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What Being in the Army Airborne Taught Me About CRE

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

In my “Help! We All Need Somebody” blog, I referenced how a conversation with John Allen impacted my decision to become a broker. My experiences working with John – as well as my paper route as a boy to my service in the US military as a young adult – have all impacted how I approach being a broker.

In 1986, I joined the US Army and became an Airborne rigger right out of high school. Those three years really changed how I see the world. Based primarily in Germany, I met and worked with people that came from backgrounds and places I knew nothing about. I’m not just talking about the US men and women I served with, but also those from around the world living in Europe. This was a big deal for my eighteen-year-old self, who previously had only traveled in the Midwest.

The skills gained and lessons learned from that experience continue to impact what I do today. Here are my five ways I apply my Army Airborne experience to commercial real estate:

1. “I will be sure always.” This was our motto, our way of life. There was no room for error or guess work. After all, when you jump out of planes, you need to be sure your equipment won’t fail you. The success of our unit––and my life––relied on each person being confident in every step. In commercial real estate, it’s about investing in one’s financial life. My being “sure” helps owners, buyers, and investors make their jump and get their deal done.

2. Make a decision. Even if it may lead you to places you weren’t expecting or even bring about challenges. You can overcome obstacles, but you can’t fix indecision. Right now, decisive decision-making is critical if you want in the CRE market. Properties are moving fast, sometimes before they are fully listed. Buyers and investors who are indecisive will miss out, especially with industrial properties. Ya gotta jump, or you’ll miss the target.

3. Pay attention to details. As a parachute rigger, I ensured the safety of every paratrooper. I had to inspect, test, and pack the chutes and all the components of the parachute system. If the extraction and release systems did not work correctly, lives were at stake. As a broker, I need to pay attention to the details of every deal. As the Airborne operated as a unit, so too does CEG. We have a team of investors, lawyers, bankers, and other professionals to help manage those details and get deals done.

4. “Leave no one behind.” I still carry this commitment as a veteran. It’s part of what drives me to help and mentor people. It also keeps me professionally involved with other veterans. I think it builds a better community, and I benefit from meeting interesting people along the way.

5. Trustworthiness. My Army buddies had to trust my work as a parachute rigger. Our shared values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage defined how we operated. As a broker, honor and integrity are extremely critical. When brokering deals between buyers and sellers, or tenants and landlords, transparency, honesty, and integrity are words we live by when getting deals done.

I am proud of my service for my country. I am also proud to be the owner of Commercial Equities Group, the only Minnesota brokerage labeled as Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). I carry the valuable lessons learned with me every day.

I’m here to help if you have any questions (612-788-1552 or

Jeff Salzbrun is the owner and broker of Commercial Equities Group (CEG). As a veteran-owned real estate brokerage, CEG has been involved in thousands of sale and lease transactions, ranging from single offices to 250,000+ square foot buildings. At CEG, we get your deal done. We know space, and we know the CRE business.

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