Cobblestone is no different than any independent service agency: We need younger and more technically savvy technicians. Today's rack ovens and combi ovens are infinitely more complicated than the previous generation's revolving tray ovens, deck ovens, fryers and steamers. Multiple layers of programmability exist in all of these equipment types.

Chris-HeinaChris HeinaAs a result we need technicians that know how to use technology such as smartphones and tablet computers, and understand how to troubleshoot this increasingly complex equipment.

Everyone is aware that thousands of veterans continue to return from active duty after serving our country at various posts across the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. These men and women served their country proudly and deserve our gratitude for their sacrifice upon their return. Many of these veterans have mechanical and electrical backgrounds. Plus they have the discipline to work in a structured and constantly evolving environment. They have been up to every challenge.

An organization called Vet2Tech specializes in helping these veterans find their next challenges and that includes placing them into the commercial food equipment technician fields. Candidates receive a scholarship and take the Basic Training Course offered by the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA), which then guarantees them an interview with a participating CFESA member company.

We at Cobblestone have gone through this process several times and have found a fit — Ivory Crawford, team leader of the military police based in Mazar-i-Sharif. Ivory was there for 10 months and saw plenty of action, and now serves in the military reserves.

This 21-year-old is very proficient with technology and quickly adapted to our dispatching and work order system. He works as a diagnostician and planned maintenance technician on several conveyor oven lines we service. Ivory hit the ground running and became a valuable part of our team. Whatever we throw at him, Ivory tackles it without fear.

In short, we have high hopes for Ivory and his future at Cobblestone.

We at Cobblestone believe hiring veterans such as Ivory represents a win/win scenario. The average age of a technician serving the commercial foodservice industry is 54 or 55 years old. You can't deny that our segment needs to continue to add new people who know what it means to serve, possess a technical aptitude to work with increasingly complex equipment and have the discipline and ability to get the job done in hot, often messy situations.

No, I am not comparing being a service technician to serving our country. But many of the qualities that made these men and women successful in the military will serve them well in the foodservice industry. Further, I think we would all agree that veterans who served our country with courage, dedication, honor and valor deserve jobs when they return home. Vet2Tech is an excellent program to help provide our industry with what it needs and to help give veterans what they deserve.