh, with McKesson,

Aaron Freed (40:05):

McKesson is a medical supply company for those who don’t know, uh, we provide medical supplies to clinics, to skilled nursing facilities. Um, at home patient care, a lot of the medical facilities, in fact, pretty much everything, but hospitals, we don’t prioritize hospitals as one of our main markets. Uh, we leave that to some of the other folks, but we’ve been doing it for well over a hundred years. McKesson’s a very old long-time company. And my role is with the medical surgical team, a division really, I’m a tiny part of a very big operations analysis department. I’m specifically tasked with analyzing warehouses and figuring out better slotting strategies. Um, I am one of two slotting analysts that McKesson keeps on hand my work with each of the distribution centers. Uh, right now, like for example, I talked to our Dallas facility, they want to improve their pixel light. I start looking up numbers. I start figuring out strategies. I work with them hand in hand, what’s your experience? Here’s a thought, does this work? We collaborate together to come up with tidy. We make it happen faster, better, smoother,

Scott Luton (41:13):

And fulfilling your passion, which is crunching numbers and giving folks data-driven advice. Right?

Aaron Freed (41:19):

Yup. That is, it makes me very happy every day because people listen to me for starters. That’s nice. They actually take my advice seriously, but I also get to do things for them. I was like, Hey, how would you like to be done earlier in the day? Because I can make it. So you pick faster. Yeah. Pickers generally like that.

Scott Luton (41:38):

Let’s one more question about the current role when you hear the word slotting for folks, veterans or non-veterans or folks that may be listening that aren’t familiar with, where else operations just define that real quick.

Aaron Freed (41:49):

Obviously warehouse is whole lot of stuff in our computer driven age. We like everything to be well labeled and organized and sorted. We don’t just stack stuff up. We learned that probably pretty quickly when we’ve started building warehouses, you don’t just throw it all together. You put place things in their specific place. And so everything’s got a slot that it needs to live in how we organize those slots, what lives, where, uh, how much to keep on hand, because we gotta be concerned about those inventory carrying costs. Are we doing too many replenishments, not enough replenishments tying up, you know, labor hours. That’s a lot of what I focused on is how things fit into the giant puzzle. That is the warehouse. Do we put it on shelf? A, B, C, D. We put it at the front of the aisle, the middle of the back. How many different, you know, aisles do we even need? I’m just a small part in that big process, because a lot of other people figuring out bigger strategic goals, how much business do we want to move from this warehouse to that one? Uh, so I focus a lot on that kind of tactical application of how do we better organize and sort everything in the warehouse? Well,

Scott Luton (42:57):

Think of the good old, uh, when I hear slotting, I think of, um, the spaghetti diagram tracking footsteps and motion and, and how can we eliminate a lot of the wasted motion? Yeah.

Aaron Freed (43:07):

Right. It’s, that’s what it is. It’s part of that.

Scott Luton (43:10):

I know that when you, when you go broader with global supply chain, as we start to wrap up here, what makes your folks know how to connect with you? You know, what’s, what’s a topic or a trend or development or an issue challenge. You name it that you’re tracking more than others right now. What, what really, what are you really diving in deep on that gets you passionate?

Aaron Freed (43:30):

Honestly, I kind of just like listening a little bit about everything. I don’t really have anything at this moment. That’s really got me. Cause I’m, I’m kind of in the middle of my own work stuff, you know, I’m middle of a big, big project. I can’t talk about, I’ve got so much going on with me that I honestly, I have just like what, I just want to keep a pulse what’s going on out there, but really when it comes to data and how do we use it better? I’m always fascinated by that. How do we make it more accessible? How do we do it smarter and better is the kind of things that really intrigued me

Scott Luton (44:01):

Take the Liberty of by extension it’s it’s. How can we make accurate data, the actual data, uh, transparent data, but make it for the people that may not be data analysts. I’m not, uh, I wasn’t great at math, you know, and that’s Maff, by the way, Aaron, it just didn’t come naturally. For me, I went from, from an engine. I wasn’t cut out to be a, an engineer, or certainly not an advanced data. Finesser if I’m a coin of word here, but really making it where in this information where all the data and ideally all the accurate, relevant data is at our fingertips. How can we make it easy for folks to consume it and make smarter and faster decisions with it?

Aaron Freed (44:41):

That’s perfect. That’s a great analysis, Scott it’s because, you know, we’ve got a lot of statistical illiteracy out there. You gotta remember lies, lies and statistics and how we help people better understand it. How do we make it easier to understand how do we get the right data? Because garbage in garbage out that’s a big passion of mine is just, you know, getting those fundamentals because often what we talk about when it comes to that global supply chain, a lot of it just boils down to just good, basic fundamental principles.

Scott Luton (45:10):

Last thing I love that love that you kind of just exude to the interview, is this not crunching the data and all the numbers to say, I got ya, it’s the opposite. It’s crunching all the information and say, Hey, here’s how we can help you use this in, in empowering others. And, and really, you didn’t really use those words, but that’s what I pick up on through the last hour, spending time with you. That’s, that’s worth the price of admission. So thanks so much for that, Aaron. All right. So let’s make sure it’s. I imagine you’ll have some folks that may want to compare notes or at least connect with you. What’s the easiest way to connect with. Ehrenfried

Aaron Freed (45:44):

Probably LinkedIn, despite being all this computer data stuff, I don’t do Twitter or anything like that. I ain’t got time, but I can be reached on LinkedIn. My profile is Aron, a R O N dash freed F R E D 42, because 42 is the answer.

Scott Luton (46:01):

We’re going to make it even easier. We’re all about one click. We’ll have a link to your LinkedIn profile. So folks can make the connection and follow up with you and really, really appreciate all of your time and what you do. And, and you know, how you view things, Aaron, it really it’s enlightening. Uh, it’s a breath of fresh air, especially from kind of your, your niche, so to speak when, when it comes to data and information and, and leadership.

Aaron Freed (46:24):

Appreciate it, Scott. Thanks for, thanks for having me. I don’t really feel like, you know, all that important guy. I’m just kind of, I’m just a guy who does, who does some work?

Scott Luton (46:31):

We need hundreds of thousands of folks just like that guys and gals that just want to do the work. So really appreciate it. We’ve been talking with Aaron fried warehouse, slotting analysts with McKesson and us army reserve logistics, officer Aaron. Thanks so much. Thanks, Scott. All right. So we’re going to wrap up here. Hopefully our audience has enjoyed this as much as I have, uh, really enjoy Aaron’s perspective on behalf of the entire team here at veteran voices. And we invite you to find us and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from fondest to, we waste too much time around here. Aaron find us on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, but most importantly, because we want to hear from you. We want to amplify your voice. And if you’re a veteran with a special story to tell or a story that you’d like to tell, reach out to us, we’ll try to work into our programming. Finally, Scott Luton wishing all of you, nothing but the best. Hey, do good gift forward and be the change that’s needed. Be like Aaron. And on that note, we’ll see you next time here on veteran voices. Thanks. Bye-bye

Aaron Freed grew up in Thousand Oaks, CA and now resides in Chester, VA after a decade of service on Active Duty in the United States Army as a Logistics Officer. He served in a variety of roles while assigned to Germany, Fort Campbell KY, Kuwait, and Fort Lee VA in addition to a deployment to Iraq. He now is part of the Operations Analytics team for McKesson’s Medical-Surgical division and continues to serve as a Major in the Army Reserve assigned to the Defense Logistics Agency Joint Reserve Force.

In what little free time he has, Aaron enjoys playing Dungeons & Dragons with his spouse and friends, staying active with the Richmond VA chapters of Team RWB and APICS, and drinking craft beer.

Aaron earned a Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice Administration from San Diego State University, a Masters of Science in Supply Chain Management from Virginia Commonwealth University, and will be starting a Masters of Science in Business Analytics program from William & Mary in January 2021.

Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


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