Keeping Trajectory: The Move from Army Missile Defense to Civilian Missile Defense Work

“It’s akin to getting on a rocket ship and being sent to live on another planet.”

Five years ago, William Thomas faced the challenge of parlaying his 26-year military career in the United States Army into a satisfying and stable career in the civilian world. Thomas has been Patriot Missile Launching Station Platoon Sergeant in Germany, Electronic Missile Maintenance Officer in Texas, Air Defense Artillery Fire Control in Qatar, and finally a Director of Training and Instruction (DOTI) and the Chief of Instruction for the United Sates Army Air and Missile Defense School in Oklahoma. Who could possibly understand the experience therein?

“There were some benefits to my Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)—opportunities available in Huntsville, Dallas Fort-Worth, and other areas where Air and Missile Defense industries have established and flourished. They require a supply of ‘green suiters’ who can assist the civilian work force in the development of future technologies,” said Thomas. “These contractors are generally aware that we have value and have been managers of complex programs and organizations. It is still difficult to communicate these intangibles alongside other specifics and know you will be valued on the other side.”

Thomas consulted Army resources and attended workshops about resume development. He knew he would be applying to specialized jobs that reflected some version of what he had done in the military, but there was difficulty in translating the skills without seeming inflexible as a long-term employee, as he explained:

“In this industry you need to turn your experiences into a machine readable document and something easily understood by a Human Resources Manager. You have to be careful that you don’t paint yourself into an overly specific niche: you cannot be too broad or too vague in relating your experiences to a specific position. On the other hand, I was taking terms that were standard in my world, like EMMO or ADAFCO and defining them in twenty words or less.”

The resume was just the beginning. The civilian job market is a two-way street. So Thomas began investigating specific companies’ reputations through military contacts. He also developed his own matrix of priorities to prepare to pit companies against one another (you know, as one will do). He was interested in everything: mission statements, upward mobility, interview process, attitude toward work, as well as salary, benefits, relative cost of living, and size of company.

He ultimately took an offer with Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation (INTUITIVE) in Huntsville as a Senior Program Analyst.

“I already knew INTUITIVE was recognized by the Army Times and Forbes for being a Great Place to Work and known for its Veterans’ hiring program,” he said. “When I walked in the day of the face-to-face interview after several telephone interviews, the HR department communicated an understanding of the anxiety that many vets are going through: they were gracious and professional and helpful throughout the interview process. It was really a mutual exchange of information and ideals—I was interviewing the company as much as they were interviewing me.”

According to Sonya Tolliver, the Human Resources Manager at INTUITIVE, “INTUITIVE maintains a markedly family style of working. We don’t hire and fire based on fluctuations in contracts and military budgets. Instead, we hire employees who will adapt with changes over time and add value in unforeseen ways. For military veterans, it is important to assure them that they won’t get tossed around by the ‘market.’”

She adds, “We have an ongoing program for Veterans, a sort of inner sanctum. Our Veterans Information Program (VIP) further helps our heroes settle into and excel in new careers. They get a chance to network with others, attend Lunch ‘n Learns on veterans’ services, and have opportunities for socializing and community outreach.”

Thomas said, “There is a broad range of service men and women at INTUITIVE: as far back as Korea, up to recently separated Veterans of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. INTUITIVE goes out of its way to make sure Veterans are recognized—they host events that bring most Veteran employees together in one venue.” The continuity between senior, new, and future Veteran employees has been enabled and strengthened by a STEM programs for Veterans who require training to break into the industry.

Thomas and Tolliver agree that, beyond all of the peripheral check marks for being a good place to work, INTUITIVE creates opportunities to meaningfully impact warfighters, the protectors of our nation, which is what matters to Veterans’ ongoing satisfaction.

“The customers that I support are the soldiers in the field. Their increased confidence and understanding of the software from the training provided via the Lower Tier Project Office and Battlespace Defense Designer (BSD Tactical Planner) Software Team is the most gratifying part of my job. I also relish the gratitude that the soldiers have in now being better prepared to execute Air and Missile Defense missions anywhere, anytime,” Thomas said. So, when all of the stressors are cleared away, Veterans just want to get back to keeping us safe.

William Thomas recently celebrated his five-year anniversary at the company with some of the executive leadership team at INTUITIVE and received a promotion in support of the Lower Tier Project Office. To read more about the ways INTUITIVE supports United States Veterans through employment opportunity and community involvement, click here.

If you’re a Veteran interested in becoming a part of the INTUITIVE team, learn more by visiting