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Fortune 500 CEOs Who Served in the Military

Updated May 7, 2019 15.8k views20 items

List RulesCan be past or present CEOs. Must be from Fortune 500 companies.

Business leaders who served in the military have a tremendous knowledge in leadership and motivation. Many CEOs of major companies spent time in the armed forces, with a number seeing combat in the Vietnam War, and some even being wounded. Along the way, they learned a great deal about how to motivate people under you, logistics, efficiency, and managing expectations.

These lessons would come in handy when they transitioned to the business world. These leaders turned major companies around, oversaw mergers and new products, weathered uncertain economic times, and made profits for shareholders - all while managing employees with the skills they learned in the military.

As the current generation of Vietnam veteran CEOs retires, the corporate world is left with a vacuum that won't be filled for decades, until Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans take high-ranking business leadership positions. Here are some of the most prominent current and recently retired CEOs who also served in the military.
  • Josue Robles, Jr.

    Major General Josue Robles, Jr. spent 28 years in the US Army, serving all over the world and retiring in 2004. He then assumed the CEO position at USAA, the insurance company that specifically caters to military families. Robles left USAA in 2015, and was subsequently tapped by the Obama administration to lead reform at the VA.
  • Martin J. Whitman

    The former CEO of wealth management firm Equity Strategies and a strong proponent of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, Whitman served in the Navy in World War II, and attended college on the GI Bill.
  • Robert S. Morrison

    The former CEO of Quaker Oats and a former vice chairman at Pepsi, Morrison served in the Marines during the Vietnam War, rising to the rank of Captain and seeing extensive combat. After winning a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, he retired in 1969 and joined Proctor and Gamble.
  • Before becoming a power player in the financial services industry, Schaefer worked with a different kind of power - nuclear. He attended West Point, received a bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering, then joined the Army. He served in Vietnam as a Ranger and left in 1971 - the same year he joined Fifth Third Bank, where he eventually became CEO. He retired in 2007.