Business learning from the military

10th of November 2023
Business learning from the military

John Griep of VSR in the Netherlands on how a military pilot inspired members recently.

During the VSR Summer Event, one of the few female military pilots in the Netherlands addressed our VSR members. Dominique Schreinemachers was a helicopter pilot and worked for the military. During a mission in Uruzgan in 2000, her helicopter was shot at and hit by the Taliban. Twelve anxious minutes then followed. Dominique now uses her experiences to inspire others.

Dominique was piloting one of two Dutch helicopters over Taliban territory when her helicopter was shot at and hit in the tail. The fact that the helicopter was going to crash was soon clear to her. The question now was how long she could delay this moment. Because if she and her team of 10 colleagues crashed in Taliban territory, they would have to be prepared for torture and imprisonment.

These thoughts were running through her as she tried to keep her helicopter in the air which she was able to do for 12 minutes. In those 12 minutes, everything she had learnt flashed through her mind. Such as how to respond to violent interrogations. Fortunately, those 12 minutes were just long enough for a controlled crash at an American camp.

Dominique on that moment: “You’re still here, dusting yourself off, getting a badge and drinking a non-alcoholic beer.” The emotions came only when her team was picked up by some colleagues who had been flying alongside them in the second helicopter: “That does a huge amount. With driven people around you, you can handle anything.”

She learnt from this that you are capable of more than you think. And she wants to convey this message to the business world. Key themes in her mission include: collaboration, leadership, mental and emotional resilience and communication. She teaches you to look at life, each other, your team and especially yourself in a different way.

Checking in

To do this, Dominique uses lessons she learned in the military. She explains that during military training, you first shed your identity and break it to the ground: “First, there is resistance and your ego rears its head, then you get some rock-hard lessons in nature, in solitude, without food or drink, living in total exhaustion and with fear, but afterwards you learn to ask questions, give and receive commitment, and trust your buddies. You learn to help each other.”

Some aspects from Dominique’s military missions also occur at cleaning organisations. For example, one of our members recognised ‘checking in’ with your people. At his organisation, there is a briefing every week. Colleagues then check with each other to make sure each team member is okay and knows one hundred percent what to do, asking whether that person needs any help. And at the end of the week, there is a joint check as to whether everyone was able to meet their agreements.

It seems that cleaning companies have more in common with military missions than you might think. But Dominique already knew that.


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