Marty Overline enlisted in the military his senior year of high school — not to serve in combat — but to fight bed bugs.

Stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, Overline recalled: “The base hotel was literally ridden with bed bugs because the transit situation was in and out, in and out,” said the U.S. Air Force veteran. “I just happened to be stationed at a base where that presented itself. They had dining halls, they had dormitories, storage areas.”

Overline said the training to be a pest control specialist was as demanding as any other position, and he was provided with extensive amounts of information to fulfill his missions. “There have been more troops put out of action because of sickness and disease than because of bullets and bombs in any war,” he said. “So the military was really high on pest management.”

Overline separated from his job as an Air Force entomology engineer in 1982. In 1994, he founded Philadelphia-based Aardvark Pest Management. The company performs solely commercial work at accounts such as dormitories, dining halls within colleges and office buildings — similar to what Overline serviced for the military overseas.

A headshot of young Marty.

Click Image to View Gallery

In January 2015, Overline noticed he was not the only veteran who could possibly benefit from working as a PMP. He went to the National Pest Management Association with his idea to start what is now called PestVets, a committee dedicated to educating and providing opportunities for veterans within the pest management industry. “You don’t necessarily have to come out of the military as a pest control veteran like I did,” Overline said. “Just by the training they give you in the military and other areas, I always thought there should be some type of veterans group.”

Only one-and-a-half-years old, PestVets has focused on creating awareness among veterans of career opportunities in the pest management industry. The next step is to create awareness among pest management companies of this skilled workforce. “Often, returning veterans have skills that translate perfectly to pest management. We want to educate them about the viability of a career in the pest management industry and make them aware of any job opportunities before they even return home.”

Skills from the military such as leadership and being trained in vehicle safety, organization, first aid and canine handling are, to name a few, useful for pest management, said Overline, the recipient of NPMA’s/FMC’s first-ever Veteran of the Year Award, which he received at Legislative Day in March.

When Overline traveled to pest control events, he noted there was no veterans group and as a first-generation owner, it’s hard to penetrate the inner circles of the industry to get started, he said. “It’s a lot of second-, third- fourth-generation stuff,” he said. “You don’t really find anybody like me too often, first generation, that gets involved like I have.”

PestVets is progressing with its summer goals of creating a recruitment-related video series, and with the help from FMC, a section has been created on NPMA’s Career Center for NPMA members to post complimentary advertisements for position openings targeting veterans. (These ads will be tagged as “PestVets” ads.) “I’ve never been to a meeting where there’s more ideas going around or more active participation,” Overline said.

The author is a PCT editorial intern.