Safran USA: Employee Spotlight

Walt Kennedy / Director of Business Development, Foreign Military Sales and International, Optics 1

Walt Kennedy
Optics 1's Walt Kennedy is shown during the ceremony marking his retirement from the U.S. Army.

Safran is a major employer of military veterans, and it acknowledges the contributions of these men and women to the company and to America. As the nation observes Veterans Day on November 11, the following Question and Answer feature spotlights Walt Kennedy, a former U.S. Army officer who works at Safran's Optics 1 business in New Hampshire.

Question: What branch of the military did you serve in and why did you decide to join the military?

Answer: I served in the U.S. Army. I was motivated by a desire to serve my country. I joined when Ronald Reagan was President and we were in the midst of the Cold War, but I also was a student of history and respected those who answered the call in previous conflicts such as World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Question: How long did you serve, and where were you stationed?

Answer: I spent four years at West Point and then 26 years as an army officer. I spent roughly half my career overseas. I did several tours in Germany at the beginning and the end of my career, and also spent time living and working in Albania, Bosnia and Romania – with short spells in many other countries. I also was posted to Iraq on a number of short deployments, and one longer stretch as a member of Multi-National Corps Iraq (MNC-I).

Question: What were your duties in the military?

Answer: For the first half of my career, I was a pilot on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, and worked as a platoon leader, company commander and operations officer in aviation units. I then went to graduate school before going back to West Point to teach history and coach rugby. Following that assignment, I became a Foreign Area Officer (FAO) where I primarily worked with foreign militaries to provide equipment, training, and to promote and expand cooperation with the U.S. military.

Question: How long have you been employed by Optics 1, and can you explain your responsibilities?

Answer: I joined Optics 1 just over a year ago following my retirement from the U.S. Army, and I currently am focused on international business development – primarily through the U.S. government's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.

Question: What do you enjoy about working for Optics 1?

Answer: The most enjoyable aspect is our focus on providing the best equipment possible to the men and women of the U.S. and partner militaries. We really do promote and maintain strong relationships with the soldiers who use our equipment, and we leverage that relationship to provide the products and product improvements that will help them maximize their effectiveness, accomplish their mission, and keep them safe. 

We do that while fostering an excellent work environment with a bunch of great people.  I also like the fact that while we are part of a large international company, we still have a small company feel.

Question: What skills that you learned in the military carry over to working at Optics 1?

Answer: I have significant experience working internationally and with the Foreign Military Sales program, as well as in international acquisition and security cooperation – so this is applied directly to what I do at Optics 1. I also think that the values, leadership, and desire to accomplish the mission that I learned in my 30 years of service carries over very well to the Optics 1 workplace. Optics 1 is a very veteran-friendly environment, with similar standards and values, which makes the transition easier.

Question: In your opinion, what do veterans bring to the workplace?

Answer: I think veterans bring a strong work ethic, a certain set of values, as well as pride and professionalism to the workplace. In the defense industry, they very often will bring a very specific set of technical skills, experience, and important contacts that can be of benefit as well.