Impressed by how his fellow rugby teammate in university—who had served in the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger regiment—carried himself and tackled problems, Rob Neitzel made up his mind to become a Ranger.
“I was a junior in college and at that time I decided this is what I want to do. This is an experience that I want to have and a value and culture that I want to be a part of,” Neitzel says.
In 1993, he enlisted in the military. During training, he was selected to become a 2nd Lieutenant, and joined the Airborne Forces. His first assignment took him to Panama as a platoon leader executive officer.
From 1998 to 2000, Neitzel transitioned to the U.S. Army Rangers in Fort Benning, Georgia. He underwent extensive psychological and physical training. As part of that training, Neitzel led complex missions and was allowed about 45-minutes of sleep a night and one meal a day.
“The purpose of that is to push you to your physical and mental limits and see if you can still operate clearly, calmly and in a means to which you can lead others to an area where they may not want to go,” he says.
After spending 2000 to 2002 commanding a rifle company with the 82nd Airborne division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Neitzel took part in a year-long selection and training for an elite counterterrorism unit within the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command.
I transformed my leadership style from one of being ‘I control’ to ‘I empower’
From 2003 to 2009, he served in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the next two years, Neitzel became the Chief of Operations for Regional Command East of Afghanistan. After that, he continued rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan until he retired.
One of Neitzel’s defining moments happened in 2007, when 11 of his soldiers were ambushed in a remote area of Nuristan, Afghanistan. Out of the 11, only one was able to communicate via radio.
Thinking outside of the box, Neitzel’s artillery officer, who was part of the operations center in Afghanistan, at his own discretion put an artillery round in the air that would help locate the team through simple geometry.
Neitzel, who was commanding the operations center, realized that his true weapon wasn’t an M4 or 45-calibre, but the mastery of information management. He used the center’s technology and analytical capabilities to coordinate a timely extraction. That included directing 13 assets, such as drones and fast-moving aircrafts, as one unit.
“I transformed my leadership style from one of being ‘I control’ to ‘I empower’.”
During his service, Neitzel learned how to effectively communicate with people from diverse backgrounds. “I learned how to become a servant leader, meaning put my needs second and put their needs first and understand how I could best support the outcome that we both wanted.”
After retiring, Neitzel became a consultant at McChrystal Group, an advisory services and leadership development firm founded by Stan McChyrstal, a former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command.
Through that, he was exposed to Barrick, and hired by the Company in 2016.
While he has no mining experience, Neitzel draws on his leadership, people and analytical skills to lead and motivate teams.
Currently, Neitzel is the Digital Project Owner for the Analytics and Unified Operations (AuOps) Center in Nevada. The center processes vast quantities of data across Barrick’s mines in Nevada and converts it into timely and relevant information to enhance decision-making.
Sharing his thoughts on Barrick’s sponsorship of the Invictus Games Toronto 2017 Veterans Career Summit, Neitzel says it’s a “great relationship.”
“Barrick has a very high priority with regard to veterans and sponsorship of veterans and this is a great way for Barrick to be able to provide our people and our resources to support a really great event.”
Barrick employs hundreds of veterans around the globe. This week during the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, you’ll hear from a number of Barrick veterans on what their military service was like, the defining moments they had, the transition from military to civilian life, and how their service has helped them in their roles at Barrick.
Some also shared their thoughts on the Company’s sponsorship of the Veterans Career Summit.
The Summit aims to connect veterans with potential employers and career counsellors to help them find meaningful employment after the military. It takes place on September 28 and 29.