September 18 marks the 69th birthday of the U.S. Air Force, so it’s fitting that this month’s #SALUTEaVET story honors Air Force veteran and GP employee Terry Hadaway.
An employee for 23 years, Hadaway has worked in various communications roles across several GP facilities and businesses in the Southeast. Currently, as public affairs manager for GP Palatka Pulp & Paper Operations in Florida, he handles all of the mill’s relationships with the community including media, as well as communications with employees.
How did you come to work at GP?
I sought out GP early in my career because it was a great company with excellent growth potential. After an 11 year absence, I returned to GP in large part because it became a Koch Industries company and operated as a principles-based company.
For which military branch did you serve and what was your role?
I served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force from 1974 until 1976 and with the Georgia Air National Guard for four years after that. I was an information specialist in the Information Office of the 449th Bomb Wing (B-52 Stratofortress bombers) under the Strategic Air Command. We were located near Sault St. Marie, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan close to the Canadian border.
I wrote for our base newspaper; prepared news releases; wrote speeches; participated in community activities; taught myself photo journalism. I toured community groups and VIPs through B-52 bombers, produced radio interviews and news programs for local radio stations. I was never a warrior or near a battle; my job was to be part of a vast team of support for the warriors so they could go and do what they had to do.
What was your proudest moment of your military service?
I received several awards such as airman of the month and airman of the quarter while on active duty. But the really valuable moment was the day when I noticed Technical Sergeant Childers standing across from my desk looking at me. Everybody else in the office had left and I hadn’t noticed and was still rattling the keys of my old typewriter. Sgt. Childers said: “I wish I had five more like you.” It was probably the first time in my life I had been granted that degree of respect from someone whose opinion mattered greatly to me. In that moment, I thought little of it, but the impact is still with me today. The sense on one’s contribution being valued was just immense.
What lessons did your service teach you that you still carry with you?
- Sometimes, the people stressing you out are actually helping you grow. I think of the wiry little drill instructor in basic training. Standing at attention with him in front of me, I could only see the top of his Smokey the Bear drill instructor hat bobbing up and down while he yelled at me. But I believed him when he said I would make a “good troop” as soon as I got my head out of a certain place. That challenge was a major step in just growing up.
- Even discipline-based, regimented organizations can accommodate experimentation and innovation. Before joining, I had only looked at the military as a place where people gave orders and other people did what they were told. But, as a very young man in the Air Force I was given the opportunity to seek knowledge and new skills, innovate, experiment and figure out ways to blend communications with technology to create long-term value. I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing because I was just “into” figuring out what I could create. I didn’t expect that to happen, but there it was.
Which of those lessons can you apply to your current position?
Working in the Public Information Office for an Air Force Bomb Wing is very similar to representing a major manufacturing facility to the local community and to employees internally. You become, at least in part, the image and the voice of the organization to the community Replace the B-52 bombers with paper machines and update the communications technology by 40 years and the goals are still pretty similar: Help the public understand the organization and vice versa.