Training Carries Over

July 29, 2009 // Franchising.com // Gene Kopetsky learned things in the military that benefit him in his work today. Kopetsky belonged to the U.S. Army Reserves for nine years. A member of the Aberdeen-based 452nd Ordnance Company, he was part of Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield in 1990 and 1991.

One thing he learned was that you "shouldn't rely on just yourself." The military teaches that you also have to lean on the guy in the foxhole next to you.

"That applies to a lot of things, I think." Self-reliance is good, yes. But, "You don't put all your eggs in one basket," Kopetsky said.

That lesson applies to the technology world in which he works today. Kopetsky, 40, is general manager of the Aberdeen Expetec store.

Many of the leadership skills he learned in the military, "I've been able to apply in management jobs in the private sector," he said.

The experience "gave me a different perspective on how to treat people as employees," he said.

It's not entirely a coincidence that three of his four employees are current or former guard and reserve members.

Kopetsky, who lived in Frederick until he was 10, joined the U.S. Army Reserves in the summer of 1988. The unit was activated in the fall of 1990 and sent to Saudi Arabia.

"Our unit was in the first 50,000 troops in country over there," he said.

After spending one weekend a month with the other reservists, they were now living together in "hostile terrain" and intense conditions.

He would share in the emotions of other soldiers when they got a Dear John letter from back home. "I saw a lot of marriages go bad when we were over there. It was a real strain on family ties for some people."

The unit was in Iraq when the cease fire was ordered. The soldiers were happy it was over, but disappointed that Saddam Hussein had not been captured. They headed for home in April 1991.

During his time in the military, Kopetsky also visited Germany and spent four months in Hungary as part of a Bosnian peacekeeping effort. He left the Army Reserves in 1997.

During his time in the military, Kopetsky got to see parts of the world most people don't visit. He met people from different walks of life.

"When you talk to people from outside the U.S. you start to understand a little better their hostilities toward the U.S.," he said.

Many people in other countries bathe once or twice a week because, for them, water is a premium resource, he noted.

He enjoyed the training and learning survival skills that most people don't get to learn in their living rooms, he said. He also enjoyed the camaraderie between soldiers.

Kopetsky joined the Army Reserves mainly to have his college expenses paid for. When he graduated from Northern State University in 1999, he was debt-free.

Kopetsky, who is divorced, lives in Aberdeen with his son Donovan, who will turn 13 on Aug. 3.

According to Veterans Affairs, Kopetsky is one of 74,273 veterans living in South Dakota.

Since World War I, the state has paid a bonus to individuals who were South Dakota residents at the time they went into the service and served during a wartime period.

A total of 6,434 men and women who served on active duty between August 1990 and the end of 1992 have applied for the bonus, said Larry Person of the South Dakota Division of Veterans Affairs.

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