Military Service and Warehouse Supervisor: Nearly Three Decades of Hard Work
11/11/13 James Livingston
James Livingston is a Warehouse Supervisor in the Milwaukee Office.
Over the course of many years, I've been recognized for my military service, which to date spans 30 years and counting. I cherish that number because it means that I have held the course, have never given up, and when times got tough I pressed on. If anyone would have told me back in March of 1983 that I’d be a career soldier, I would have brushed it off. Growing up in a home of one parent and five siblings, my mother pushed us toward independence and making something of ourselves. So when an Army recruiter showed up during my sophomore year in high school, talking about early enlistment, one would think that my mother would’ve jumped at that chance, but she didn’t. She threw every option out there before letting me enlist, "...no war, no guns, and he needs to be a cook or something.” I made my decision, and at the age of 16 and 1/2 I was sworn in at the Military Entrance Processing Station in downtown Milwaukee.
After graduating high school in 1984, I headed to Military Occupation Specialty school, and enrolled in a 4 month course (for 44B Metal Worker (welding) training) - this is where my military career began. My home unit in Milwaukee at that time was the 1150th Transportation Company located on Logan Avenue in Bay View, where we worked in conjunction with a railroad battalion. This battalion did considerable training under the 6th Street viaduct where rail cars were stored. I spent my first years as a locomotive mechanic and doing railroad repair.
While on military leave in 1986, I was informed about a job opening at Q&B for a mailroom clerk. I agreed to an interview, and made my way to 780 N. Water Street (12th floor) for an interview with Sue Sanders. Prior to Q&B, I had worked in fast food places, did some remodeling and dry-walling jobs on the side, but never worked in an office environment. My interview went okay, but I could not help but feel like I just did not fit the part. After the interview, I learned that my Staff Sergeant had nothing but wonderful things to say about me, and the next day I was offered a position as a mail clerk with Q&B.
As time went on, I was promoted to Private First Class (PFC) in the Army, while also still a mail clerk here at Q&B. I didn't have a clear path to my career, just two jobs that I wanted to succeed in. In the back of my mind however, it was hard not being intimidated when you were working with attorneys, some from the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country.
As I grew in my job as a mail clerk, my skills in the military were also growing, such as advancing to become the 1150th's Guidon Bearer. As I became better known at Q&B, I was also getting recognition in the military. I was chosen as Soldier of the Cycle during Annual Training in 1991 for my job as a tie down inspector.
Eventually I was promoted to Lead Mail Clerk, and in the military I was pinned an E-5 Sergeant.
Then in 1994, I was approached regarding the Warehouse Supervisor position. One would think I would be overjoyed, but I saw myself as the Mail Center Supervisor some day, not supervising a warehouse. I had to give this some thought, and with the help of my mother’s words: "you didn't do anything but manage something that already was functioning well. This is your chance to show you what you can do,” so I accepted what would be a big challenge in my career at Q&B. Back in the mid 1990s, the Warehouse did not have a stellar reputation; files were lost and there was little trust in sending anything over for storage, for fear the materials had “disappeared.” I will never forget the walk with Ed Thompson to the warehouse; he emphasized having an open mind about the work ahead and that it would be a work in progress.
The warehouse stored records and supplies, two things I saw going to the 411 Building daily, but I had no idea of really analyzing the process. During the initial weeks and months as the Warehouse Supervisor, I was working considerably long hours. Over the coming months new shelving was ordered, supplies were inventoried and downsized, things were finally taking shape. The decision to barcode files and boxes at the warehouse was made, which made a huge impact on file storage, along with its precise location, and ultimately a more timely, efficient means of delivering files to anyone requesting materials at the office. As a Staff Sergeant, I no longer waited to do something - I was empowered to make things happen. As an Assistant Platoon Leader, I was part of planning the work day; ensuring soldiers were accounted for and conducting training. My work ethic in the military coincided with that at Q&B. We were starting to get organized at the warehouse, and people began talking about it in a more positive way. We even had an open house to show people our success, and within a few years the warehouse had a new identity as a managed, organized extension of the office
I count the warehouse move from East Buffalo to South 2nd Street as another accomplishment in my career at Q&B. Firm management and attorneys alike trusted my judgment with the warehouse's processes and procedures. Once the move was over, a fellow soldier and friend of mine asked if I would like to join the 100th Division Instructors group to be an 88 Tango (track repair) Instructor with the military. I accepted, transferring out of the 757 Rail Battalion where I had spent 18 years of my military service. My career as a soldier had now transitioned to becoming an Instructor, sharing my knowledge with new and younger recruits. In May 2005 I was promoted to Sergeant First Class, an accomplishment that meant so much to me, while being just one year shy of my 20th year with the U.S. Army.
I now look back over two careers with great pride, nearly 30 years for each, and counting: Q&B Warehouse Supervisor and Sergeant First Class James Livingston.