“Everything we do in life informs our future and clearly the military had a massive influence on my life.” That’s how Cat Racing’s Jackie Heinricher looks back on her military service.
When you’re on the track, in the heat of a race, decision making is critical. Should you try to pass, or hang back? Is it better to make a pit stop now, or wait a little bit longer? As a racer and as race team principal, Heinricher is constantly making decisions on and off the track. She enlisted when she was just 17-years old and credits much of her success in business and in racing to the time she spent as a medic in the United State Air Force.
“You’re gonna drive to where you look and if you’re looking at a wall, you’re going to drive into a wall, so you can say, both in the military and racing, you have to have your eyes up. And that’s going to lead you to great things in your life.”
Like Heinricher, Cat Rental Store customer Andrew Purcell, enlisted as a teenager. He served in the United States Marine Corps as part of an artillery battery in Afghanistan. Today, Andrew runs his own business (Purcell Land Management) that specializes in land management, trails and ponds. He feels great confidence, in large part due to the flexibility and rental support he gets from Altorfer, his Cat dealer.
Andrew says owing a construction company is no different than the military in that every skill you can develop while serving can be applied to business.
“I’ll still never have as much responsibility as I had as an 18-19 year old kid in Afghanistan. You definitely take on a lot and it definitely paved the way for my career and what I want to do with my life.”
And it’s no different at the track. Every member of the Cat Racing team’s crew has responsibilities they must fulfill for the team to reach its full potential. It is a philosophy that’s shared by long time, Cat customer Mike Hitchcock Sr., owner of Hitchcock Scrap Yard. He says one of the keys to his success is recognizing hard working employees based on their skill sets and being able to put them in the right positions to grow the business.
The company currently employs about 50 people. Many of them have been there for years and worked their way up the ranks. To Hitchcock, they are family.
Like Purcell and Heinricher, Hitchcock takes great pride in his military service. He was drafted in 1969 and served a tour in Vietnam before returning home and buying the business in 1972.
“The experience of spending a full year in the jungle in Vietnam taught me how precious life is. How quick one wrong turn can change you and everyone else around you. After I got out, I moved that into my business where you do your best to avoid wrong turns. And life is precious. You worry about the safety of your employees.”
Safety is the top priority for Caterpillar, its customers and Cat Racing. The No. 57 Heinricher Racing Acura NSX features a steel roll cage, carbon fiber driver’s seat shell, six-point safety harness, fresh air intake system, and on-board fire suppression system.
“Our focus on safety guarantees our productivity at the highest level and unites us as drivers and team.”
Though they come from different walks of life, the lessons all three veterans learned through service are consistent. And all say it shaped who they are, what they have done and what they’ll go on to do in the future.