Delta takes great pride in our year-round support of the U.S. military and our commitment to hiring veterans and reservists — we were again recognized as a top workplace for veterans by Indeed.com in 2019. The airline employs over 7,500 veterans, nearly 10% of Delta’s workforce.
Each year, Delta hosts a Veterans Appreciation Day event, where vintage and modern military aircraft are flown in from across the country for display on the floor of the Delta TechOps hangar in Atlanta. While Delta is unable to honor our veterans in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue this time-honored tradition virtually by sharing the video above.
In addition, Delta News Hub spoke with Delta employee veterans Joe Steele, Lead Aircraft Maintenance Technician – Atlanta, and Seften Winters, Aircraft Maintenance Technician – Atlanta, about their experience transitioning to civilian life after serving our country and how Delta helped them do so. Although these two men served and joined Delta nearly 40 years apart, their transition into civilian life was quite similar and indicates Delta’s ongoing commitment to veterans through the years.
What was your experience like transitioning from military to civilian life?
Joe – I served in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 1979 as a Cobra Helicopter Crew Chief. I was based in Korea for a year and then served the remainder of my time in California and Virginia.
In the last year I was in the military, my sister-in-law – who worked as a flight attendant – opened my eyes to aviation from a commercial airline perspective. From there, I became interested in becoming a licensed aircraft mechanic, so I spent the summer preparing myself to go to Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. I only had a couple weeks from my time of service to when I went to school to get my head on straight.
At the end of the two-year program in 1981, I got hired at Delta. It was exciting and scary all at the same time. Starting out as a young guy, all I had was a 1979 Mercury Montego that the transmission was about to fall out. I had to drive it all the way from Boston to Atlanta. A mechanic told me it wouldn’t make it – but I didn’t have any choice. Every minute of that trip I thought I would end up walking the rest of the way!
Seften – I served in the U.S. Navy from 2013-2017 as an Avionics Technician out of San Diego. I knew I wanted to work for Delta before I joined the military, as I had family at Delta and toured a couple of AMT schools.
I couldn’t afford to pay an arm and a leg for school, and always wanted to serve – so I joined the military. Just like Joe, when I got out of the military, all I had a 1998 Chevy Silverado that I drove from San Diego to Atlanta so I could finally go to AMT school. I just joined Delta in April 2018 as an AMT in the Atlanta hangar.
How did working for Delta help your transition into civilian life?
Joe – Coming into Delta, my experience was all with helicopters – so I was working with planes and wings I wasn’t used to seeing. On my first day, I was welcomed by experienced AMTs and veterans who took me under their wings. They showed me every step of the way to help me get on my feet. I was able to get off the ground and run very quickly with the help of Delta.
It provided confidence for a young man and gave me a sense of family, even though I had just walked through the door. I learned all about airplanes quickly – it was quite the experience and an amazing memory for me.
Seften – The transition into Delta was so smooth. My first day on the job, I was greeted by senior AMTs who showed me the way – just like they did for Joe in 1981. It was so welcoming and such a positive experience. The veterans here are a tight group. It was comforting to know they had my back and would help guide me.
What advise do you have for veterans currently transitioning?
Joe – I would first try to get them to understand that they need all the confidence they can conjure up. There’s always going be something new or something unknown, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward. You have a lot to stand on and a lot of advantages from your experience, and you can take that knowledge to move forward. Don’t be afraid to learn and keep confidence in yourself – it will lead to others having confidence in you.
Seften – Be yourself and if you need help, know that help is there. We have a great veteran community here at Delta.
What does Veterans Day mean to you, and how will you be celebrating this year?
Joe – Every year when Veterans Day comes around, I say a prayer for those who didn’t make it back and for those that came back broken - either physically or mentally. From there, it’s an exciting day to remember that those who gave and are still giving allow us to have our freedoms – like voting! A lot of people take for granted these everyday freedoms. It’s a great day to honor and realize that without veterans, we would have no America.
Seften – There are people I work with on the floor that are heroes and you’d never know. I served gratefully during a relatively peaceful time – but hearing some of these people’s stories and what they did in the service is amazing. It’s a time to honor them and be thankful for what we have in this country. If you have a veteran that you know, make sure you say thank you.
ABOUT VETERANS AT DELTA
Delta is a great fit for veterans transitioning out of the military, as we believe veterans embody unique skills – like servant leadership, technical abilities, emotional intelligence and teamwork – that strengthen the Delta culture. It is smart business and our civic duty to provide pathways to post-military careers.
Delta takes a multi-pronged approach to attracting and recruiting veterans, including community outreach and strategic partnerships. Delta was also an early adopter of the Veterans Job Mission and has been heavily involved in the coalition and its goal to hire 1 million veterans. Delta veterans can also find a home in our Veterans Business Resource Group.
The Veterans BRG is a voluntary employee organization made up of veterans, active-duty military, family members and friends who support our military. The BRG is committed to making Delta a great place to work by engaging employees and serving as a resource for members, providing professional development and networking opportunities.
Veterans BRG members volunteer at organizations that support veterans and their families, including Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, Fisher House, Folds of Honor, Luke's Wings, Toys for Tots, USO and more.
The BRG also works closely with our internal departments on long-term goals for new-hire veterans and building a great culture at Delta for all veterans during their Delta carriers.