The Honor Foundation adds a Virtual Course

The Global SOF Foundation (GSF) jointly hosted the inaugural Modern Warfare Symposium and Expo at the Iron Mike Conference Center on Fort Bragg last month. Following the two-day event, we supported a SOF for Life transition seminar hosted by Joe Musselman of The Honor Foundation (THF).

I have participated in a few of these, and to be frank, I learn a lot each time I sit in. Joe provides a lot of material in an eight-hour session, and it is really eye-opening. The seminar participants leave inspired and focused on making their transition great.

THF’s Full Transition Course: Higher Salaries in Less Time

THF’s main focus, however, is a 15-week transition course that meets for 3 hours every Tuesday and Thursday evening. They run a Fall and Spring course, and their results are unmatched. They are getting over 95% of their “Fellows” (graduates) placed into careers within 23 days of their transition from Active Duty.

To give you some idea of how good that is, the SOF for Life Program has conducted a transition survey with over 550 responses. In the survey, the average person was underemployed or unemployed for 9 – 15 months. Yes, you read that right.

THF fellows’ average salary is over $125,000, and that number goes up every year. To give you a sense of how that stacks up to the SOF for Life Transition Survey results, the average salary post-Active Duty is $70,000 – 85,000 for E8s through O5s. Some get more and some get less, but that is the norm outside of Washington, DC.

To give you a better idea of what THF does, I encourage you to watch this short video clip about the Foundation.

It’s 2018…Of course you can participate virtually!

THF has three campuses, but they also have a new Virtual Course. The U.S. SOF community is spread out across the country and with forces deployed all across the globe. The number of deployments is going down, but the force will always have a high DEPTEMPO. Often, for SOF deployed or based away from a THF Campus, the THF Virtual Course will be their only hope.

If you are an operator or a SOF enabler assigned to a SOF unit, then you are eligible to apply. The application process requires you to do some work, but it’s worth the time you put in. The course is also free once you get in.

I would encourage everyone that is 18 – 24 months from leaving the service to go online and apply at:  https://www.honor.org/  

Don’t mess up your transition.

I have been out for 4.5 years, and in that period of time I have witnessed a lot of people leaving active duty. Those who prepare and invest in the process do well. Those with a “friend” or “buddy” who is taking care of them generally struggle…and some run into serious issues.

If you are not sure what your plan is going to be, you need to pull the trigger and take the course. Your nation has invested in you, and you have done things most people can never do. Those strengths can be applied to “life after the military” and THF Virtual Courses offer you something beyond standard TAP programs, and it’s designed specifically for SOF.

If you have any questions about SOF for Life, THF, or the Virtual Course, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

– Stu
GSF President & CEO

Checking in with Chuck: The Road to Retirement

It has been a whirlwind month of interning with GSF starting with the SOFIC pre-game, AKA, the Annual GSF Tampa Reception. It was great to witness the level of team work and execution that is the hallmark of TEAM-GSF. I won’t bore you with the details of the extensive planning involved in making sure an event is executed in a world-class manner.  I will however dazzle you with details of the event that will either re-kindle your memories of the reception and subsequent SOFIC week or, if you didn’t attend, make you add the 2019 GSF Reception to your calendar immediately!

After helping set up Cruise Terminal 2 at Port Tampa Bay for the 4th Annual Global SOF Foundation Reception it was time to participate in Speed Networking. During this event I was able to meet with eight different people for 6 minutes – one of which was a CEO and founder of a successful NCR-based SDVOB with a 10-year success story!  I really enjoyed getting his perspective on federal contracting, business development and entrepreneurship. All of the participants I met were interesting and were excited to be exploring and/or expanding business opportunities with the federal government. It was a great network building event which let to additional meaningful conversations that took place in the following weeks.

Immediately following Speed networking, I was interviewed for two GSF promotional videos. In the first promo-spot I am discussing Speed Networking and Partner Appreciation, and in the second promo-spot I speak about the benefits of the GSF to transitioning military members. Check me out!

The morning following the reception was the main-event! This was to be my 7th and last SOFIC in uniform. I have enjoyed each of the them but this year the “flavor” was different for me in that I was now interning at GSF and am on the cusp of entering the defense industry as a civilian. My eyes and ears were wide open and ready to receive!

As I “mature” it is great to see old Shipmates with new Birds on their collars. It is even better to run into successfully transitioned old Shipmates. One in particular I ran into was Chris Sacco.  Chris and I were commissioned together as part of the old ADM Borda “Seaman to Admiral” program and went to grad school together as well. I was able to spend some time with Chris and hear of his success as the President and CEO of ABSI Defense, (www.absidefense.com).  He took his passion for unmanned aviation, program management, and training and brought them together to create and run a successful company. He set the bar high for our fellow OCS Honor Class 15-96 Brethren!

Additionally, I was given the task of doing a drive by of 50 SOFIC vendors at their display tables and discussing the Global SOF Foundation, its vision & goals, where it operates, and where there may be mutual benefit and future growth opportunities between GSF and the vendor. I really enjoyed this challenge! It was an outstanding experience and one that I grew from professionally. My step counter had me at about 7 miles per day!

You really can’t appreciate SOFIC without attending the social events in the evenings, which I enjoyed not only for meeting new people but also, for interacting with the GSF team in a social setting. The weeks following SOFIC were full of follow-ups which included standard thank-you e-mails but also, follow-up phone calls and additional introductions.  Overall, I really enjoyed my new “place” in SOFIC. I am very thankful to Stu for this opportunity to “show my wares” and engage with industry. This is another very clear and distinct advantage of participating in the DoD SkillBridge program.

Memorial Day weekend followed SOFIC which gave me three “work days” to do the final preparation for my retirement ceremony that took place on 1 June.  It was great to have so many out-of-town family and 150 friends join me at the Surf’s Edge Club on MacDill AFB. My Brothers and Sisters in the Logistics Directorate (J4) at Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) ensured the event was meticulously executed and full of Naval heritage and history. Among many very thoughtful gifts, President Trump sent me a letter of recognition which for me was the highlight of the event.

I was also fortunate to have an old friend, Ivan Roney, the CEO of Farfield Systems, Inc. present at the ceremony.  I think you will enjoy the picture showing how many years we have known each other and how kind those years have been.

June is always a busy time for my family with two birthdays, my anniversary, Father’s Day, the end of school, and the beginning of summer vacation for the children.  I am thankful that I was able to take some leave to travel, vacation, and “recover” from the previous weeks events.

As I write this GSF is in full planning mode for the inaugural Modern Warfare Symposium and Expo at Fort Bragg, NC on 21-23 August.  Additionally, as GSF looks east to Orlando I am looking forward to some day trips to central Florida to meet more defense industry companies & GSF Corporate Partners and learning about the growing simulation sector as well.  The below article and websites discussing Orlando and its expanding simulation efforts are interesting and clearly show opportunity for transitioning veterans and corporations as well:

http://www.floridatrend.com/article/23808/the-military-in-florida-real-money-in-make-believe

https://www.simulationinformation.com/members/team-orlando

http://www.teamorlando.org/

Looking forward to these many upcoming opportunities and more in my last month of GSF internship!

– Chuck

Getting the Facts through the SOF for Life Survey

By Stu Bradin, GSF President and CEO

If you do nothing else after reading this, click on the link below and take the SOF for Life survey – we need more former Special Operations Forces (SOF), especially NCOs, to provide input on their experience when they transitioned from active duty.

Take the Survey: http://bit.ly/SOFforLife_Survey

To my knowledge, there is no current poll or survey out there that has solid data on the reality of the situation, but here’s what we know about SOF transitioning from the military.

GSF Members who participate in SOF for Life are constantly engaged by other active duty members who are preparing to transition. Each one of them has their own story, ideas, and direction that they want to go in, but most of them frankly have not given transition enough thought and it does have a negative impact.

Some of the most elite military professionals in the world are surprisingly unprepared when it comes to getting out of the military. If you ask them what they did to get into SOF, you will get a long story that is all about PREPARATION.  However, they don’t apply that same practice toward getting out of SOF.  Most of them are living paycheck to paycheck–above their means and with little to no savings.  They think that once they leave the military, they need to find work to pay the bills vice figuring out what they want or should do after service to the nation.

I have spoken with many a service member who tells me they want to get completely away from government and defense. I then ask them if they have a business degree, an MBA or some past performance in business that would convince a business to hire them. I would say 90% cannot provide any semblance of legitimate knowledge or understanding of basic business practices.

If you add in the fact that most of them have a “limited” network and they all think they will make $150,000 a year based on what they did in the military…you can see how they might be disappointed in the reality.

We have our experiences and stories, but we don’t have enough hard data to truly express this reality. To better understand the issues facing SOF transitioning from the military, the SOF for Life Program developed a survey that will highlight the issues and allow us to improve the program to meet the actual needs.

Our intent is to release a report with the results in early 2018. If you know of any former SOF – that is ANYONE regardless of military occupational skill (MOS) — who has separated or retired from active duty, please share this survey with them. We particularly need the NCOs to fill the survey out. We need the facts to help ensure that SOF for Life is doing what is required and not what we think is required. Please help us get more former SOF to take the survey.

Take the Survey: http://bit.ly/SOFforLife_Survey

If you’d like to learn more about what SOF for Life is, and the results of the survey so far, check out the SOF for Life website:  www.sofforlife.org

Sneak Peak at SOF for Life Survey Results


SOF for Life is an important tenant of the Global SOF Foundation—it embodies our mission to create a network of Special Operations Forces (SOF) by keeping members of the community in the fold beyond their active duty careers.

If you aren’t familiar with SOF for Life, it’s a program comprised of offerings from three partnered non-profit organizations:

  1. The Honor Foundation:  Provides an extensive transition course that is only offered to members of SOF and SOF support that are transitioning from active duty—it boasts a nearly 100% placement of graduates into Fortune 500 companies
  2. American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA):  Offers free financial and wealth management services to transitioning and former members of active duty SOF
  3. The Global SOF Foundation (GSF):  Maintains a SOF resume database—browse-able by GSF Corporate Partners, and a job board with positions from those companies, all of which are looking to hire SOF veterans

For almost a year now, SOF for Life has had an additional focus—the SOF for Life Survey.  This survey, developed by the GSF, The Honor Foundation, and survey implementation company Virbela, focuses on the preparedness of members of SOF for their separation from active duty.  The survey’s areas of focus include civilian career paths, financial stability, mental health, and physical wellness.

The survey is still open for responses, but the SOF for Lifepartners decided to release a preliminary report compiling the findings from survey responses through early April 2017.  The findings thus far are telling—SOF are not adequately preparing for their transition to civilian life.

Key takeaways indicative of that conclusion that are highlighted in this preliminary report include:

  • Transition planning is critical to medical and financial well-being, and 67% of respondents did not find the standard, Service-provided military transition assistance program (TAP) “helpful, informative, or useful” regarding their planning and execution of their transition.
  • Medical transition planning is critical for SOF, as they have high levels of disability.
  • Finances are a significant stressor for individuals and families; 60% of survey respondents indicated financial stress was a significant factor in their experience of marital stress.
  • Over three-quarters of the respondents would have to dip in to savings after 6 months without a job; meanwhile, 33% of respondents indicated that it took 4 months or longer to find a job.

SOF for Life partners intend to use the final results of this survey to educate Congress on the insufficiency of the support provided to SOF as they leave active duty, whether through retirement or separation.  Our data increases in legitimacy as we receive more responses, so if you qualify and have not yet taken the survey, please take 10-15 minutes to do so as soon as possible!

See the Full Report & Take the Survey: 
https://www.sofforlife.org/sof-for-life-survey/

Read May 2017 Article by Howard Altman, Tampa Bay Times
http://www.tampabay.com/news/military/macdill/helping-commandos-face-one-tough-challenge-finding-their-next-job/2322046

Know your Worth when you Transition

By COL (Ret.) Stu Bradin and Dr. Keenan Yoho

—————

One of the great things about working for the Global SOF Foundation (GSF) is we get to help Special Operations Forces (SOF) every day. There are a lot of activities that support global SOF but one area that is beginning to pick up steam is our SOF for Life program.

The GSF is partnered with The Honor Foundation and the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA) to provide a program that focuses on transitioning ANYONE that has served in SOF tactical units – either as an operator or in a supporting role. We developed a SOF for Life survey to better understand the specific issues faced during transition. If you are former SOF or someone that served in a SOF unit then we would to hear your voice by completing the survey. You can take the survey at http://survey.virbela.com/sof-life-transition-survey/. We currently have over 375 people that have completed the survey but we need to hear from more of you – particularly from the NCOs and enlisted that retired or separated from the military.

The GSF is often approached by people with about 6 months prior to their retirement asking for advice. You can transition within six months but you will not do it well or as well as possible and it will limit your options. In the last 2 years, contractor pay has dropped 20 – 30% and those jobs are not as attractive to those transitioning from the military because benefits have also been cut. The days of going to Iraq or Afghanistan as a contractor and getting paid like a rock star are gone. I tell everyone I meet to treat transition like an operation and to know your worth prior to separation.

There are many out there who have spent the last 20+ years of their lives selflessly serving their country. When they retire, most go to work for the government as a civil servant or as a government contractor. The government is not growing civil servants and in fact the NDAA that was just signed into law will cut more government billets.  The result will be more people who are transitioning will look for work in the commercial sector because they think the pay will be better.

Make no mistake about it, you can find work in the commercial sector but your compensation is based on your value to the company. The challenge for those transitioning is to have an objective understanding of your value. Many companies prefer  hiring former military because they tend to be more disciplined workers, are not afraid to assume a leadership role, and they adapt well to change in their environment. Regardless you have to have some business acumen. Many people seeking work in the commercial sector have no business experience and if their degree is 20+ years old their knowledge and skills may be dated.

Going back to graduate school is one option for refreshing skills and if you go this route you should choose a professional degree that will provide concrete skills that employers are actively seeking. For many, an MBA is a good choice because it will be a two-year introduction to business concepts, knowledge, analytical skills and general business acumen. Employers hire MBAs because they bring a way of thinking and are professional problem solvers with a focus on measurable results. Choosing an MBA with a focus on finance and operations, for example, provides a set of skills that all employers can understand: how to run things and make them better, and what drives revenue, costs, and profit.

The Graduate Management Admissions Council’s 2016 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report found that 88% of corporate recruiters working with business schools planned to hire MBAs in 2016 and the starting median salary is $105,000. Choosing a program that meets your individual needs is important. Not everyone can afford to take two years off to pursue their degree but those who can should because it is opportunity to immerse yourself, build a new network, and change your way of thinking. For those that must work and pursue their degree, or who want to complete their degree prior to transitioning out of the military, choosing a program that has an evening or distance learning component can be a good choice.

It’s best to choose a program that is not entirely online because part of the purpose of getting the degree is to build a network and you cannot do that unless you have contact with a peer group. Some schools are developing programs that provide a mix of distance learning and face-to-face interaction with faculty and peers who are in a cohort that can result in a good network and rich interaction while still providing flexibility.   For those that are not looking for an MBA, but prefer a completely different route, they can build their own portfolio of experiences and skills. Attending short programs that focus on cultivating specific skills or ways of thinking can be an excellent way to both build a network and diversify from the traditional MBA curriculum which, for most schools, is staid, and has not changed much in 30 years.

The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (aka d school) offers workshops and short courses on design thinking that can teach you how to develop thoughtful and innovative solutions to needs. MIT and Harvard both offer short courses and executive programs that can be fit into the time frame of a few months. The advantage with this approach is that one can put together a portfolio of skills and experiences from “top brand” schools while also developing a diverse network all on a schedule that works for them and at a cost that be a fraction of a traditional MBA program.

SOF for Life is just now reaching out to the SOF community to help transitioning members develop a plan to transition. On 21 February 2017, in conjunction with the Global SOF Symposium, the SOF for Life team will host a 1 day Transition Seminar run by The Honor Foundation. This premier seminar will be a high impact day that explores conceptualizing life after the military, building a road map for transition, and concludes with a networking session of attendees during the evening reception of the Symposium. This session will help those who are about to transition begin the process of building an objective assessment of their worth to future employers.