Dave Rathjens, 52
General manager, Manheim Lakeland
Military branch: Army
Rank: Staff sergeant
Dave Rathjens earned numerous awards and honors in his decade with the U.S. Army, but for him one of the proudest aspects of his military career was becoming a jumpmaster.
Being a jumpmaster requires complex training within an elite, dedicated school of the Army. And what it involves boils down to exactly what the name implies.
“You’re basically responsible for the welfare, the safety and the operational [aspects of jumping] to make sure it goes off without a hitch for up to 120 jumpers out of a high-performance jet,” Rathjens said.
As an Army jumpmaster, Rathjens not only had to ensure the safety of every soldier’s equipment, he also would hang out of the aircraft to check if the air was clear and location correct before his peers made their leaps. The life-and-death trust put in Rathjens helped shape him into the kind of leader he is today.
“Generally, in the military you lead from the front,” he said. “You’re expected to be able to walk the walk.”
Rathjens is general manager of Manheim Lakeland in Florida. He joined the company 21 years ago after his service in the military, and started as a vehicle inspector. He was named a manager just six months into the job.
Rathjens, a former staff sergeant who fought in U.S. conflicts in Panama and the Middle East, has been involved in several volunteer efforts for veterans, such as the Patriot Guard Riders and Veterans Alternative.
He has spent much time with Wreaths Across America, which involves thousands of motorcycle riders escorting trucks to national cemeteries to make sure every military grave has a wreath on it.
His message to the auto sector is clear: Give veterans a shot.
“Every one of them has sacrificed something to be a veteran,” he said. “And I feel like if you’re looking to hire, and especially in today’s world, with today’s labor shortages and everything, they’re always worth giving a second look. They’re always worth getting through the first round to have discussions with. Even the guys in the military that struggled with the disciplinary part of it — when they get in the civilian world, they stand up above and beyond their peers.”
— David Muller