BY MARTIN DAKS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
SINCE APRIL 2018, WHEN U.S. Army Brigadier General Jemal J. Beale was sworn in as the Adjutant General of New Jersey, he has commanded the more than 8,400 soldiers and air personnel of the New Jersey National Guard.
Based out of Joint Base McGuire- Dix-Lakehurst, with additional quarters in Trenton, his responsibilities include directing, controlling and managing the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs in the execution of federal and state missions, and managing all state veterans’ programs, commissions and facilities in the state.
A combat veteran of Afghanistan, Brigadier General Beale has served throughout the continental United States, Afghanistan, Albania, Germany and Italy. As Veterans Day is commemorated in November, COMMERCE interviewed Brigadier General Beale about hiring veterans, military service and a career in the U.S. Armed Forces.
COMMERCE: Why does it make good business sense to hire veterans?
BRIGADIER GENERAL JEMAL J. BEALE: It makes great sense, especially if your company wants people with diverse backgrounds. A veteran has traveled, is mature, has been vetted and may have formal security clearance—and because of military training—can solve problems with little or no supervision. They’re also mission-focused. Finally, vets have a great deal of experience across a number of disciplines: someone who served as a cook, for example, will also know about security procedures, will have driven trucks and other vehicles, and has experience in logistics through ordering supplies.
Q. What would you tell a resources-constrained small-business owner who is concerned about employees taking time off for National Guard obligations?
A. After he retired from the military, my dad became a small business owner. The public needs to understand that people sacrifice for our military— the time they take for Guard duty is not forever, and the business can always hire temporary help. The value [a Guardsperson] brings far outweighs the temporary inconvenience to the business associated with their call to duty.
Q. What unique opportunities does the military offer to minorities and women?
A. In the military, you know your future is based on your performance, not on your gender, religion or race. The environment is the fairest in the nation.
Q. What are some significant New Jersey-based and other activities that Army and Air National Guard members have done?
A. We’ve supported the community here, and in Puerto Rico, with hurricanes such as Sandy and Irene; and we’ve assisted with snowstorms and other national disasters. We’re also involved with homeland security issues, and we’re now getting involved with cybersecurity matters. And we’re doing all this with a large part-time component—out of about 8,000 members, about 6,500 are part-time.
The Guard is not only important to the state, but it saves taxpayer money since we can basically turn the reservists on or off as needed. We recently launched a STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics] camp for young people. Right now, it’s in beta test mode, with Guard members’ children, at the New Jersey National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt. And remember, the freedoms that we enjoy are not free. Our military protects those freedoms.
Q. What are some of your key responsibilities?
A. Army, Air and state National Guard and military matters, and state and national homeland security. I also spend a lot of time on veterans’ affairs—including three nursing homes and two transitional facilities—and helping vets with benefits, outreach programs and assistance with federal VA benefits. As of Sept. 30, 2018, there were about 340,561 veterans in New Jersey.
Q. That’s a lot of responsibility. How do you stay organized?
A. I’m thankful for the best support team you could have, people with a lot of experience.
Q. What is your background? How did it help to prepare you for this position?
A. My dad was in the military, and so were many of my relatives. I was actually born on a military base in Italy, and grew up right outside of Fort Monmouth. Additionally, I was always drawn to team sports, and teamwork is a core component of the military. As far as helping to prepare me— actually nothing can quite prepare you for this job. This position is a hybrid of bureaucratic, political and military activities. It helps to speak with predecessors and counterparts from other states.
Q. You entered the armed services in 1987; how have things changed since then?
A. At the core, the armed services are still about service, mission and people. But technology has changed things—now, people need a higher level of tech skills. Benefits have also increased, and there’s much more gender integration, and the forces are much more diverse.
Q. What are some common misconceptions about serving in the Guard? How are you trying to correct them?
A. Many people think of injuries when they think of serving in the military, but most vets are in a great position. We’re engaging in more outreach and try to tell our story at the grass-roots level.
Q. Why did you decide to devote your life to the military?
A. As I mentioned, my dad was in military, and I always admired him and his positive, “can-do” attitude. Many co-workers, friends and other people I admire as leaders are in or have been in the military.
Q. Are enough people joining the Guard in New Jersey?
A. The Air National Guard is at 107 percent of goal, and the Army Guard is at 99 percent-plus; we plan to reach 100 percent by the end of our fiscal year. We have good benefits, we’re in a good geographical location and there are lots of opportunities. Our doors are always open.