By Len Ramirez

FREMONT (KPIX 5) — Tesla is putting a special focus on placing more veterans in leadership positions.

The factory in Fremont hires a select group of veterans who have gone from the front lines to the assembly lines.

Navy and Marine Corps veteran Kristen Kavanaugh is tasked with building a winning team for the factory floor.

“I help identify leaders and think of the skills that they really need,” said Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh served in Iraq and joined Tesla in 2016. She is the head of Leadership Development as well as the company’s Veteran’s Task Force, which helps support and advance military veterans into leadership positions.

“Our veterans have deployed. They’ve worked under stressful conditions, they are used to high operational tempo and that’s what we have here at Tesla, and it just seems like a natural fit for what veterans are bringing to the table, and then what Tesla is offering them from a career advancement standpoint,” she said.

Tesla’s Fremont factory has 10,000 workers. The company said it has hired 800 veterans company-wide so far this year.

Ryan is a veteran who wants to advance in the company. He used to be a logistics specialist in the Marine Corps and he now does similar work for Tesla.

“Instead of beans, bullets and band-aids, we make sure that this plastic or aluminum part gets delivered on time so it can be put into the cars,” he said.

Ryan said that working for Tesla has re-energized his civilian career.

“Not since I left the Marines have I felt a sense of purpose like I have at Tesla. We’re not just making cars, we’re changing the world and history has its eyes on you,” he said.

Kavanaugh has a wife and son, and she is open about serving as a lesbian. She said that veterans are now a more diversified group than ever.

“I served under ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I am an African American woman, I am the trifecta of diversity and that’s the face of the changing military that you see now,” she said.

This week, Tesla is saluting veterans with factory flags, a special Veterans Edition Model X car and veteran t-shirts.

Tesla hopes that other companies will follow suit and make hiring veterans a priority well into the future.

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