The goal of the Mission Wisconsin initiative is to connect military personnel and families separating from service with the opportunities Wisconsin has to offer, whether that’s quality education, a fulfilling career, a welcoming community or any support they need as they move into the next phase of their lives.

Like any mission, it couldn’t happen without boots on the ground—the Mission Wisconsin team. We recently sat down with Andy Wentworth to hear what being part of the Mission Wisconsin team means to him. Andy served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and is a Wisconsin native, working at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) since 2017. He joined the Mission Wisconsin team in 2018.

In Wisconsin: What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Mission Wisconsin team?

Andy Wentworth: In addition to day-to-day responsibilities as a financial analyst at WEDC, my role on the team is that of a Wisconsin Ambassador at Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) Career Summits. Without any hesitation I can say that the interactions I have at the Career Summits are what I enjoy the most. Being around military people is something I miss. In the conversations I have there, I try hard to be a responsive listener. No matter what, I always try to identify something that will help them based on what they share with me. A lot can happen over a ten-minute conversation. If you put a firm handshake on it and both agree to follow up, a lot more can happen. To say that the Career Summits elevate my spirits is an understatement. This is a special project, and I love being a small part of it.

In Wisconsin: How does the Mission Wisconsin initiative bring transitioning service members and employers together?

AW: WEDC has a strong relationship with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Together we’ve made strides in defining the difference between a “Veteran Friendly” employer and a “Veteran Ready” employer. Some great projects are in the works—namely assisting businesses in formally identifying themselves to service members as a strong ally in achieving post-military life success. WEDC is constantly working to expand the list of our employer partners and increasingly engaged with our Regional Economic Development Organizations. For example, a regional executive director just traveled to Camp Lejeune with the team. The level of engagement is on the rise and our strategy is really starting to take shape.

In Wisconsin: What has your personal experience been in Wisconsin as a veteran?

AW: I’ve never found a gap between the values that exist here and the values I obtained from having served in the Marine Corps. Small towns in Wisconsin are rich with tradition but not boastful; they’re solid and grounded in the things that matter.

I deployed twice while with a Wisconsin-based reserve unit. The care packages and letters we received were heartfelt and from so many small Wisconsin towns like I just described. The goodness and decency I’ve seen in that experience has really helped balance me over the years.

After obtaining my bachelor’s degree and additional technical training with my Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit, I used the Wisconsin GI Bill to complete my MBA. That’s an MBA, tuition-free. Not bad, right?

In Wisconsin: What makes Wisconsin a great place not just for veterans, but for their families as well?

AW: Know that Wisconsin is a very approachable place to live—you can get a foothold here. Military spouses, I think, best understand that deciding where to live after the military must be a well-rounded decision. Quality of life, cost of housing, sense of community, and education are all important things to consider. The biggest thing to note about Wisconsin culture is that our competitive nature is well-balanced. Study after study seems to validate my opinion. We’re routinely rated at the top nationally for work-life balance and overall quality of life. In transparent fashion, we’ve assembled a healthy number of facts with sources on our website. It’s a good resource.

In Wisconsin: Outside of Mission Wisconsin, how do you continue to support your fellow veterans?

AW: The infantry company I served with is based in Wisconsin. Though my deployment was 15 years ago, the experiences we went through made us tight in unbreakable ways. We have bonfires, hunts, social outings and formal reunions.

We also help each other. We will drop everything, spend significant time or do whatever it takes to help a guy from our deployment company or a Gold Star Family.

In Wisconsin: Are there Wisconsin veterans’ groups or organizations you’d like to draw attention to?

AW: In terms of local groups with a unique platform, I would point to Horicon Marsh Veteran’s Hunt. It’s run by some good people I know. The location is a stone’s throw away from the John Deere factory in Horicon, Wisconsin. John Deere is one of the strongest business partners the Mission Wisconsin project has. They have traveled to military bases as a part of Mission Wisconsin and they are not hesitating to extend offers to service members separating from service. Great company, great people.

In Wisconsin: For you, what makes Wisconsin such a great place to live?

AW: My wife Karly and I just built a home in Madison. We love the craft beer culture that’s certainly in abundance here. Madison is one of the most bike-friendly and well-connected cities in the country. I have a kayak and take it frequently on Lake Mendota—love finishing a kayak day trip at the Memorial Union Terrace at UW-Madison for a brat, beer and music. It’s laid back there—most of the time I bring my dog. I’ve also kayaked the Wisconsin River and backpacked on the Ice Age Trail. A few times every summer, I take my Jeep to drive in the Devil’s Lake area—the views are incredible. I’ve gone remote camping all over the state, from Dodgeville to Rock Island in Door County.

If you have the opportunity to attend a HOH Career Summit in the future, keep an eye out for Andy or other members of the Mission Wisconsin team. Follow our vets blog for more profiles of Mission Wisconsin team members and to stay updated on information about veterans achieving career and personal success in Wisconsin.