There are many aspects of military service that prepare someone to take on a career in hospitality: experience problem-solving, leading a team, the ability to work well under pressure, collaborating with others—and more.
In honor of Veterans Day, a handful of veterans-turned-Hilton property team members shared how their military experience prepared them to excel at Hilton, what drew them here, and why they continued to grow their careers at Hilton.
Michael Kauffeld was an E-6 fire control technician in the U.S. Navy prior to his career in hospitality. According to him, Hilton’s history of welcoming veterans into its workforce inspired him to join the company. After four years of working at Hilton properties, Kaufeld attests that his military experience prepared him perfectly for his complex general manager role.
“In the military, I learned how to train and develop teams to perform at a high level while resolving problems using a systematic approach,” he said. “The team environment [here] is similar to the military, with unlimited opportunities to grow your career.”
Rene Rodriguez Vega has worked at Hilton for 10 years after serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. He started as a front office supervisor at Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, and later moved all over the country working at different Hilton properties, from DoubleTree by Hilton Boston Downtown to DoubleTree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country. He moved to Conrad Indianapolis to work in the front office in 2022.
For him, the benefits offered at Hilton couldn’t be beat.
Jason Ikerd served in the U.S. Army as a medic specialist, completing three tours of duty in Iraq and one in Djibouti (plus serving in eight different states within the United States). He joined Hilton eight years ago for the flexible schedule, which he said allowed him to finish college while earning an income.
According to Ikerd, a lot of his military skills transferred seamlessly to his security position, including being task-oriented, having computer skills and security knowledge, as well as medical skills.
“[I also enjoy] the benefits, the feeling of a team—and other vets which makes you still have that military comradery,” he said.
Greg Eastling has worked at Hilton hotels for 36 years. Previously, he served as a PFC combat engineer demolition specialist in the U.S. Army. A friend first introduced him to the idea of working at Hilton and he now credits his military service with setting him up to have a great career in hospitality.
“The discipline I learned helped me to understand the idea of servitude—no matter what job you hold,” he said. “It’s a great place to work with lots of potential for advancement if you so desire.”
Nehemiah Herring, formerly an Army Culinary Specialist (MOS 92G)—and currently an active member of the U.S. Army Reserves—says Hilton was “the perfect fit for what I wanted to do.”
Great coworkers are what’s kept him in his role at the luxury hotel years later.
Stuart L. Wilson has worked at Conrad Indianapolis for eight years. He’d previously served in multiple roles in the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War. He says it was Hilton’s reputation for excellent service that drew him to build his career here, and he’s found it to be a “team-oriented, friendly and caring work environment.”
According to Wilson, a lot of lessons learned in the military—especially paying attention to detail—help him serve up amazing meals to hotel guests today.
“Detail, detail, detail,” he said, listing the lessons. “Dress for success. Work hard and respect others.”
Tony Meneely was previously a corrections/detention specialist and an E-5 sergeant in the U.S. Army before joining Conrad Indianapolis and the hospitality industry, where he’s worked for ten years.
“I wanted to try something new,” he said. “I had never worked in hospitality before but wanted to stay in the security field.”
He says his experience with search procedures translated well to helping find guests’ lost items. He also lists “loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, [and] personal courage” as other qualities that translate well to his current job in security.
Ronald E. Alexander has been with Hilton for 19 years. He was previously a technowire specialist in the U.S. Army and even went to school to be a drill sergeant.
According to him, the military “motivated him to work harder and have pride in his work.”
He feels other veterans should consider Hilton for their next career move because “it’s a great place to work and grow with a family environment and great friends.”