As the nation’s premier center for large animal agricultural research, training and diagnostics, the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) will have several vets on staff. In this case, I’m talking about veterans, not veterinarians — although, we will have several of both on our team.

I want to take this opportunity to call attention to NBAF’s veterans. According to a voluntary demographic survey completed by our team in August, 52 percent of respondents said they are veterans. Of those veterans, 32 percent said they retired with more than 20 years of service — and six are still serving as reservists. In fact, our support services team has a combined 297 years of military experience.

Veterans have sacrificed so much in defense of our nation and in the process have developed many of the qualities needed to work at a high-security national facility like NBAF. These individuals come to us with outstanding work ethic, moral fiber and the passion for serving the greater good.

In fact, all NBAF employees have worked hard to get where they are and we’re lucky to have a group with diverse backgrounds and experiences — some with previous experience in the federal government, others from private industry, and quite a few from the military.This mix is valuable to us because it brings different perspectives to the work of getting the facility up and running safely.

While our team members claim more than 30 states as their home, many of our veterans most recently worked at Fort Riley. The Manhattan and surrounding area should be proud of the support it provides veterans and the benefits that are available to encourage veterans and their families to stay or even come back. My husband and I are great examples! The military brought us to this area about 15 years ago for a short time, and we came back a few years later for job opportunities.

As veterans look for a great community and opportunities to continue serving their country, NBAF and the entire Flint Hills region make a great team. Since veterans feel welcome, NBAF is benefiting from the community’s support.

Discipline, dedication to the mission, and operational and logistic experience are drivers for NBAF’s success in preparing for our standup. These skills are desired at NBAF, and many veterans carried them from their military experience to the NBAF team.

Sharone Washington, an NBAF management and program analyst, is one shining example. She was one of NBAF’s earlier hires and has been critical in our hiring and onboarding processes as we all work to grow this vital team. As I said in last month’s update, hiring the right people for NBAF’s team is one of three critical areas — processes and facility assets being the other two — that keep the facility safe and secure.

I had the opportunity to attend a career fair with Sharone earlier this year, and I heard her speak to several others about how translating military position responsibilities to match civilian position descriptions is a big challenge for most veterans.

The military lingo is embedded in veterans — especially those who have been in the military for a while. When veterans try to explain their military job, they use military jargon that many civilians don’t understand. This language barrier can limit candidate selections and even prevent a great employer/employee match.

Having Sharone on our team has helped us recruit great employees. We still have a way to go as we’ve only hired about half of the 400 team members that we need by the time we’re fully operational at the end of 2023.

In addition to posting recent job opportunities for budget analyst, operations specialist and supervisory security specialist positions, we just announced an opening for a supervisory biotechnology specialist, who will serve as director of NBAF’s Biologics Development Module. That aspect of NBAF will be dedicated to the early development and small-scale production of veterinary medical countermeasures for foreign, emerging and zoonotic diseases in livestock.

I highly encourage anyone — veterans or non-veterans with extensive or no government experience — who might be interested in a career at NBAF to follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn or start a profile on USAjobs. We are building a diverse workforce culture to operate a world-class science facility, and we need the best of the best.

On behalf of the NBAF team, I want to say thank you to the surrounding Flint Hills communities for welcoming our military members and new NBAF team members with open arms — and most importantly, thanks to all veterans for your outstanding and dedicated service to our country.

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