Former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent, left, and former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe Campa walked away from high-paying post-service positions to create a company designed to employ vets and wounded warriors. (Mike Morones / Staff)
When former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe Campa and former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent were in uniform, they were next-door neighbors.
Now, they're business partners with a plan to put wounded warriors and veterans to work — and they're looking for help.
They've formed KCK — Kent, Campa and Kate — alongside Robert Turner, a Vietnam vet who paid tribute to his late daughter, Kate, with his spot in the company name.
Until recently, all three men worked at CACI, a large government contractor in the Washington, D.C., area. Turner recently retired; Campa and Kent, hot commodities after tours as the top enlisted people in their respective services, were pulling in six-figure incomes.
But they walked away to start a company whose goal will be to recruit veterans and wounded warriors and put them to work on government contracts worldwide.
"When in uniform, the term ‘contractor' is used not in very endearing terms," Campa said. "But in my time at CACI, I found out that wasn't accurate, as over the last four years I see how dedicated these folks are, and they daily make a difference for our government agencies across the board."
Campa and Kent both believe that while efforts to employ veterans and wounded warriors are gaining steam, it's still an underserved area.
"There's a lot of good people out there doing good things for veterans, but we wanted to provide something that would really stick," Campa said. "And if we can get veterans working on government contracts, [we] introduce these agencies to the value of hiring veterans through them working on a government contract."
It's not just about getting these people a job, Kent said — it's about preparing them to enter a new world of employment.
"Former military men and women bring so much to the table," Kent said. "They have the work ethic and attitude to be successful, but you have to set them up for success."
The company will be up and running in the next few months. First, Campa said, their company will partner with other contractors, eventually working to win contracts on its own.
For example, Campa said, KCK could be asked to pull together people to run a call center for a government agency, or possibly provide former intelligence personnel with high clearances to work on a project for a high-level agency.
In the end, he said, it's about veterans helping veterans — the simple rationale for why he and Kent walked away from high-paying corporate jobs to take this gamble.
"How can we best help these men and women, who've done so much for our nation and give them the opportunity to have the American dream they worked so hard to preserve — that's what this is about," Campa said. "They're not looking for a handout."