2021 SOF for Life Survey Results

SOF for Life is a program that supports SOF and SOF enablers even after their active duty service ends–specifically helping them find meaning and purpose in their civilian lives.

It’s a platform of mutually supporting and networked non-governmental programs that enable special operations personnel transitioning from military service to civilian employment. SOF for Life programs help prepare transitioning personnel above what the government provides.

The Global SOF Foundation is one of those supporting organizations, and one way we contribute is by conducting periodic SOF for Life Surveys.

This edition of the SOF for Life Transition Survey was launched in August 2020 and closed in May 2021. A total of 477 responses were collected from every U.S. special operations forces (SOF) component as well as SOF formations from 11 other partner nations.

See Full Survey Results


5Ws of the Survey

The SOF for Life umbrella of partners and programs is examining its priorities based on the results of the 2020-2021 SOF for Life Transition Survey. The SOF for Life Steering Group is particularly interested in strengthening offerings related to financial readiness and the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the SOF service member. What’s more, SOF for Life must continue to encourage SOF personnel to plan early for their transition and take the time to craft a comprehensive transition plan that leverages appropriate resources provided by vetted partner organizations.

We try to make the survey as scientific as possible, so we always put our Vice President, Board Member, and smartest exec, Dr. Keenan Yoho, on the task.

Keenan helps us craft a series of questions to gather demographic data, transition preparedness, emotional state, financial preparedness, health and wellness, and post-military experiences.

After much review and input from our SOF for Life Steering Committee, which includes several separated SOF operators and enablers, we loaded the questions into Survey Monkey and began pushing it out to members of the community who have recently separated.

We were thrilled to get nearly 500 responses to the survey, and the responses are telling. We strongly encourage you to read the results in their entirety, but for your convenience we’ve also listed our conclusions below.

Why do we think it’s important to do this survey? We realize that the operators who are taking it have already left Active Service, and we may have already failed them.

But there’s still time to help the Operators of the future, especially after many of them spent their whole careers at war. These results show us where we are lacking and where we need to do the work.

Keep following SOF for Life to learn more, and if you think you can help tackle some of these issues, please reach out at info@gsof.org.


Survey Conclusions

Demographics: Respondents to the SOF for Life Survey represent all branches of service and originate from 12 different nations. Respondents are highly educated with more than 83% having graduated from college and more than half (51%) completing graduate school. Respondents came from nearly all ranks and had high rates of deployment with 65% of the respondents reported deploying 6 or more times during their time in military service and 17% deploying 16 times or more.

Divorce rates of the respondents were 40% which is astonishingly high compared to the rest of the active military force which is approximately 3%; the SOF divorce rate is more than 13 times higher than the rest of the active force. Approximately 53% of the respondents had 2 or more dependents and 41% indicated they were expecting to pay for higher education costs for 2 or more dependents. Additionally, 86% of all respondents were homeowners still paying a mortgage loan.

Financial Anxiety: There were 62% of respondents who indicated they “experienced anxiety in the year prior to and leading up to the moment that they separated from military service” and 50% also stated that their spouse suffered from anxiety during the same time period. Financial readiness was a significant contributing factor to stress and just under half of the respondents understood how their retirement savings was invested or had any confidence that their savings would meet their financial goals.

VA & Benefits: Only 24% of the respondents applied for Benefits Before Disability (BBD) prior to separating from military service with 53% affirming they had not applied and another 23% not knowing whether they had applied or not. Only 50% of respondents used an external reviewer for their VA rating process despite this process having notoriously high error rates and excruciatingly long response times — almost 5 months — to appeals. More than 61% of respondents reported a disability rating of 80% or more with 12% reporting being 90% disabled and 37% reporting 100% disability.

Health and Wellness: Alarmingly, 83% of respondents indicated they “experienced challenges with memory or concentration” with more than half (51%) having such experiences more than two times per week. These figures constitute a crisis and a “burning platform” for the force. In addition to difficulties with memory or concentration, 93% of respondents indicated they “experienced challenges with sleep to include insomnia, sleep disruption, or obstructive sleep apnea.” Lack of quality sleep is associated with a host of other health problems that reduce quality of life for both separated SOF service members and their family as well as increase other health risks. Approximately 80% of respondents indicated they experienced pain associated with joint, back (or other orthopedic) pain and/or headaches 2-3 times per week or more and 65% experience pain daily.

The prevailing medical research indicates that as an individual experiences pain more frequently their likelihood of abusing opioids also increases.

Report Prepared by the Global SOF Foundation, a Founding Partner of SOF for Life

More Information:
www.SOFforLife.org
www.GSOF.org 

Kicking Off My Transition Journey [with Evan Anderson]

 This blog was written by Evan Anderson, a Global SOF Foundation Member who is sharing his experiences and lessons learned as he separates from the U.S. Army.

My name is Evan, I have been in the U.S. Army for 12 years. Most recently, I have had the honor of serving in the Special Operations community, but I came to the realization that I was ready to move to a new stage in my life.

My transition journey began the day I hit 18 months from my separation date.

Getting through the TAP Gaps

After enrolling in the mandatory Transition Assistance Program (TAP) classes, I felt like there was a lot of lag time where I didn’t really have any guidance. There were weeks, even months, between the classes, and due to ongoing complications with COVID-19, classes were held telephonically. I am the type of learner who needs to both engage and be engaged to truly absorb information, so the virtual environment made that difficult.

The TAP classes checked the boxes, but I was often left with more questions than answers. I started Googling to fill those gaps.

The Kickoff of my Transition Journey [with Evan Anderson]

I connected with several Veteran Support Organizations (VSOs) to see what else I could do to prepare myself. I started to build resumes and was encouraged to start a LinkedIn account. With some hesitation, I started the account and pieced together what I thought was a solid “digital resume.” I don’t have any social media accounts, and on first glance, LinkedIn just looked like Facebook with CEOs.

My breakthrough happened when I connected with a friend who was on my team during selection years ago. After some quick coaching, I realized just how powerful of a tool LinkedIn could be, when used properly.

I started to connect with leaders in VSOs, transition coaches and mentors, even potential employers from my destination city. As I became more connected to the community, more and more opportunities arose to network, build my skills, and expand my potential.

Finding Additional Transition Resources

I was approached and eventually secured a DoD Skillbridge Internship, which was a huge goal of mine that I had no idea how to get to.

By chance, I was connected to The Honor Foundation, and accepted into a transition class designed to help transitioning SOF truly understand what we want both out of our transition… and out of life.

The Kickoff of my Transition Journey [with Evan Anderson]
I participated in a Vets2Industry Virtual Networking event that featured transitioning service members, veterans, VSOs, recruiters, coaches, mentors, and much more.

Through this program, I have been able to speak to CEOs, CMOs, and COOs of companies, as well as the hiring managers of many of their companies. It’s great to see that organizations are creating hiring initiatives for Veterans, ensuring that our community is being brought onto industry teams. We have a lot to offer the civilian world, and sometimes it just takes a toe in the door to get us where we need to be.

Organizations like THF and GSF are there to keep those doors open.

My journey into transition has really just started, but each day, and each connection makes me feel a little better. It is reassuring to know that there are so many resources out there for us.

My experience in SOF has always been with scenarios where there is not enough manpower, not enough equipment, and not enough time, to accomplish an impossible task. Yet somehow, we do it. Transition is no exception, and we owe it to ourselves to create our own success.

Are you +/- 2 Years from Transition?

If you’ve recently transitioned, please take the SOF for Life Survey to help us gather data to support future SOF operators:

If you’re planning to separate from the U.S. Military in the next two years, here are some resources I discussed:

SkillBridge Catch-Up with Dennis Moore

So, it’s been a little over a month since I started my internship with GSOF.  The experience I’ve had so far has been outstanding. Since we are currently going through a global pandemic, all of our work is remote and it has made everyone adapt to changes.

For example, right now we should be in Warsaw, Poland doing our European Symposium, but we have postponed it until next year…

—–

Finally Meeting (Some of) The Team

Recently, however, I did get the chance to go up to The Range Complex near Fort Bragg to do a little work with a couple of our Corporate Partners–which was a nice change of pace and a good excuse to get out of the house and out from behind the computer.

SkillBridge Catch-Up with Dennis Moore
That’s me on the far left!

We got to see what new stuff Deployed Resources has and the new upgrades that The Range Complex has been doing–both are working on exciting new things. We also got to shoot some guns, which as you may know…is always fun.

This little trip was the first time that I got to meet Stu and Chelesa in “real life” and not just through a computer monitor. One of the most memorable parts of the couple days, for me, was getting to honor Stu’s dad with a drink at Fiddlers Green and seeing that as people we leave a little history in everything we do.

 SkillBridge Catch-Up with Dennis Moore

Whether that means spending about 8 hours going over 13 different uniforms dating back to 1916 or watching someone drive their ATV into a ditch because they’re not paying attention to what they’re doing. Or maybe it’s found in always waiting on the same person in the mornings, or showing up and not having a hotel room because someone forgot to book it after I asked and reminded them 3 times…just maybe.

Joking aside, I know it’s always these things that will make me sit back and smile in the future!
——

Sold on Sales (But Not How I Expected)

When I started with the Foundation, all I knew was that I had the gift of gab and that I wanted to be in sales.  I know that “sales” is a pretty broad thing, and I had to narrow down what in sales I wanted to be a part of.

One thing I knew for sure was that cold calling was out of the question. I know I hate getting those cold calls from salespeople so I wouldn’t want to do it to someone else. Really all I knew about sales is what I learned from my dad. He sold mapping software to electrical companies and that’s what I thought sales was for the most part.

So when I started here at GSOF,  I was matched up to work with Steve Jones and he has taken me under his wing to show me what business development is. I never knew that side of sales and I was immediately hooked. I knew that this was something that I could do, and I know I can do it well with the right teacher.
—–

The “Transition” Part Of The Program

While in the internship program, I had to go to Hawaii (I know, hard life) to do one last thing for the Army. When I got there I had to quarantine for 14 days as per their state COVID19 guidelines. So there I was, 6 hours behind the east coast time and getting up at 3am to get on the VTC meetings with the team. They all laughed and wondered how I was able to get up and always look the best on camera. Well, I give that credit to coffee and redbull.

Next week I get to turn in my CIF.  That is the last big thing that is left for me in the Army. After collecting stuff for 21 years with 5 uniform changes, 6 RFI draws and countless other issued stuff it will be a great feeling to get it out of my house. Not to mention that my wife will get her spare room back so that she can make it into whatever she wants.

Finally, I’m left with the task to find the job that I want to do when “I grow up”.  Until now, I have got to play Army. It’s been fun and looking back, time has gone by pretty fast. But there were also times when I thought it would never be over.

With that said, I sit here again at my dining room table, in my makeshift office, typing this out, a screaming infant in the background, my dog laying next to me probably wondering why I’m still home and not taking him outside or throwing the ball.

SkillBridge Catch-Up with Dennis Moore
THROW. THE. BALL!!!!!!!!

I “final” out of the Army in 36 days and with the Skillbridge program, I am that much more in front of what life will bring me in the future and what I want to do when I grow up.

…Oh by the way, does anyone out there reading this know of or have a job for me?

Meet SkillBridge Intern #4: Dennis Moore

This blog was written by a SkillBridge Intern at the Global SOF Foundation, SFC Dennis Moore. Dennis is retiring from Active Duty Service and working with the Foundation in his last six months of service to better prepare him for his civilian career!

Meet SkillBridge Intern #4: SFC Dennis Moore

One of the great things that the Army offers when you are retiring is the chance to use the Skillbridge Internship.  It’s an internship with a company that you feel will help you with transitioning out of the Military.  For up to 6 months it allows you to still be on “active” duty and get paid, but do your actual work somewhere else.

A Whole New World

Being a Skillbridge intern during a global pandemic isn’t something that I thought I would ever say I did, but here we are 6 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and I have found myself in this unique and rewarding position.

Learning an entirely new skill from the living room of my home hasn’t come without its challenges. Most mornings you can find me sitting at home in a makeshift office in my dining room — working, but also scrambling to mute calls because my newborn is crying or one of the dogs is wanting me to throw his ball (since he thinks that life is just about him all day everyday now).

Meet SkillBridge Intern #4: SFC Dennis Moore
It’s never to early to get them working!

Being an intern brings you back to the “FNG” stage of life.  After 21 years in the Army, I felt that I somewhat knew what I was doing…then came this internship.

From day one I have been trying to read everything I can, sitting in on all the Google meetings, listening to virtual events. I’ve joined a meeting where everyone had a different type of helmet on their head and spent another figuring out all the different types of “F” words that Stu knows.

One of the difficulties of doing work virtually is that you lose a lot of reactions that come with normal, in-person communication. When you’re face to face you get to see the body language and facial expressions that really aide in effective conversation.  But you can tell this team tries to do what it can to keep an open line of communication and still have fun while getting the work done.

Growing My Network 

I have already been introduced to so many people that I never thought I would meet from all different parts of the world–from France to Poland to Denmark. The amount of people in other countries that speak great English is amazing. I’m convinced now that everyone in the world learns English and then thinks their English isn’t that good…but it is.

With that being said, I’m grateful GSOF has brought me into their little family to let me learn, while also finishing up with the stuff that the Military still needs me to do.

Meet SkillBridge Intern #4: SFC Dennis Moore

Over the next three weeks I get the great opportunity to go to Hawaii to do one last Military mission. Hawaii sounds great, I know. And it is–I lived there for 8 years!

But right now there is a 14-day quarantine requirement…so for the first 14 days I will be sequestered in a hotel room. And I think I might spend that time trying to figure out what colleges Steve Jones really went to…

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be sharing more soon!

Dependent Indemnity Compensation & Why You Should Know About It!

This blog was written by CDR (Ret) Chuck Neu, former Global SOF Foundation SkillBridge Fellow.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation recipients and non-compensable VA claimants, do you know what Dependent Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is and why it is SO VERY important to your dependents?

DIC is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military service-members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease.

What does that mean to you?  

Let’s say you have a respiratory condition that you acquired on active duty–as many of us do. If you die from that respiratory condition, your surviving spouse can receive DIC for the rest of their life. You and your spouse need to understand this, and need to create a “Death Packet” that contains your VA file, VA award, etc. so that’s ready for your spouse when you pass on. It doesn’t sound like the most appealing thing to do, but it’s important to ensuring financial security for your family.

There is a job for your spouse– if you do unfortunately pass– he or she must file the claim! Similar to our recent blog on VA Disability Rates for Dependents [link], this is an example of a non-automatic benefit that you must remain current and educated on. It’s important, because DIC is a monthly benefit that ranges between $1,500- $3,500–starting at $1,319 but with a variety of allowances for additional dependents, etc. See the rates on the VA website.

Make Sure Your Family is Taken Care Of

Remember, your compensable, and even your 0% rated disabilities that were acquired on active duty, MUST appear on your VA claim as “Service Connected.”

Here’s a scenario. Imagine that you die from a respiratory illness. It is listed on your VA claim but does NOT have the “Service Connected” caveat when in fact it should. Your surviving spouse and dependents would not receive DIC. This would be a travesty, and this is why you MUST OWN your claim and ensure both you, your spouse, and dependents are knowledgeable about VA benefits.  Review your claim today. Are your disabilities correctly listed as “service connected” where appropriate?

Lastly, ensure your spouse knows what to do when you pass on and knows what benefits they are entitled to. At the very least, ensure that they know to PERSISTENTLY contact a Veterans Service Organization upon your death.

Learn more on the DIC website.

Navigating your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up

This blog was written by COL (Ret) Stuart “Stu” Bradin, the President/CEO of the Global SOF Foundation.

Heading into the Unknown

Navigating Your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up

When I started my retirement process at USSOCOM I had no idea what to expect. I was stressed out more during this period than at any time in my career – including combat. I had been well trained for combat and I knew what I was doing in the field, but I had no clue about transition. I attended the government Transition Assistance Program (TAP), but not knowing what I would be doing and how much money I would get from the government just made it hard.

Almost everyone in transition worries about how much money they will get from the government when they actually separate. If you retire, the finance center can give you a pretty accurate idea of your retirement pay and that helps. What is hard is how to calculate the social security and federal “withholding” on your retirement money. That unknown is stressful, but once you calculate it, you have a good idea of what to expect.

The part that is virtually impossible to predict is the compensation from the Veterans Administration (VA) for disability. You cannot even submit your disability claims until your retirement date, and it can take 6 – 9 months to determine your disability and pay you. That’s 9 months of income you can’t plan for immediately post-retirement, and that is stress on you and your family. In 2017, the Global SOF Foundation (GSF) did a Transition Survey. Financial stress was the number one issue for the 550+ people that responded–and I can tell you I was one of those stressed.

Do you speak Medical?

At retirement I had 2 volumes of medical records. One volume was hard copy, the other was digital. I had collected a huge folder full of forms and write-ups covering over 30 years, but about 7 years before I left the service, DoD shifted to digital records. I had no idea if any of it was cross-referenced. When I retired, I was given a printed copy of my entire medical record which filled a three-inch binder. I had no idea what was in my medical records because at no time in 32 years did I dig into my medical records to see if everything that happened to me was recorded. As I waded into that massive document, I realized that I had a lot of stuff in there. But I really had no idea what half of it said – I did not understand all of the medical terms.

Navigating Your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up
Stu’s actual medical binder, when he was working through his transition.

I was staring at my records not knowing what to do in regard to filing for my VA disability. One of the guys at SOCOM recommended that I go talk to the Care Coalition Team at SOCOM because they had helped others figure it out.

The Care Coalition Team invested a lot of time in me and started by educating me on Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs) and helping me understand what was in my medical records. I met with them several times, and I did everything they recommended. I felt like I was ready when I submitted my disability request to the VA because I had invested in the process and I knew what issues I had that fit into the DBQ.

Getting Your Disability Percentage

The one thing I still did not know was how much money would I get for disability. During my final meeting with the Care Coalition Team I asked them what they thought I would get for disability. I was stunned to hear them say that in their opinion, I was certainly 100% disabled. I had never really talked to anyone about their disability because that is not something you ask someone, so I was really amazed. I challenged them about being 100%, but they quickly pointed out the issues I had and how those issues would get worse with every year I age.

Like most SOF operators, I felt like 100% was reserved for people who were missing body parts or had taken a lot of hits. I knew I had a lot of wear and tear over the 32 years, but I never thought about it. Most of the people in SOF went through their careers hiding their injuries and ailments. Going on sick call or missing a deployment or exercise because of an illness or ailment was seen as a sign of weakness, and 99.9% of the people I know would never do that. It was not our culture and nothing anyone said or did would change that behavior.

Navigating Your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up
Stu’s Retirement Ceremony in action!

During transition I was 53 years old and still felt like I could keep going. My body hurt, and I had issues, but nothing that seemed capable of stopping me. When I talked to friends that had previously retired, or mustered out, I listened to them bitch about their health. I thought it sucked to be them because I was still moving forward. When my VA disability came back it was 80%. The Care Coalition Team looked at my VA findings and recommended that I submit for a review of my records because I was awarded a lot of “Service Connected” items, but I did not get any percentage for those areas.

We deferred our medical issues until a later date and because we believed that when we could no longer go, we would just shut down – that is the person we assessed and selected.

At that point I knew what my VA disability was and I just moved forward to get the GSF up and running. I did not listen to the Care Coalition Team. For the first time I ignored their advice and that was a mistake on my part.

Getting what you deserve from “The System”

Fast forward 4 years and I ran into a good friend that was also 80% disabled and he had just challenged the VA and was now 100% disabled.

Seeking more compensation from the VA is a sensitive issue with a lot of people. We have all heard about the person that never did anything getting 100% disability, and we all felt like they were cheating the system. I can tell you that most of us have no real idea what “the system” for VA disability really is, or how they calculate compensation. We are not experts on the VA or medical disability ratings, so we feel lucky to be alive, eager to get on with the next phase of life, and cluelessly take what we’re given. I know a lot of people that have never filed for VA because they think it is weakness. I know others that just took what they were given and never challenged “the system” because they assumed the system was giving them what they deserved.

I had been out of the military for 4 years and I was now 57 and feeling my age. I had good days and bad days and there were just things that I could no longer do. It is hard for SOF with “big personalities” to accept the fact that there are things they can’t do. I was beginning to see that the wear and tear was catching up with me, and I was that old guy that I swore I would never be.

My friend encouraged me to do what the Care Coalition recommended I do 4 years ago. I reflected on all of the HALO/SCUBA physicals that I had taken and how much more thorough those physicals were than the VA physical that determined my disability.

I had no idea how to do it so I asked my friend to introduce me to the company that he hired to help him maneuver through the VA disabilities process. I was introduced to CW4 (Ret) Dwayne Moorehouse with Eagle Rising Veteran Consulting. Dwayne looked at my disabilities and my records and told me that I should go through the process because he felt I should have been rated to 100%. He was the second person that told me that.

I signed a contract with Dwayne and we moved forward with Eagle Rising Veterans Consulting. After 7 months my new disability came through. I was not making anything up – I wanted my VA claim to ONLY be what I deserved. I did not want anything that the system does not support. Hiring a professional is what we recommend. Eagle Rising Veterans Consulting knew what to do and once my disabilities were upgraded, writing a check to them was the easiest thing I have done in a while.

Many Veterans are not getting what they should

Being in the GSF allows me to interact with a lot of veterans and I often see folks that are struggling with their health. Like most older people, our conversations center on our health, our friends and our families. People ask me all the time about my transition, and money and VA disability benefits come up every time. If I have time to talk, I tell them my story and recommend that they see the Care Coalition Team to get pointed in the right direction. I also tell them to NOT assume that VA disability process will do the right thing, and now I recommend they talk to Eagle Rising Veterans Consulting.

VA disability has changed a lot over the last 15 years because Congress has added several laws that support veterans. The VA system is a huge bureaucracy, like most major government programs, and if you do not know what you are doing you might not get good results. All of this is on each person and your decisions on how to address VA disability is bigger than you.

My father-in-law recently passed away after serving for 26 years in the Navy and Air Force. He was a great man that I respected because he served in Vietnam and sacrificed a lot for our nation. He was a proud Mid-Westerner who did not want to complain or ask for favoritism. It was not his nature to seek help or to challenge “the system”.

Navigating Your VA Benefits: Lessons from Someone Who Messed it Up
Stu’s father-in-law, Gerald R. McCluskey.

When he retired in the 1980’s he did what most veterans did and just accepted the VA findings and went on with his life because he believed he was fine.  He died of cancer and with a very long list of other issues that can be directly connected to his service, but because he did not challenge the system the VA claimed they were not “service connected” medical issues.

My mother-in-law was married to him for 50 years and she is now left with very little VA financial support. We will get through this, but I encourage everyone to put your pride aside and think of your family and assume at some point all of the wear and tear on your body will become an issue.

Resources that may help:

Modern Warfare Symposium: SOF for Life and Looking Forward

The SOF for Life Seminar

On Thursday, the exhibit hall of the Modern Warfare Expo had no remaining signs of its 35+ exhibitors and the Symposium room was broken down into smaller meeting rooms for local use. However, the Global SOF team still had a small presence in the Iron Mike Conference Center on Ft. Bragg in the form of the SOF for LifeSeminar!

SOF for Life is a program consisting of three non-profits: the GSF, which maintains a resume database and distributes job postings; AAFMAA, which provides free wealth management services; and The Honor Foundation, which runs a robust transition course that goes above and beyond what is offered by military branches.

The goal of this multi-faceted program is to arm retiring or separating active duty SOF and SOF support with the tools and knowledge necessary for success post-active duty.

The SOF for Life Seminar is a one-day crash course that highlights the offerings of the full 12-week program offered by The Honor Foundation. It is taught by Mr. Joe Musselman, the CEO and Founder of the Foundation, who provides impassioned leadership to these seminars.

We hold these seminars in conjunction with many US-based GSF Symposium events, and we had around 15 individuals attend this specific workshop.

For those interested in enrolling in the full 12-week program, there are physical campuses in San Diego, Camp Lejeune, and Virginia Beach. The THF is also about to launch its “proof of concept” virtual program next week on August 29th, which will run through December 13th. If you’re interested in participating in the virtual program, contact Jeff at jeff@honor.org.

Venues for the Future

The Iron Mike Conference Center is located conveniently close to U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), which made it an ideal venue for the inaugural Modern Warfare Symposium. However, it was full to the brim with our 449 attendees, so after cleaning up the last of our GSF Signage, we used Thursday to check out some other local venues.

There aren’t a lot of options to host the Symposium and Expo, as our space requirements are fairly extensive, but GSF COO Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew and Director of Marketing Chelsea Hamashin did get a good look at the Embassy Suites Conference Center along with its neighboring Springhill Suites. The Conference Center was all setup to host the Fayetteville Observer’s Reader’s Digest Awards, and it looked like it was going to be a spectacular (although crowded) evening.

Meanwhile, GSF Director of Partner Relations, Steve Jones, went with Rick Lamb on a tour of the history museums on Ft. Bragg. Although we think Rick already knows everything there is to know about SOF history, especially since he’s experienced at least 30 years of it first hand, it looks like they had a great time.

Chelsea and Meaghan took that as inspiration and decided to visit the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation in downtown Fayetteville. This walk through SOF history is very impressive and educational, and we highly encourage a visit if you have not already been. We know the museum won’t work to host a Symposium, however we think it could prove to be an excellent venue for a closing reception! We hope to make that work in 2019, but don’t let that stop you from visiting before then.

Until our next Reunion…

As we’ve said before, the GSF is a family and our events are our reunions! We are luckier than most families, as we get multiple reunions per year, with the next one right around the corner in Madrid.

As a telecommuting non-profit Foundation, we value these opportunities to work together, solve problems, meet new people, and develop plans for the future of the GSF.

We can’t do any of this without our Members and Corporate Partners, so thank you again for your support, and we’ll see you soon!

Don’t miss the recaps of the Lead UpDay 1, and Day 2 of the inaugural Modern Warfare Symposium and Expo.

Checking in with Chuck: More from our SkillBridge Intern

A SkillBridge internship does not excuse from all of your military responsibilities – you still have to manage your leave and keep your medical and retirement appointments.  After a whirlwind week 1 with GSF, I travelled with my family to Houston for spring break. After I returned I had two eye surgeries (yes, I can now see how handsome Stephen Jones is) and worked my way through a slew of VA appointments, x-rays, MRI’s, etc. related to my retirement. After weeks of not being able to read for more than ~10 minutes, or look at a computer screen, I was ready to get back to work.

Thankfully the GSF crew was understanding and I am now able to “Charlie Mike.”

Between my medical requirements, Chelsea and I had a luncheon with Design Interactive (a new GSF Small Business Partner) with the topic of discussion revolving around how they can get the most out of their partnership. The technological solutions they develop are fascinating to me and could clearly benefit our Warriors, so I’m looking forward to helping them get into our community.

I was also able to attend both days of the Synapse Innovation Conference, which was recently held at Amalie Arena in Tampa. There I distributed some GSF marketing items to attending Warriors and to potential GSF Partners.  On display at the conference were various medical inventions, software applications and additionally, there were many interesting keynote speakers. I highly recommend attending this conference!

Additionally, I spent some more time with Jim Frey and the GSF Small Business team. We re-grouped to analyze the results of our recent survey and keep pushing forward on improving GSF’s reach to small businesses.  (If you ARE a GSF Small Business Partner and have yet to reply to the Small Business survey–there’s still time!) We will ensure GSF’s outreach continues to broaden and provide ROI to our small business partners and the SOF community at large.

As my last comment for this week, I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at the AFCEA Luncheon at Macdill on 18 April (1130 at Surf’s Edge) and at the GSF Huddle at GEOINT Symposium on 24 April, 1700-1900hrs at Jackson’s Bistro on Harbour Island.

– Chuck

Checking in with Chuck: Week 1 of my GSF Internship

Week #1 of my DoD SkillBridge Internship with the Global SOF Foundation (GSF) was a refreshing step into the civilian world. On Day 1 I found myself in my first virtual weekly staff meeting discussing an After-Action Report (AAR) for the Global SOF Symposium that occurred two weeks prior. It was nice to participate in an open forum with a respectful exchange of ideas and criticism – my first experience with civilian employee interaction.

That meeting transitioned into the weekly staff meeting and I was given an aggressive list of 15 goals to work toward during my internship. One of the goals–to join the small business committee and increase our touch-points with small business–requires access to, and training on, some online software platforms.

I met with a mentor, Mr. Ivan Roney, President and CEO of Farfield Systems, which is a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. My goal for the meeting was to better understand what information was publicly available and how to structure my queries to find small businesses that are doing business with the SOCOM enterprise. Ivan explained and demonstrated the System for Award Management (SAM) which I will use to reach out to small businesses that GSF may partner with. First business luncheon complete!

Later in the week I met with Meaghan Keeler-Pettigrew, the COO of the GSF, to better understand some of our existing IT capabilities. We met on the 41st floor of the Bank of America building in the Tampa Club–what an amazing view of Tampa! The training was great as well, and it provided me with an opportunity to get better acquainted with both Meaghan and Rick Lamb, another new addition to the GSF staff.

Finally, on Thursday I met with the new Chairman of the Small Business Committee, Dr. Jim Frey of Aero Simulation Inc. We discussed our committee goals and strategies, but first he gave me a tour of the ASI plant and even let me fly a flight simulator. It was very, very awesome (and educational)!

Since I am still in the middle of my transition, this internship is great because it still allows me to keep up with retirement preparation tasks. I checked some of those boxes with a few military medical appointments, a morning with AMVETS and the VA working on my retirement processing, and a morning cup of coffee with a local business as I continue to expand my professional network.

Full speed ahead and SOF for Life!

Chuck

Skillbridge: The Veteran Internship Program that brought us Steve Jones

This post was written by Stephen Jones, the GSF Director of Partner Relations


A year ago, this week, I was attentively listening to my instructor guiding me through to rituals of the Department of Defense (DoD) mandated Transition Assistance Program, or TAP. I felt prepared for my transition from the military because I began planning my departure almost two years in advance. Beyond the hours of Veteran Affairs (VA) benefit briefings, the was one slide that caught my attention. Buried in the myriad of resources available to transitioning veterans, there was a program called DoD SkillBridge.

The DoD SkillBridge initiative promotes the civilian job training authority available for transitioning military Service members. Service members meeting certain qualifications can participate in civilian job and employment training, including apprenticeships and internships. DoD SkillBridge training opportunities are available for transitioning Service members. A Service member must have completed at least 180 days on active duty and be expected to be discharged or released from active duty within 180 days of starting their job training. Moreover, Service members must receive approval to participate, and the training opportunity must meet certain conditions.

I realized that getting an internship is going to be problematic due to the fact I was not located in a fleet concentration area. Additionally, when I asked the counselors at Fleet and Family for help, they admitted to knowing very little about the program. I knew I wanted an internship but finding the opportunity was going to be of my own creating. A simple Google search brought me to the DoD SkillBridge website, and from there I found the Navy Administrative Message (NAVADMIN) that governs the program for the Navy.

My biggest take away from the instruction was that the program is adaptable to the service member’s situation. Meaning, the internship agreement is between the service member, the command of the service member, and the company providing the internship.

Bottom line: this is a local agreement without undue amounts of bureaucratic hurdles that ultimately block or delay service members from receiving benefits.

With a clear understanding of the guiding instructions, I approached the GSF about providing me an internship. The timing was perfect–they were in the market for a Director of Partner Relations, and I felt that the training that I would receive within a small business that cared about me would be great for my professional development.

The Foundation agreed to provide the opportunity and I cleared my participation with my chain of command to allow 116 days of training provided by the GSF while I was still on active duty. Since I was the first participant in the program within my region, I also included my local Fleet and Family Center so they could learn about my experiences and then transfer the knowledge gained from my experience to other service members in the future.

As an intern, I was put to work right away recruiting new corporate partners and learning the day-to-day struggles and rewards of working in a small business. The learning curve was steep, despite my years of education and military experience. Working for a small company is rewarding, but not for everyone. Team work is essential and every member of the organization plays an integral part–otherwise, we don’t eat. Even though you always hear people say that they want to own their own business, very few know what it takes to survive as an entrepreneur, especially immediately after military service. This type of work is not for everyone!

Thanks to the SkillBridge program and the GSF, I was given the opportunity to get a small glimpse into the dedication it takes to run a small business.

At the conclusion of my 116 days of extreme on-the-job training, I met their stringent standards and was given an offer to join the Foundation as the new Director of Partner Relations. My hard work paid off and I ended up in a position that I never dreamed of having when I began TAP.

I have shared my story with many people over the last few months, one of whom is CDR Charles Neu, a Navy Supply Officer. He was one of the first individuals that I shared my adventure with a year ago, and what do you know–CDR Neu is now an intern with the GSF, preparing his own lessons learned and passing the knowledge forward. He’s doing a great job, and he’s even documenting what he’s doing and learning in a blog series called “Checking in with Chuck!”

See stay posted to the GSF Blog, and see how Chuck is doing with Skillbridge!