This Black Hawk Pilot Is Now Taking On Corporate America

Combat skills can be invaluable for a successful career.

This article was originally published by OZY.

Upon hearing the term black hawk, many Americans immediately think of pop culture. Maybe the latest Ridley Scott film or perhaps a Chicago sports team. Rarely do they associate black hawk with corporate America, let alone a soft-spoken woman.

Meet Hallie Huggins, a vice president on the Chase Pay Strategic Alliances Team JPMorgan Chase — and a former Black Hawk pilot.

Raised in a military family, Huggins knew from an early age that she would follow in her parents' footsteps. Her mother was among the first female helicopter pilots in the Army, and her father, after his military service, became the head of veterans affairs for the state of Alaska. “When I was growing up, it was always red, white and blue," she recalls. “In my family, it's simply expected that you give back and serve your country."

It was that vision, and Huggins' impressive stats on the track field, that propelled her toward the United States Military Academy at West Point. As an undergraduate, she set the pole vault record, 12.65 feet, and earned All Patriot League honors thanks to her top GPA. However, Huggins is quick to note that women were a distinct minority at the Academy — and still are today. “If you're not familiar, about 15 to 20 percent of the Academy, whatever class you're in, is made up of females," she explains. “So I just looked at it as a challenge."

"I consider myself to be unbelievably blessed because I was transitioning to corporate America in a time that there was a demand to hire veterans."

Hallie Huggins

A challenge she took on with absolute conviction and fearlessness. After graduating from West Point, Huggins completed Army flight school and one month later was deployed to Afghanistan, where she became a platoon leader for the Apache Attack Helicopter and the Air Assault Black Hawk Helicopter.

Asked to explain her role in layman's terms, Huggins clarifies: “I was in charge of the soldiers that were arming the Apache Helicopter and making sure, in any event, we had ammunition available and ready to load. And for the second, I was a Black Hawk Platoon Leader, so a flight leader, and managing all of the mission sets, pilot hours and so on."

Having to rely on her leadership and management skills in what was literally a life-and-death situation groomed Huggins into a highly sought-after candidate for almost any field she chose to pursue after completing her military service.

While choosing the right field was important, feeling accepted and valued in her job was equally as important for Huggins. And it was at a military hiring event in 2015 that Huggins felt that true acceptance from JPMorgan Chase. “The employees at JPMorgan Chase essentially took me under their wing, gave me a chance and vouched for me within the company," she recalls. It was especially meaningful, Huggins says, because hiring managers oftentimes assume that individuals coming from the military don't possess enough relevant work experience. But in her experience, veterans have a really unique skill set that translates well to the corporate world. "The ability to adapt to any change, and simply just getting things done is huge," says Huggins. "I think any veteran knows how to face a problem and find a solution, even if someone tells them no."

Fortunately, a lot of companies do see the immense value in hiring veterans. In fact, the Veterans Job Mission, co-founded in 2011 by JPMorgan Chase, is a coalition of more than 200 companies dedicated to employing U.S. military veterans. Collectively, member companies have committed to hiring one million veterans and, in seven short years, JPMorgan Chase has hired nearly 14,000 — including Huggins.

In addition to the Veterans Job Mission program, Huggins is also the first female board member of Carry the Load, a non-profit dedicated to providing meaningful ways to honor our nation's heroes, including military, veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, rescue personnel and their families. In fact, JPMorgan Chase has been the title sponsor of Carry the Load for four consecutive years — a true reflection of the firm's ongoing commitment to the veteran and military communities.

For American service men and women who might be contemplating a similar transition from combat to corporate, Huggins has a clear message: the sky is the limit. “For anyone, especially a woman, as long as you apply yourself and, because of your unique experience, you truly do have the tools to accomplish anything."