The Anatomy of a Rescue
Laying a Marine to rest

Battle-tested business leaders

A pretty nice look at the next greatest generation as they transition from wartime to civilian leadership roles, and from CNN none the less. WOW.

(Fortune Magazine) -- In the spring of 2008, Wal-Mart threw an annual shareholders meeting befitting its stature as the world's mightiest retailer. It was a gala event hosted by rapper and actress Queen Latifah and featuring performances by American Idol winners David Cook and Carrie Underwood, teen sensation Taylor Swift, '80s rockers Journey, and country stars Keith Urban and Tim McGraw.

Away from the festivities, though, senior Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) executives met to confront a potential crisis: a looming shortage of young talent in the store management ranks. The company was so big, and growing so fast, that it was exploring the outer limits of manageable expansion. Its revenue was on track to grow by $30 billion that year -- roughly equivalent to adding a company the size of Coca-Cola (KO, Fortune 500) to its operations. Wal-Mart's usual strategy of promoting from within and poaching from other retailers just couldn't keep up. The executives needed a plan to address the junior-leadership void.

Bill Simon, the chief operating officer of Wal-Mart U.S. and a 25-year veteran of the Navy and Naval Reserves, had a suggestion. What the company should do, he argued at the time, was create a program to recruit junior military officers, or JMOs -- the lieutenants and captains who had recently led soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen.

"The thinking was that we could bring in world-class leadership talent that was already trained and ready to go," says Jennifer Seidner, a senior recruiting manager at Wal- Mart. "And then we could teach them retail, because we know that pretty well."