Veteran finds career fit fighting different kind of enemy

Wil-Kil Pest Control’s Shane McCoy says pest management is a natural fit for military veterans, and he’s doing his part to help other vets find a post-service career.

Shane McCoy knows it’s often not easy for veterans to find a career after their service ends that showcases the skills they learned in the military.

McCoy, director of quality and technical training at Sun Prairie-based Wil-Kil Pest Control, was lucky because he found his, and now he’s doing his part to help other veterans find their career post duty.

Born and raised in Rogers, Ark., McCoy started taking classes at Northwest Arkansas Community College following high school but soon decided to join the Air Force so he could see the world and use the G.I. Bill to pay for college.

After joining the U.S. Air Force in 1995, McCoy was on active duty until 2007, stationed around the world in Las Vegas, New Jersey, Texas, and South Korea. In 2007, he moved to Madison where he joined the Wisconsin National Guard at Truax Field in 2009.

For more IB coverage of veterans in the workforce, read our Nov. 2017 print feature, Returning vets fill the labor gap.

After 20 years of serving our country, he recently retired from the Air National Guard in September.

It was McCoy’s time in the Air Force that led him to pest control.

“As a technician I conducted pest management operations to determine type and extent of actions required to control and prevent infestations by disease pest vectors,” McCoy notes. His battleground included dining facilities, the BX and Commissary, seven to eight fast food restaurants on base, the Officers and Enlisted Club, all the base houses, and all of the structures on base. His team also treated for weeds on the taxi and runways.

In a way perhaps only a military veteran can describe his duties, McCoy says he “selected chemical treatment to provide maximum residual benefits consistent with environmental protection considerations; monitored each operation to ensure efficiency and compliance with technical orders, and local and federal laws; and maintained all operational records for the Pest Management Element. Additional duties included calibrating, maintaining, and operating tools and dispersal equipment.”

McCoy also spent time educating his fellow airmen on pest control as an instructor. He oversaw the management and training of 185 apprentice students and taught a six-week pest management course for active duty, guard, and reserve personnel that provided more than 1,800 hours of instruction in pest management, as well as environmental, health and safety, and local law.

Civilian transition

Unlike many of his fellow veterans, McCoy didn’t have to wait long to find the right civilian career.

“I actually flew to interview with Wil-Kil while I was on active duty,” McCoy says. “I was coming to the end of my enlistment and deciding whether or not to make the Air Force a career or get out and join another career. I interviewed for several pest management jobs and a few non-pest management jobs in the training field. I was offered and accepted the position of technical training director at Wil-Kil Pest Control two months before I separated from the Air Force. Wil-Kil was a perfect fit for me and Wisconsin is a great place to raise a family.”

While McCoy says he never really thought of pest control as a career until he learned the job in the Air Force, he made the most of his opportunity once it found him. He obtained two associate degrees from the Community College of the Air Force — one in ecological controls and another in instruction of technology and military science. He also attended a formal leadership school when was promoted to sergeant.

Additionally, this past August McCoy received his master’s degree in entomology and he’s a member of the Entomological Society of America and Pi Chi Omega, a fraternity of pest management professionals that aims to further the science of pest control. He is also chairperson of a group of entomologists that meet to develop pest control treatment strategies and technical information.



McCoy notes his time in the Air Force taught him several values that are useful across all careers:

  • Look sharp — “I ironed my uniform throughout my career and made sure my boots were shined. So my dress and appearance is always good to go.”
  • Integrity — “We were always taught to do the right thing even if no one is looking.”
  • One-hundred percent effort — “In the Air Force one of our core values is service before self. I’ve always had a good work ethic because of the core values the Air Force teaches you.”
  • Teamwork — “When we were on military exercises or deployed, we learned how to work as a team. It’s amazing to see such large projects being accomplished with a team of motivated men and women.”

Those are traits he says are common among veterans, and something employers can count on when they hire vets.

In particular, McCoy says pest control is a natural fit for veterans and he works to educate other vets on the post-service career opportunities that the industry can provide.

“[Pest control is] a good fit for veterans for several reasons,” explains McCoy. “It allows them to work outside, service and take care of clients, organize their own schedules, and follow operating instructions.”

McCoy is also an advocate of PestVets, a veteran’s group organized by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Wil-Kil has many employees active in the group, which has four goals:

  • Create veteran awareness of opportunities in the pest management industry;
  • Provide guidance to assist vets with transitioning;
  • Offer educational opportunities; and
  • Develop an employment portal for returning vets.

McCoy has even broadened his outreach to include the Greater Madison community. He’s appeared a number of times on local morning TV news programs to advise homeowners on how to prevent pest problems in the first place, including prevention of overwintering pests, prevention of rodents, bed bug prevention tips while traveling, pollinating insect protection, and mosquito bite prevention.

McCoy says it’s very important to have an employer that is supportive of its veteran employees, as Wil-Kil has been for its vets. “They celebrate the fact that I’m a veteran [including when I was] still in the National Guard. I deployed [in 2015] for three months and I knew that I was going to be taken care of by Wil-Kil and my co-workers because of their support. My co-workers showed up to our departure ceremony right before we left for deployment. It was a great event for everyone and it really showed the support I get from Wil-Kil.”

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