When Daniel Dell’Orto graduated from Notre Dame on an ROTC scholarship with an aerospace engineering degree, he wanted to fly helicopters. Unfortunately he failed the Army colorblindness test. So instead he took advantage of a new, post-Vietnam Army program, where the military sent him to law school.

“I noticed many years ago,” says Dell’Orto, who is a retired Army colonel, “that legal matters were cropping up as a significant part of a commander’s role in leading, managing and supervising, even at my low level at the time.”

Since then, during his 37 years of public service, he has worked as an attorney in a variety of military and civilian roles. For the past nine years, he was the principal deputy general counsel for the Department of Defense (DOD). In March, he began his new job as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary for AM General, which manufactures the military Humvee vehicle. (The company also built the consumer version of the Hummer until GM announced plans to sell the rights in June.)

After Sept. 11 and as the war in Iraq has continued, Dell’Orto felt compelled to stay in government service, although co-workers and associates suggested he would like corporate in-house work. AM General offered an in-house position closely tied to the DOD, in addition to allowing him to live in the Washington, D.C., area and travel frequently to South Bend, Ind.–AM General’s headquarters and the home of his undergraduate alma mater.

In his legal work, Dell’Orto’s military experience gives him a unique advantage.

“My having experienced what takes place at [different] levels of the Army puts me in a position to understand much about leadership, the way decisions are made and the particular problems that commanders face on a day-to-day basis,” he says.