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Acts of Service

In Focus
NAME:Paul Rogers
COMPANY:Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs
Spearheaded by Director Paul Rogers, the Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs is ensuring support for service members throughout every stage of their lives.

At the Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (DMVA), there’s a philosophy that underpins every facet of the organization: once you’re a member, you’re a member for life.

“That really drives us every day,” Major General Paul Rogers tells The CEO Magazine. “What that means is that from the point someone raises their hand and makes an oath to defend our constitution and serve in the US military, they are a member of our organization until the day that they die.”

From support while they’re still in uniform on active duty, or as a veteran who needs skilled nursing at the end of their life, to specialized funeral honors, the Michigan DMVA provides those services, and more.

Rogers first joined the Army Reserve Officer Training program while he was studying mechanical engineering at university. After graduating, he was commissioned as a reserve officer, so that he was able to have a civilian career in parallel with a military career.

“I followed all the same training and professional development protocols, but it allowed me to lead that dual life,” he explains.

Having moved across to the Army National Guard, his career as an engineer, as well as further education, then ran in parallel with his military service for the next three decades.

Supporting Roles

As Director for the DMVA, a role he has held since 2019, Rogers has focused his attention on ensuring each department – the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Michigan Veteran Homes and the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency – within the organization is absolutely consolidated.

“It’s so easy for a large organization to become siloed,” he admits. “But what we’ve successfully done over the past five years is create a joint department where all of those primary entities support one another.

“We are always looking in a disciplined way at what value we could bring to the individuals who have served their nation.”

“There’s no greater team sport than a military team, and I’m so proud that we’ve transformed into a department that’s united and willing to integrate those silos to bring the best solution forward for either our state or our nation.”

Rogers explains that Michigan provides a unique training environment that encompasses all five domains of military operations. “Everybody’s familiar with air, land and sea, but more recently with technological advancements, we also have to be able to operate and defend ourselves in the cyber realm, with electronic warfare, as well as in space,” he says.

“So we brought all of those elements together into one training environment, the National All Domain Warfighting Center, which was really a recognition that together, these capabilities provide our US military and allies, training environments that are unmatched anywhere in the world.”

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

While its training practices and environment are state of the art, Rogers admits that the facilities, many of which had been built in the 1960s and 1970s, were showing signs of aging and weren’t a reflection of the current demographic.

“Our facilities had not been upgraded at a pace to match the number of women who were joining our organization,” he explains. “We were blessed with a governor who embraced our request to invest significant State of Michigan money to solve this federal problem.”

As a result, the DMVA is now currently in the middle of a US$110 million upgrade to its facilities, so that female service members can be adequately, and equally, accommodated.

An additional accomplishment has been improving the existing tuition assistance program to help pay for college courses for service members.

“What we’ve been able to do over the last couple of years has been to expand that benefit,” Rogers says. “Now a service member who may not want to use that educational benefit for themselves is able to provide it to a spouse or a dependent and they can share that earned benefit.”

The Greatest Privilege

With an operation as extensive as the DMVA, a reliance on other organizations and facilities is essential.

“I think partnering is the key to our success. We could never have enough people or resources to provide a service on our own, but through partnering with local communities and counties, we can provide that access and service,” he says.

Such partnerships have been key for the DMVA to upgrade its two existing veteran homes, as well as build a third, so that veterans can ensure they are able to remain close in proximity to family members.

Each home boasts campus-like facilities that act as neighborhoods, with residential spaces alongside common spaces that have cafes, locations for entertainment and even central fireplaces.

“It’s all part of a very deliberate process, and we’re blessed with great support across the state of Michigan for the resources to build these facilities out, and attract the talent we need to operate them,” he says.

“Think about your eulogy, and from an observational perspective, what you would want others saying about you when you’re not around to hear it.”

Other initiatives designed to benefit veterans are continually being assessed, from free access to state parks, to tax breaks and affordable access to health care.

“We are always looking in a disciplined way at what value we could bring to the individuals who have served their nation and state honorably, and were willing at one point in their life to put the needs of others ahead of their own,” Rogers says.

That also extends past the individual to their family, who Rogers says were also serving and sacrificing alongside that military member.

Having spent the entirety of his professional life involved with the United States military, Rogers says that his biggest takeaway is that ultimately, “service is a privilege”. Moreover, he encourages everybody to consider their legacy, and how their work is making an impact in the world.

“Think about your eulogy, and from an observational perspective, what you would want others saying about you when you’re not around to hear it,” he says. “Then focus on living and conducting yourself accordingly.

“The same applies for how you’d want to be viewed as an organization. If we keep that in the back of our minds, I think every day we serve, it would be in a positive way that can inspire the generations that come behind us.”

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