After serving in Iraq, a local veteran found his calling killing bugs

Robert Rummels stands next to his Mosquito Joe van. (WYDaily/ Andrew Harris)
Robert Rummels stands next to his Mosquito Joe van. (Southside Daily/ Andrew Harris)

Veterans Day 2018 is over, but one local veteran hopes society can remember their veterans all year round.

He’s not asking for much, either.

“Something as simple as a handshake or a pat on the back goes a long way,” Robert Rummels said.  “Look ‘em right square in the eye and thank ‘em for their service. At least that works for me.”

Rummels enlisted in the Army Rangers in Savannah, Georgia in January 1988. He said the people of Savannah were as gracious as could be toward members of the Army, as he often had the tab for his meals picked up by strangers.

That’s a far cry from the treatment of his older brother, who was spat on in an airport after returning from a tour of duty in Vietnam.

As a Ranger, Rummels served in Operation Just Cause – the invasion of Panama to depose Manuel Noriega in 1989 – and operation Desert Storm in 1991.

After returning home from Iraq he became the Ranger Instructor at Fort Story in Virginia Beach until 1997. From 1997 until the day he retired in 2009 he served as Ranger Instructor for the Virginia Army National Guard, where he trained recruits for the global War on Terror.

“Serving in the military is a noble occupation but not terribly profitable, so in the next phase of my life profitability became important, because I did the noble (already),” Rummels said.

Now, Rummels lives in Virginia Beach and owns two Mosquito Joe pest control franchises that cover the nearly 130 miles from Fort Monroe to Richmond’s west end.

He didn’t move directly into a pest control career after retiring from the Army. He first found work as a loan officer in Virginia Beach and took a short-term job in Alabama, installing 3D equipment in a school.

Once that ended he moved back to Virginia Beach and was introduced to Mosquito Joe. He took comfort in the fact that their corporate office was located six miles from his house and was impressed by the support system the company had in place for veterans.

He was able to take advantage of a $2,500 discount for veterans when opening his first franchise in 2013, but more than anything, he said he was looking for a group of people he could trust.

“Camaraderie is huge within the Ranger battalion or the military in general,” Rummels said. “If that camaraderie works in the combat environment, I had it in my head it would be just as important in the business world. I just feel in order to be successful in business, having a good strong working relationship is vital, not only to the overall success to your franchise but to your franchiser.”

He said his business has provided the financial peace of mind he was looking for, and he’s enjoyed being his own boss.

He takes pleasure being outdoors for much of the day, too.

“I’m not a cubicle kind of guy,” he said.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.