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John Marcantonio, Foss Maritime Company

Tell us about your military experience?

I graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with a Third Mate and Third Assistant Engineers license. Following graduation, I joined the United States Army Transportation Corps and served as a logistics officer for 5 years. I had the privilege of serving our country in South Korea in the 46th Transportation Company where I served as the Company Executive Officer and Platoon Leader. Following that, I was awarded an excellent assignment as the Installation Logistics Officer at the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center in Monterrey, California. Following September 11, 2001, I felt a strong call to support war efforts and volunteered to join the Third Army where I served on the Commanding General’s Staff for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What motivated you to join the military?

My mother and father were immigrants and proud Americans. My mother lived in post-World War II Italy. At 12 years old, she worked as a seamstress and picked grapes in the summer. My grandmother and grandfather struggled to put food on the table. Fortunately, in 1956, when my mother was 16, the family moved to the United States. My mother raised us to be patriotic and grateful for the opportunities. Her love of America inspired me to serve.

How did you learn about careers in the maritime industry? 

I was very fortunate to meet a dynamic leader in the maritime industry at a networking event who circulated my resume. Networking and seeking out opportunities to help others in business is critical.

What elements of your service career have helped you in transitioning to a private sector U.S.-flag maritime position? 

Compassion for teams that I manage and a desire to constantly grow as a leader while mentoring others.

What training have you received in your new position — and what new skills have you developed through on-the-job training?

Foss Maritime allowed enough flexibility in my schedule where I was able to get a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). I have also taken courses in Lean Six Sigma and Continuous Improvement. Most recently, Foss was awarded the contract to operate the first Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Bunker Barge in North America. I formed the team and had the opportunity to take USCG approved Liquefied Gases Courses.

What similarities have you found in the way the maritime industry operates in comparison to the military? Has this helped in your transition process?

While I have missed being in the military, I’ve enjoyed the challenges of business. The one thing that has helped me stand out as a leader is my complete willingness to mentor and share all of my knowledge with my team. Compassion and caring truly distinguishes former service members. Mission first, people always has remained my philosophy in business. I learned that no one cares what you know until they know how much you care, and I learned there is no such thing as a bad unit, there are only bad unit commanders. Just like my former commanders, I genuinely want to create leaders that are stronger, smarter, and better than me. This type of philosophy is extremely rare in business.

What you will find in business is innovation and creativity. What I observed in the military was that when we had complex challenges, we threw more people at it. In business, the saying goes “there are no prizes for increased head count,” and we seek to solve problems with lean principles and technology.

What advice would you have for a separating service member interested in this field upon leaving the military?

I would give three pieces of advice to those pursuing shoreside jobs in the maritime industry:

  1. Learn the language of business which is finance and accounting.
  2. In the military, if you are successful, chances are you were mentored and you advanced. In business, you control your own destiny.
  3. Develop your networking skills. In the military, you move around frequently. In business, the relationships you form can span over many decades, so it is very important to build a strong network.