“What The Armed Services and Coca-Cola Have Taught Me…” is an article series spotlighting veterans who are applying their skills and experiences from the U.S. Armed Forces to their work with Coca-Cola. The series will continue leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

'We Started at the Most Basic Level…'

Captain (CPT) Lillian Lien (Norton) graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 2000. In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq where she served as an Intelligence Battle Captain. She provided daily intelligence briefings to a 2-star General, analyzing the day’s enemy activity and predicting what to expect in the next 24-48 hours. During the same deployment, CPT Lien helped train the Iraqi Army on intelligence tasks. Despite being a female trainer to Arab males, she implemented a successful training plan resulting in their validation as security intelligence officers and subsequent placement in Baghdad.

Training in Iraq
CPT Lillian Norton helped train the Iraqi Army on intelligence tasks.

“We had to overcome the cultural differences," she said. "This group of Arab men had been identified to serve as the intelligence staff and I was the officer tasked with training them. This group was not used to taking direction from a woman. So, I focused on building credibility and trust and keeping our shared goal in mind: getting them to a place where they could manage intelligence. We started with small tasks like how to log onto a computer and how to read an intelligence report. We moved on to looking at trends and learning how to anticipate what would happen next. In the end, the all-male intelligence staff grew in their confidence of my leadership and was very appreciative of what we’d developed together.”

Her efforts allowed for the decreased presence of U.S. troops in the sector.  

'Start Simply'

CPT Lien completed her military service in 2005 and went on to pursue a Master of Arts in International Relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington D.C. She worked as a Brand Marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Newell Rubbermaid before joining the Company in her current role as Senior Program Manager with the Commercialization and Planning and Design-To-Value Teams in Coca-Cola Refreshments. She describes joining the Company as reminiscent of her time in Bagdad.

Lillian Norton, Coca-Cola Refreshments

“When I started with Coca-Cola, I got to see just how intricate our system was – something you don’t appreciate before you start," she said. "Every day I use what I’ve learned in the field – start simply, ask a lot of questions, use your team and make connections to get things done. I also recall what I shared with the intelligence staff when they took on something new - ‘persist and don’t give up’. It worked there and it works here.”

CTP Lien’s military experiences have pushed her to her true limits – mentally, physically and emotionally. Knowing those limits has empowered her to take on more challenges and be confident in doing so.

Coke’s Commitment to Veterans 

Beginning in 2015, The Coca-Cola Company will partner with American Corporate Partners to roll out a dedicated mentorship program for veterans to help translate military experience to the civilian workforce. A group of 50 Coca-Cola mentors will be announced during our Veterans Day activities on Nov. 12, 2014. Visit www.acp-usa.org/Mentoring_Program to learn more about this important initiative.