USO, John Deere join forces to expand support of military 

David Ottavianelli, John Deere director of workforce and community development, left, and Bob Morris, business development officer for the USO, announce a new two-year partnership between the equipment maker and the USO to broaden their support of military members and their families. CREDIT JENNIFER DEWITT

As the nation marked its independence Thursday, July 4, John Deere and the USO celebrated military service members who keep the nation safe by unveiling a new partnership to support their transition into civilian life. 

With the first round of the John Deere Classic tournament underway, leaders from both Deere & Co. and the USO announced a new pact aimed at providing mentors and support for military members and their families embarking on new careers.   

Moline-based Deere has committed $100,0000 over the next two years to assist the USO in its critical work of strengthening the wellbeing of America’s military members and their families. 

The sponsorship will support four programs that not only will directly serve military members but also will enable Deere employees, equipment dealers and customers to get involved and show their support for veterans and their families. 

“We express our gratitude to the USO for this partnership and eagerly anticipate the positive impact it will have on countless service members,” David Ottavianelli, John Deere’s workforce and community development director, told reporters gathered inside the temporary JDC Media Center at TPC Deere Run, Silvis. 

He also gave a shoutout to the JDC and Lowe’s, thanking “the John Deere Classic team for the incredible support in recognizing our active duty, service members, veterans, family members and first responders.”  

This year, more than 2,500 military affiliated JDC guests have taken advantage of Lowe’s free military ticket program.  

In an earlier interview with the QCBJ, Mr. Ottavianelli said the new partnership “will allow us to introduce so many active-duty service members and their families to some of the many programs the USO provides.” 

“It’s amazing to see the veterans in our company who are always wanting to give back and help the next generation of veterans,” he said, adding the new partnership opens up new opportunities for the John Deere family to mentor military veterans as they transfer their military skills into new careers – including at Deere’s equipment manufacturing facilities and dealerships around the country and at other companies.  

Through programs such as Skillbridge, Home Base Iowa, Deere’s own military outreach and hiring programs, he said Deere has been continuing to increase its workforce recruitment of former military service members and their families. 

Back in 2020, he said John Deere recognized a shortage of skilled workers in some of its geographic locations. “We saw there was not enough people (in the pipeline) at some of our smaller locations and that we were going to have problems finding skilled workers,” he told the QCBJ. 

In response, John Deere made a concerted effort to recruit former service members into its manufacturing plants as well as hire trained military mechanics to work in its dealership network. “As we know, everything they learn in the military makes them great workers,” Mr. Ottavianelli said.

During the announcement at the JDC, USO Business Development Officer Bob Morris said 

“We’re excited about this new partnership with an iconic brand like John Deere to support our mission of strengthening the well-being of the people who service in America’s military and their families.” 

Since its founding in 1941, the USO has been by the side of service members from the start of and through the end of their military career. With 260 locations worldwide today, the USO supports military members through a variety of programs including care package deliveries, global entertainment, military spouse and youth programming, and more. 

“We thank John Deere for their support and we look forward to working together to make a difference for our service members,” Mr. Morris said.  

For Mr. Morris, a U.S. Navy veteran who worked on submarines, the partnership is especially important. “I grew up as a kid sitting on my dad’s lap on a John Deere tractor… To have a partner like John Deere be on board means so much to me to see it all come full circle from the time I was a child.” 

Now working with the USO, Mr. Morris said the organization is there for all service members “From the moment they join through their assignments and deployments and as they transition back into their communities.”

He said 200,000 service members are transitioning every year out of the military and the USO transition programs are there to assist. “This partnership allows us to deepen our support,” Mr. Morris said. 

Mr. Ottavianelli, a U.S. Army veteran, added “I vividly remember the simple things the USO did. A simple care package came from someone I did not know.”

He recalled it having Slim Jims and “something to make the water taste better.” That remark sparked laughter from the veterans on hand for the partnership announcement. “Those simple things made an impact,” he added.

The various USO programs the new Deere partnership will support, Mr. Ottavianelli said, includes: 

  • USO Campaign to Connect – John Deere employees and customers can select a message of support or customize their own message to be sent to service members and their families worldwide. Messages will be sent to service members at more than 250 USO service centers around the globe. The messages will help boost morale, offer encouragement and show support for those service members and their families who sacrifice so much every day. 
  • USO Transition Assistance: John Deere will actively help connect active-duty service members to local and nationwide career opportunities within John Deere, at John Deere dealerships and other local businesses and company partners. 
  • USO Mentorship Program: This program will expand mentorship opportunities for John Deere employees to engage with military service members and spouses, offering the service members career guidance during the challenging transition from military service to civilian life and new careers. “We have learned from our contacts in the military that this transition is difficult,” Mr. Ottavianelli said. 
  • Local USO activities: John Deere pledges to sponsor special events with the USO globally including outings for deployed families, military cookouts, and other activities where John Deere families can directly support military members in their communities. 

According to Mr. Ottavianelli, Deere’s history with the military goes back to World War I when the company designed and manufactured ambulance wagons, field stretchers and munitions. 

During World War II, Deere factories built tank transmissions, submarine hatches, airplane components and even had a USS cargo ship named after it. 

In addition, he said “The 608 ordnance Battalion became known as the John Deere Battalion, because it mainly was comprised of employees from our company locations and our dealership locations. That battalion kept allied tanks, trucks and tractors running during the war.” 

By the end of the war, nearly 5,000 John Deere employees had served their country, he said. 

Of the USO – Deere partnership announced Thursday, he added “We have to recognize and know that this will be a team effort and I extend our heartfelt thanks to the many John Deere military veterans that will play a pivotal role in this collaboration. It takes an entire team to make this happen. Their unwavering dedication to serving and supporting fellow veterans exemplifies John Deere’s enduring commitment to the military community.”  

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