Frontlines to Storefront: Vet Uses Military Skills for Business

By Features FOXBusiness

Off the battlefield, business is booming for veteran

Lauren Blanchard talks to a hazmat Marine veteran who uses his military training to open up his own business

After John Krusenstjerna hung up his Marine boots, he figured out his own way to get into business. Using what he learned during his time at war, he opened his own company cleaning up the types of messes no one wants to face.

Krusenstjerna joined the Marines in 2003 and was trained in hazardous materials.  He served two tours in Iraq, one in 2004 and another in 2006.  When he returned to Iowa, he needed to settle into a civilian life and career. Unsure of what type of job would be the best fit, Krusenstjerna thought looked no further than what he had encountered while serving.

Typical nine-to-five jobs didn't stick for him. So he decided to pair his military training with a few extra certification classes and put them to use in a field few people think about joining. In 2009 he opened Iowa CTS Cleaners, a crime scene and trauma cleanup company.

"When I came back it was just hit the ground running and find something to do for work. The world doesn't stop and I need to support myself," Krusenstjerna said.

Krusenstjerna and his crew are called in to clean up grisly scenes like suicides and murder, while his extra certification enables him to safely clean up meth labs and extreme hoarding situations. He said he approaches his line of business like his tours of duty: Get in, fulfill the mission, and get out.

"We go in there and we have a situation we have to basically close off at the end of the day. When we're done with that, we don't take it home with us," he said.

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Taking Your Career Off the Battlefield

While Krusenstjerna was able to build a business around his military training, there are veterans who don't know how their time in the service translates into a civilian job.

That's where the Small Business Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs hope to step in. Help is available for vets and their families, both through the federal government and community-level resources. 

Rosye Cloud is a senior advisor on veteran employment with the VA Office of Economic Opportunity and one of her goals is to help vets understand what is available to them after leaving the service.

"It can be a very daunting task to start and completely change your world view and career -- often with minimal notice. It's making sure they know they're not in it alone," Cloud said..

To further aid in the civilian-life transition, the Veterans Administration has a skills translator tool to show soldiers the connections between their service job and rank, their passions, and real job listings.

According to the Small Business Administration 250,000 service members transition out of the military each year. For some of those service members, self-employment may be the best bet for their skill set.

Rhett Jeppson is the Director of the SBA Office of Veterans Business Development in Washington, D.C. His division works on ways to help veterans learn what they need to know to open their own businesses and identify viable opportunities. He said time in the service instills important skills that are helpful in the small business industry.

"Self-discipline, self-reliance, self-motivation: Those types of things translate very well to small business," Jeppson said.

Programs through the SBA like Boots to Business teach veterans how to make decisions when it comes to opening their own company. Regional offices of both the SBA and VA can help veterans across the country get started on their path to business ownership or a job search. But first -- Krusenstjerna said veterans need to reach out.

"You have to get out there and fish if you want to catch fish, they aren't going to jump on your lap," he said.

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