Army vet­eran with Ge­or­gia ties takes skills to the cat­tle field

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - LIVING - By Hais­ten Wil­lis For the AJC

Pa­trick Mont­gomery learned a lot dur­ing his four years sta­tioned at Ge­or­gia mil­i­tary bases. Per­haps the most im­por­tant les­son was be­liev­ing in his own abil­i­ties.

“You think you have all of these lim­i­ta­tions as a per­son, but when you’re put in chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions, you fig­ure out that those are made up in your head,” said Mont­gomery, now 28 and the founder and owner of KC Cat­tle Co. “You learn you’re ca­pa­ble of a lot more than you think.”

When Mont­gomery fin­ished his ser­vice in the 1st Ranger Bat­tal­ion in 2014, he went back to school at the Univer­sity of Mis­souri, then started a busi­ness in his home state on Aug. 1, 2016. KC Cat­tle Co. serves hor­mone­free Wagyu beef, a Ja­panese cat­tle breed. The cows are raised in a “stress-free” en­vi­ron­ment with no an­tibi­otics, lead­ing to what Mont­gomery de­scribes as a de­li­cious but­tery taste thanks to fats that melt at a low tem­per­a­ture rel­a­tive to most breeds.

The com­pany em­ploys only vet­er­ans, two full time, five part time and a few in­terns at the mo­ment, with a por­tion of prof­its go­ing to­ward vet­eran-sup­port­ing char­i­ties.

Mont­gomery is a Mis­souri na­tive, though he didn’t grow up around cat­tle as a child. A defin­ing mo­ment in his life, as it was for mil­lions of oth­ers, came on Sept. 11, 2001. He was just a mid­dle schooler at the time but wasted no time let­ting his fam­ily know he wanted to get in­volved if a war was still rag­ing when he turned 18.

That ended up be­ing the case, of course, and after his first two years of col­lege, Mont­gomery joined the U.S. Army and be­gan his ser­vice at Fort Ben­ning near Colum­bus.

“I spent more time than I’d have pre­ferred there,” Mont­gomery said with a laugh, re­fer­ring to his time in ba­sic train­ing.

He was then sta­tioned at Sa­van­nah’s Hunter Army Air­field be­fore a sec­ond stint at Fort Ben­ning for Ranger school. Lastly, he spent time in Dahlonega, which Mont­gomery de­scribes as one of the most beau­ti­ful parts of the state. In to­tal, he lived in Ge­or­gia from 2010 to 2014 and said the ex­pe­ri­ence had a pro­found im­pact on his de­vel­op­ment.

“Ge­or­gia will al­ways have a spe­cial place in my heart,” he said. “I joined the mil­i­tary at age 20, and I def­i­nitely at­tribute the things I carry over now to the lead­er­ship skills I picked up then.”

Fol­low­ing four years in the Army and two de­ploy­ments to Afghanistan, it was time to move home and fin­ish col­lege. Mont­gomery pur­sued a de­gree in an­i­mal science and ini­tially planned to be­come a vet­eri­nar­ian. In­stead, he re­al­ized he pre­ferred large an­i­mals to small pets, caught the busi­ness bug (in part thanks to a mi­nor in en­trepreneur­ship) and de­cided to launch a food pro­duc­tion com­pany.

“I fell in love with busi­ness,” he said. “It was a great pair­ing be­tween an­i­mals and en­trepreneur­ship, and I re­al­ized that no­body was do­ing this in Kansas City yet. As far as bring­ing in vet­er­ans, I got a lot of ben­e­fit from serv­ing in the Army, so why wouldn’t I bring in other vet­er­ans to ex­pe­ri­ence the same thing?”

Key to that sec­ond as­pect is help­ing vets with the of­ten-dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion from mil­i­tary to civil­ian life. Leav­ing the reg­i­mented life of the Army for the free-for-all civil­ian world can be tough for vet­er­ans, and even Mont­gomery said he found the ex­pe­ri­ence harder than he ex­pected.

“I count my bless­ings that I had my wife to keep me on track,” he said. “Most of us in the Army are goal-ori­ented, and it can be tough to find that in civil­ian life. A lot of guys get out and plan to go to school, but they don’t have a ma­jor or a ca­reer path. They strug­gle when they lack a game plan for get­ting out of the mil­i­tary.”

So he’s teamed with or­ga­ni­za­tions to help find vet­er­ans to work on his farm. Mont­gomery aims to help vet­er­ans take that next step in life. He has part­nered with a group called War Horses for Vet­er­ans, which per­forms equine ther­apy, and plans to set up a busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor for vet­er­ans in 2019.

Mont­gomery pro­vides not only fi­nan­cial help, but beef and the use of his land to War Horses for Vet­er­ans, a Kansas City-area or­ga­ni­za­tion founded by fel­low Army com­bat vet­eran Pa­trick Ben­son.

Mont­gomery and Ben­son met through mu­tual friends in the Kansas City area.

“Do­ing busi­ness in the civil­ian world is not as struc­tured as the mil­i­tary, so you have to de­velop that struc­ture your­self,” said Ben­son, who served in the Army in­fantry dur­ing the Iraq in­va­sion in 2003. “It’s a lot eas­ier with a good team around you and peo­ple you en­joy do­ing it with.”

At no cost, Ben­son’s group flies in mil­i­tary vet­er­ans for three days of open skies, good food and ca­ma­raderie, help­ing con­nect them with one an­other and, in

some cases, with po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers af­ter­ward. Many are deal­ing with bat­tle fa­tigue or post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, and War Horses aims to get them into the right mind­set for the tran­si­tion.

“I don’t care what your rank is, or whether it’s for per­sonal or pro­fes­sional growth,” Ben­son said. “The horses are the bridge, and the vet­er­ans are their own best ther­apy.”

Mont­gomery’s farm spans 297 acres, with be­tween 60 to 100 cows on-site at any given time. While tra­di­tional beef breeds are har­vested around 18 months of age, his are pro­cessed at be­tween 26 and 30 months, due to a slower feed­ing process that does not use hor­mones.

While the busi­ness serves de­li­cious beef to cus­tomers, it serves a lot more than that to its em­ploy­ees.

“War Horses for Vet­er­ans is a unique part­ner­ship for us to step into, not only be­cause of the agri­cul­ture ties but be­cause we have the same be­liefs about get­ting vets back on their feet,” said Mont­gomery. “It’s not about giv­ing a hand­out, but giv­ing them tools to use in the work­force. That in­cludes net­work­ing, hook­ing them up with peo­ple who can be men­tors for them in what­ever type of job they are look­ing for.”

CON­TRIB­UTED BY JOHN PARKER

Pa­trick Mont­gomery, who spent sev­eral years sta­tioned at Ge­or­gia mil­i­tary bases, was raised in Mis­souri, though he did not grow up around cat­tle. At­tend­ing col­lege to be­come a vet­eri­nar­ian, he in­stead dis­cov­ered a pas­sion for large an­i­mals and busi­ness.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY PHIL GRAY

KC Cat­tle Co. serves hor­mone-free Wagyu beef, a Ja­panese cat­tle breed. Pa­trick Mont­gomery founded the com­pany on Aug. 1, 2016, after four years in the Army and two de­ploy­ments to Afghanistan.

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