Combat Veteran Is a Calming Presence After a Catastrophe

Posted May 11, 2018 3:34 p.m. EDT

Carlos Martinez, 35, manages large property loss projects at Paul Davis Restoration in Milwaukee.

Q: What does your company do?

A: We’re a Wisconsin franchise of the national Paul Davis Restoration company. We go into homes or businesses after a fire, flood or hurricane, for example, and repair the damage and restore the contents.

By asking questions of the homeowner or operations manager about square footage and items affected, we do a quick cost estimate to determine whether I’m the one to handle the project. I manage our projects at sites having property damage of at least $250,000.

Q: How did you get started in this field?

A: After high school I enlisted in the United States Army and served for 12 years, the last one in Iraq.

In 2005, when I returned, a family friend who worked here told me about an opening for a carpenter.

Instead I got a job as a technician in the warehouse. Our technicians at disaster sites send items here that need special cleaning, including textiles and electronics, and I sorted them according to the type of cleaning needed.

Within three months I was promoted to supervisor and then moved into operations.

Q: Your military career resumed after that. What happened?

A: After the Army I was in the Army Reserve for several years, and in 2008 they sent me to Afghanistan for about a year.

When I returned, the company made me a project manager in the field. I moved to my current position in 2015.

Q: What do you do when a disaster occurs?

A: I drive or fly to the site and handle logistics like food and lodging for our technicians that will be arriving. I do a walk-through of the structure with the home or business owner and determine the supplies and equipment and number of employees that will be needed.

Then we work out a schedule on paper or using Google Calendar, whichever the client prefers.

For a business, I might set up 24-hour operations to get it up and running again.

Q: What was the longest you were away from home on a single trip?

A: Last year I was away for eight weeks. I’m married with four kids, so I didn’t score any points for that, but it would have been tough to get home.

A construction company found formaldehyde leaking from floor joists supporting subfloors in about 2,000 homes they built. A faulty product was to blame. They hired us to determine whether to remove the joists, seal them, or do something else. I covered two states, Colorado and Illinois.

Q: Has your Army training helped in this job?

A: It taught me to be a leader, set goals and take responsibility for completing tasks. After experiencing extreme situations overseas, I can appraise a situation, enter a disaster site and remain calm. These conditions are manageable compared to combat.

Q: Which project stayed with you?

A: In 2016, a property manager called us to help with 1,700 condo units damaged in a wildfire in Fort McMurray, a town in Alberta, Canada. The devastation was surreal. We were invited to take part in their parade on Canada Day, which is like our Fourth of July. It was like we were heroes.