Former Navy CAPT (Retired)
AP&G Co. Vice President of Products and Technical Services
Dr. Stan Cope joined the Navy in 1989, five days short of his 35th birthday. He graduated from Swarthmore College 13 years before and continued on to get a degree in medical entomology from the University of Delaware in 1980, and a Ph.D. in public health from UCLA in 1988. Dr. Cope served in the Navy for nearly 24 years and after retirement started work in the pest control industry.
Although his education was in entomology, Dr. Cope said he was a military officer first and a scientist second. However, he said he was given certain unique responsibilities.
“As an entomologist going into the military you’re a science guy,” Dr. Cope said. “You’re in charge of pest control and preventative medicine. (You) go in as a scientist and come out as an operational bug killer—an entomological assassin.”
In the military, Dr. Cope learned many lessons that translated to his future career in the pest control industry. These included how to manage people and how to function well as a leader. He said that communication is a “lost art,” but as a military officer, he learned how to deliver a message effectively.
Dr. Cope also explained some of the beneficial opportunities and skills that the military provides: “In the military, you are frequently thrust into leadership roles earlier rather than later. You learn about managing people and the ins and outs incredibly fast. Leadership and management skills that can propel you in the pest control industry.”
Dr. Cope also used these skills to train and mentor people in entomology and pest management, which he said was the most rewarding part of his post-military career.
“A woman came up to me and said she was at one of my presentations and told me that five minutes in she wanted to be an entomologist,” Dr. Cope said. “It still gives me goosebumps to this day.”
In addition to equipping him with leadership and communication skills, Dr. Cope said his career in the military made him more tolerant, opening his eyes to the “rest of the world.”
He said that it’s easy to spend a lot of time blaming people and that it’s more important to fix problems and move ahead.
“My least favorite seven words are: That’s the way we’ve always done it,” Dr. Cope said. “There’s nothing that we do on a daily basis that can’t be improved upon.”
Although his time in the military taught him many lessons, Dr. Cope said it wasn’t easy to make the transition to the civilian workforce. For Dr. Cope, going from having a steady job to uncertainty was difficult, and in the military, he never had to worry about being laid off.
For someone looking to make that same transition he did, Dr. Cope said he would advise them to begin equipping themselves with the required skills and knowledge well in advance.
“Look at what certifications might be required, maybe a year before you get out, (figure out) what state training you are going to need,” Dr. Cope said. “I would encourage them to attend meetings of their state association and NPMA.”