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Military provided leadership training

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Seeing action in military service and working at an auto dealership may seem worlds apart, but there actually are some areas of overlap.

No, David Custred, a finance manager at Lithia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat in Santa Fe doesn’t have to worry about a firefight breaking out in the showroom or that the parking lot may be mined.

But as a U.S. Army National Guard sergeant, leadership was his calling card.

And that is something that he can use in the office.

“I went through a lot of leadership training,” Custred said of his six years in the National Guard as a combat engineer. “And I think that leadership training helps me on a daily basis. I’m part of the management team here. It gives me skills to interact with employees, but also helps with interactions with other management. In reality, I have a substantial amount of leadership training and I think that gives me an advantage in the workplace.”

Custred got his introduction and invitation into the auto business while working as a server at a restaurant in Abilene, Texas.

“The GMs (general managers) used to come over and eat in my section and they always said, ‘Come work for me. Come work for me,'” he said. “I had worked my way up to be one of the managers at Buffalo Wild Wings, but I didn’t want to work that late anymore. So I talked to the GM at the Lithia Honda Store in Abilene and he started me the next day. It was crazy.”

It turned out he was pretty good at it, too.

“I took to it right away, which I think of personality and a little bit of the military,” Custred said. “A lot of prior military service people are in car business. You have to have a bold personality and be able to step out on the limb because a lot of people that come in are not exactly excited to talk to us. They don’t want to be sold. I try to tell customers I’m not here to sell them, I’m here to facilitate their purchase.”

The days certainly are different now than when he was in Afghanistan.

“During deployment, I did route clearance looking for IEDs, mounted presence patrols and dismounted presence patrols,” Custred said. “It’s an experience, that’s for sure. There were times where it was more intense than others. Some days missions were a little bit scary, on edge and other days were just another day. I was very relieved to go home. I loved serving but the reason I got out was because I discussed it with my wife and she didn’t want me to go back overseas again. It has to be pretty hard on your family back home.”