USBLN’s Disability Supplier Diversity Program – Service Disabled Veterans Certification

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“Learning as We Grow: SDV-DOBES talk about  early inspiration and their journeys as entrepreneurs”

We will take a look at what made these three entrepreneurs start their business, what has kept it going and where they gain inspiration to continue on their paths forward. What their successes are and what certification means to them.

Why did you go into business for yourself?

Dennis: After 40 years of being working for large corporation and few start-ups, I decided to capitalize on my years of experience/training by starting a company with a focus on high technology solutions.

Gary: As a Service-Disabled Veteran, I had a difficult time gaining employment after my time in the military. Many employers had preconceived notions and prejudices against my “disabled” status. I went into business for myself to provide for my family.

Mark: I have always wanted to be my own boss and control my career.  Not as soon as I had hoped; but was able to launch JEMNI in 2008 when I turned 50 years old.  The company I worked for (Ergotron) was sold in 2010 and this allowed me to commit fulltime to growing JEMNI Inc.

Michael: I started AE Works because I thought we could do things a little differently and bring purpose to our work. My time in the Navy provided countless examples of leadership and showed me the value of acting with integrity. The Navy instilled in me a belief system that everything in the world, including business, is about people. Business is about culture, teamwork, and camaraderie. We always knew from the captain why we were doing something. The values we shared gave meaning to our service and cohesion to our crew. The leaders I served with during my time on submarines considered their shipmates in everything they did.

What was your thought behind the industry/niche you chose? 

Gary: I noticed firsthand the lack of opportunities for employment across the disabled community. By utilizing the human capital management industry, I was able to help others that were in a similar position.

Michael: A former punk rock guitarist and self-described electronics geek, I was always interested in figuring out how things worked. Atage10, I installed an FM radio modulator in my mom’s ‘78 Dodge Charger to learn how the radio systems worked and to give my family something to listen to other than AM. I continued this passion and my learning in power and systems aboard fast-attack submarines as a nuclear-trained power-plant operator.

After the Navy, I transferred my skills to pursuing an education in power and lighting systems. I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in architectural engineering. As an electrical engineer by trade, I started AE Works offering only electrical engineering services. Gradually, I added other services, including architecture, other engineering disciplines, interior design and most recently security risk management and construction related services. AE Works was founded to provide an integrated service delivery to benefit our clients with innovative, creative and collaborative solutions to complex problems.

Dennis: The growth industry of High Tech and Telecommunication industry continue to innovate and have great needs for our services.

Mark: My career provided me an opportunity to become an expert in Distribution and Logistics.   I’m an Engineer by formal training and this was a way to connect my manufacturing expertise along with my Distribution / Logistics expertise.

What is your company’s mission?

Dennis: Tech True Up pairs technology with business needs and aligns our engineering expertise with the client’s organization and business processes. This approach enables Tech True Up to deliver solutions that solve real business problems to meet the client’s business goals. Our experienced staff hold a broad range of certifications across industry and functional areas and has in-depth experience working in a variety of roles with diverse organizations.

Mark: JEMNI Inc. is the leading small business to business packaging and print solutions provider

Gary: Amerit Consulting provides staffing solutions and guidance that power progressive companies to the next level. Our goal is to enable businesses to capitalize on Veteran-partner incentives to create an elite workforce of high-quality talent. Amerit strives to be the largest disabled Veteran owned business in the country by utilizing transparency, empowerment and philanthropic endeavors.

Michael: The mission of AE Works is to transform the lives of people and organizations by creating stunningly beautiful, highly functional, and safer spaces. We do this by integrating the practices of architecture, engineering, and security risk management to develop innovative, creative, and collaborative solutions to complex problems. Partnering with our clients and communities, AE Works continually seeks to be an active participant in efforts to improve our world. We do this by working beyond our professional practice and engaging as stakeholders in change movements we believe in. Collectively, thru practice and participation, AE Workers are on a mission to achieve our vision of a world where everyone is relevant.

What is your motivation–gets you up every morning and keeps you focused as a business owner?

Michael: Value innovation. Evolving our service offering and value proposition to enable the missions of our clients.

Mark: Competing and winning against large companies on value.  When we win, we create job opportunities.

Dennis: The excitement of developing and delivering high tech solutions that drive revenue and developing business opportunities that allow veterans to transfer their skills into meaningful and interesting civilian careers.

Gary: I love to negotiate ideas and processes with other CEO’s so that I can better understand the totality of a company’s needs and then provide them with the best contract solution. In doing so, I am able to provide wonderful jobs for my employees.

What has been your biggest challenge/risk? And did it work out?

Dennis: Establishing a sustainable revenue base which in turn afforded Tech True Up to develop a growth platform.

Mark: Getting access to procurement folks that understand that you can compete on value and win against the larger corporations.  Supplier diversity professionals have been good to work with; providing support inside a corporation to give JEMNI an opportunity.  If we can be invited to participate in our core competences, we will win.

Yes, it worked out! JEMNI has experienced double digit sales growth the past few years

Michael: Staffing is an important area of risk. Hiring the right staff and then making sure they are in the right position to maximizes their happiness while also effectively delivering to clients is critical to maximizing success. As AE Works, has matured from startup to emerging firm to an established firm, now experiencing our largest growth period yet, we know our chances for success lie in the people we employ.

Gary: Establishing a solid relationship with our banks in order to ensure we have loans to meet overhead has been a challenge. It took years of accountability to establish our reputation and establish a solid relationship with our banks.

What has been your biggest investment in your business- and was it worth it?

Dennis: The foundation of Tech True Up is our Workforce Services (staffing, recruiting, call center) required significant up front funding and time to ensure that our company is sustainable. This investment has allowed Tech True Up to establish a business presence and growth outlook.

Michael: People matter. That mantra is central to everything that AE Works does. We believe that great work starts with great people who flourish in the care of leadership and opportunity to do what it is that they are passionate about. Many people have helped build the firm and make it AE Works the company it is today. Celebrating our tenth anniversary this year, we continue to grow our impact. Our investment in people enables this growth and innovation while strengthening our culture and firm values.

Gary: The biggest investment to my business was putting my home and entire life savings on the line to fund our start-up needs. After years of hard work and perseverance, I can definitely say that yes, it was worth it.

Mark: Of course, people will always be a huge investment in a small business along with IT infrastructure.  Yes, anytime we can add employment opportunities, it gives you a larger sense of accomplishment.  You’re changing lives in a small way.

Why was it important to apply for and maintain national certification through USBLN?

Mark: It’s critical to have a national organization certification.  It provides “one voice” to support and help create awareness for Disability–Owned Business Enterprise’s (DOBE) through the DSDP program.  Still today; as we speak, very few companies nationwide include certified DOBE’s into supplier diversity programs.  Not because they don’t want to but because most companies are unaware of this business certification program.  The 3rd party certification program demonstrates to corporations that you meet the standards for this certification.

Michael: US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) maintains a growing and diverse network of corporate partners. Certification is important to us for many reasons. Our USBLN certification enables connections to nurture new opportunities that in turn support diversification of our portfolio.

Dennis: USBLN helps us drive our performance by leveraging disability inclusion.

Gary: The USBLN provides another outreach and peer association opportunities on a larger scale in addition to our military affiliations.

What is the single most important bit of advice you would give to a disability entrepreneur who is just starting out?

Michael: Clarity of values is something that often gets overlooked, but has tremendous impact on business success. Development of a strong value system helps with everything from internal culture and employee satisfaction to communication of your value proposition in the market to create opportunities for growth.

Dennis: Knowing and recognizing opportunities is not enough. We must all apply our training, years of experience, insight and goal setting. Willing is not enough, we all must stay current, build a network of professional/partners and have a must do attitude.

Gary: Drop the first three letters of the word disability and think of yourself as having abilities for employment and you will overcome all obstacles for a successful career.

Mark: Be patient, continue to focus on your company’s value proposition, and network.    You will win business, if you can keep your team motivated.

What makes you stand apart from your competition?

Dennis:  Experience, certification and offering business solutions in a timely manner.

Gary: At Amerit, we desire to exceed the expectations of our clients. Our practice of taking time to properly vet a potential employee for a staffing assignment really gives us the advantage opposed to our competition. We strive to not just find a candidate but to find the best candidate that will match the client’s needs as well as the employees. Standing by our work and our reputation is what keeps our employee satisfaction rate in the 90th percentile.

Mark: JEMNI competes on value.  We have multi-location capability and can provide a national distribution foot print with local expertise.

Michael: Every organization uses human and eco capital to develop technical capital. At AE Works, we seek to create all three at the same time. This methodology is rooted in a belief that the results of our efforts should do the same for our Clients. Great architecture is technical, human, and ecologically conscious. How we work is synonymous with what we produce.

Did you have a mentor or someone you leaned on for advice? If so, who?

Michael: From friends and colleagues to clients and resources like the SBA, industry and professional organizations, I’ve asked many people for advice throughout the years and on many different topics. The important thing is to reach out and ask for advice. You may hear something you don’t like, but those are the moments that help you learn and grow as an entrepreneur.

Dennis: Yes, AT&T provided Tech True Up with the opportunity to participate in their “Operations Hand Salute” mentoring program.

Mark: My father, he always had an open ear to listen and provide guidance.

Gary: Not at first. As the company grew my two partners became my co-advisors.

What are three words that best describes you?

Dennis: “Can do attitude”.

Gary: Decisive. Honest. Caring.

Mark: Committed, Disciplined, Passionate Leader

Michael: Authentic. Learner. Serial Entrepreneur.


Gary Herbold – Founder and CEO, Amerit Consulting

Amerit Consulting was founded in 2002 to provide quality management, process optimization and cost management consulting services to Fortune 500 companies. Our deep expertise in human capital management has fueled our expansion into direct hire placements, temporary staffing, contract placements and additional staffing and consulting services that propel our clients’ businesses forward. Our innovative consulting and staffing services place quality candidates in top positions as we consistently strive to exceed expectations.  Gary Herbold is a two-time Purple Heart awarded Service-Disabled Veteran himself, he is passionate about providing mentorship and encouragement to other disabled Veterans.

Amerit Consulting is SDVOB and a USBLN certified SDV-DOBE, located in San Ramon, CA. To learn more, click here: http://www.ameritconsulting.com


Mark Ellson – President and CEO, JEMNI

Mark has a long and distinguished career of providing products and services to fortune 500 Utility and Medical companies.  His background includes more than twenty years of progressive senior leadership in fortune 500 and large private manufacturing companies. His engineering, manufacturing and operational experience has focused on significantly improving sales and operational performance, reducing operating costs, leading and managing product introduction, and improving customer value.  Providing consulting services and products to the utility industry has given him the experience and insight to meet complicated customer requirements.

Mark is an Army Combat Veteran.  In addition, he is also a National Board member for the Elite SDVOB network.  Disabled Veteran businesses helping other Vets help themselves. He has an engineering degree from Iowa State University and a Master’s of Business Administration with a minor in Finance from.

JEMNI is an SDVOB and a certified USBLN SDV-DOBE located in Woodbury, MN. To learn more about JEMNI, click here: http://jemnitechnology.com


Dennis Parker – President and Founder, TechTrueUp

TechTrueUp is a service delivery organization with core competencies in Network Service Orchestration (NSO), Cloud, Network Function Virtualization (NFV), Software Defined Network (SDN), Real-Time BSS and Network Security. As well as providing Telecom/IT professional services, recruiting and staffing services to some of the largest telecommunication clients in the world. TechTrueUp is dedicated to providing outstanding personalized and effective staffing services, ensuring that you get the right person for your position every time.

As a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), our focus is to provide, hire, or train veterans to meet the demands of your business goals.

TechTrueUp also has a US-based Veteran Contact Center/ Support Center operation that delivers innovative, quality-driven, solutions, across all industry segments. To learn more about TechTrueUp click here: https://www.techtrueup.com


Founder and President: Michael Cherlock

The mission of AE Works is to transform the lives of people and organizations by creating stunningly beautiful, highly functional, and safer spaces.  We do this by integrating the practices of architecture, engineering, and security risk management to develop innovative, creative, and collaborative solutions to complex problems.  Partnering with our clients and communities, AE Works continually seeks to be an active participant in efforts to improve our world.  We do this by working beyond our professional practice and engaging as stakeholders in change movements we believe in.

AE Works in located in Pittsburgh, PA and is a SDVOB and a USBLN Certified SDV-DOBE™. To learn more about AE Works, click here: http://ae-works.com

Petty Officer Takes Marines to the Fight aboard U.S. Navy Warship

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Petty Officer Kevin Taylor aboard Navy warship

Petty Officer 3rd Class Kevin Taylor, a native of La Habra, California, was inspired to join the Navy to follow in family members’ footsteps. “My dad, the majority of my uncles and my grandfather all served in the military,” Taylor said.

Now, three years later, Taylor serves aboard one of the Navy’s amphibious ships at Naval Base San Diego.

“For the most part it’s really nice,” Taylor said. “It’s nice to be able to rely on shipmates for help and to help them as well.”

Taylor, a 2016 graduate of La Habra High School, is a interior communications electrician aboard USS Essex, one of four Wasp-class amphibious assault ships in the Navy, homeported in San Diego.

“We do the electrical work for the alarms,” Taylor said. “We maintain all shipboard alarms, warning and indicating systems and certain flight systems.”

Taylor credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in La Habra.

“I learned that nothing comes easy,” said Taylor.

Essex is designed to deliver U.S. Marines and their equipment where they are needed to support a variety of missions ranging from amphibious assaults to humanitarian relief efforts. Designed to be versatile, the ship has the option of simultaneously using helicopters, Harrier jets, and Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC), as well as conventional landing craft and assault vehicles in various combinations.

Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard Essex. More than 1,000 men and women make up the ship’s crew, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly, from handling weaponry to maintaining the engines. An additional 1,200 Marines can be embarked.

“Serving with the Marines gives you a different aspect of the military and seeing how different branches operate versus the Navy,” said Taylor.

Serving in the Navy means Taylor is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Taylor is most proud of being selected as Junior Sailor of the Quarter and being promoted to third class petty officer.

“It’s something that you have to work for, to study and learn and to always be accepting of constructive criticism,” said Taylor.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied upon assets, Taylor and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes contributing to the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy is a sense of pride knowing that you’re doing something for the country and giving back to people,” said Taylor.

Source: Navy Office of Community Outreach

Find your new job: Retraining slots open for more than 2,700 airmen

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Little Rock Air Force Base

The Air Force this month has opened up retraining opportunities for as many as 2,773 active-duty airmen across its career fields in fiscal 2020.

According to retraining statistics provided by the Air Force Personnel Center, there are 1,708 slots available for first-term airmen to retrain into new jobs. There are also 797 retraining slots for staff sergeants, 258 slots for technical sergeants, and 10 slots available for master sergeants. In all, there are 111 career fields that need airmen.

That’s more than the 2,597 retraining opportunities the Air Force unveiled for fiscal 2019, which included 1,634 first-term airmen, 730 staff sergeants, 202 technical sergeants, and 31 master sergeants, and remains far higher than the retraining opportunities in the prior two years.

There are also 1,435 airmen in 63 career fields that are overmanned who need to retrain into other jobs. Only second-term airmen are eligible to retrain out.

In an Aug. 12 tweet announcing the opening of 2020 retraining, AFPC said that phase 1 of the non-commissioned officer retraining program, or NCORP, is open through Dec. 1.

If the Air Force does not get enough volunteers to retrain, it could move into a “mandatory retraining” phase.

AFPC said that these statistics, provided Aug. 19, are a snapshot in time that can fluctuate as needs change throughout the year.

The career field with the most retraining-in opportunities is 3P011 security forces, which has 312 vacancies among first-term airmen and staff sergeants. Education and training airmen in the 3F211 career field are short 140 first-term and staff sergeant airmen, and 4N011 aerospace medical service airmen have 231 vacancies in those categories.

There are also 120 first-term and staff sergeant vacancies among 1C111 air traffic controllers, as well as 112 1B411 cyber warfare operations vacancies and 100 1C311 command and control operations vacancies.

Continue on to the Air Force Times to read the complete article.

A Reel Hero—Bob Vincent Aims to Tell Veterans’ Stories

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Bob Vincent holding his Media Award

The president of Reel Heroes Media champions military heroes and organizations with his video productions.

Bob Vincent, pictured left, president of Reel Heroes Media, was recently awarded the Carlton Sherwood BAVF Media Award, saluting media members who are dedicated to the needs and concerns of American veterans.

As a child, Bob Vincent remembers taking eight suitcases full of shampoo, toilet paper and many other items we take for granted to his family, who was living in communist Hungary at the time. The experience gave this first generation Hungarian-American, successful video producer and president of Reel Heroes Media a true understanding of what it means to live in the home of the free.

“I wouldn’t be here today if not for all those heroes who took that oath and continue to do so,” he said.

After founding his video production company Video Pilot 360 in 2008 with its successful online video-marketing platform, Vincent renamed it Reel Heroes Media in 2015 with the goal of producing videos and marketing that support active military, veterans, their families and the organizations that champion them.

Vincent says he envisions his company—which handles everything from graphic design and video production to audio visual design and content creation—as a “veteran initiative agency of record.”

“When I attended my first military support event, I couldn’t believe all the amazing heroes I met, their stories and the many honorable organizations that provide assistance,” he said. “I saw that many of them didn’t have the resources to tell those stories to the public.

“From that point on, I made it my mission to use my God-given talents to produce the stories of these heroes and the organizations supporting them,” he added.

And Vincent’s skill for doing so is evident in the many accolades he’s received from corporate giants like Disney, American Airlines and MGM Resorts International, as well as from entertainers like Rascal Flatts, Gary Sinise, Lee Greenwood and Billy Ray Cyrus.

But it’s the compelling video productions he’s created as part of his military philanthropy work that has made Vincent most proud. His work is credited for helping motivate patriotic Americans to donate millions of dollars to military supportive organizations and events, such as The Airpower Foundation, Sky Ball, American Airlines Veterans Initiatives, Snowball Express, The American Fallen Soldiers Project and The Gary Sinise Foundation, among others.

One particular video Vincent was asked to produce to show the impact the iBOT mobility device has had for veterans across the country assisted the Independence Corp Foundation and inventor DEKA Corp. CEO Dean Kamen in resuming production on the device.

“He [Dean] told me the video I produced was their most valuable tool in getting the support they needed,” said Vincent, whose production assisted in the FDA reclassification of the device, as well as the manufacturing plans for the next generation iBOT with Toyota.

Vincent’s latest project involves The Life Chest, a beautiful handmade wood chest that gives the recipient a special place to keep treasured keepsakes.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Reel Heroes Media partnered with Mike Elliot, founder and president of All Veteran Group, Life Chest USA, The Airpower Foundation, and All-American Limo & Transportation for a “Life Chests of Legacy” tour to gift Life Chests to WWII veterans across the country.

Vincent says he hopes to create a national movement sharing the gifting and unveiling of each Life Chest that’s delivered to a veteran.

“As we get to hear the stories and legacies of our military heroes, we will continue to share them,” said Vincent.

While he speaks fluent Hungarian and is very proud of his Hungarian heritage, Vincent is equally proud of the brave men and women who provide the freedoms his family in Hungary didn’t have while he was growing up.

“We can never do enough to support those who defend our country, and especially for those who have been wounded or for the families of those who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Vincent, adding a Calvin Coolidge quote that he first heard from his good pal, Gary Sinise, years ago:

“The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”

Managing the Shift from Military to Business Culture

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Veteran dressed in a suit holding a flag

By Mike Olivier

By this time in your career you have probably come across the concept of tribal culture. Tribal culture is also military culture, civilian culture, high school culture, and business or workplace culture.

Culture—or the rules of acceptable behavior and how you engage people—is ever-changing. To be successful in any phase of your life, you need to be able to adapt and adjust through means of observation and reprogramming your actions and direction. Trading the military culture for a civilian one is one of these phases.

For the most part, military culture is a straightforward one in which the language is direct, and there is little room for interpretation. Roles, responsibilities, tasks, and reporting requirements are often a matter of fact, not interpretation. This is due in part to the fact that authority is direct, and in matters of life and death misunderstanding or misinterpretation often leads to disaster. In the civilian world these relationships and the chain of command are often blurred. There are circumstances when you report to more than one person, where there are conflicting duties and responsibilities, and no stated priority.

Nevertheless, in both business and military cultures, there are common elements. One is that change is constant. We know that at first most people resist change. To achieve change in both cultures, there is a need for consensus, which is the result of process not action. Successful leaders are the ones that drive change in any culture.

Perhaps through your military training, class work, or direct experience you have worked through the military decision making process. At its core is a very democratic and consensus driven process for developing courses of action, orders, and for making organizational change. It is a means to deal with the reality that in both business and military worlds there are fiefdoms. In business there is accounting, human relations, production, sales, etc. In the military there is intelligence, operations, logistics, etc. Each of these functional staffs are a world and culture unto themselves. The challenge is getting each of these groups—each with their separate list of goals, objectives, and measurements of success—to work together.

Getting these individual staffs to work together depends upon their participation in planning, developing courses of action and in the decision-making process. The leader’s responsibility is to get these disparate groups to visualize and achieve the strategic objective. Some leaders may not actually follow the process while still others will remain dictatorial, all while giving praise to the collaborative process. Nevertheless, successful change—even if accomplished in a clandestine manner—is through the commitment and cooperation of all stakeholders.

As a veteran, and a member of perhaps the largest bureaucracy in the United States, you’ve for sure had some experience with this process. In the business world, though, the culture and vocabulary may be different, the bureaucracy is smaller but the process in how you approach problems remains the same. No matter what you do in terms of a civilian career, the challenge of managing change will always be there. Besides a technical fit, employers are often looking for those change agents that can assist the organization in moving forward. Being able to adapt and overcome are the hallmarks of military culture; add leadership and consensus planning experience to the mix and your entry into business culture will be that much more successful.

Sailor Spotlight! Operations Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Tran

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Anthony Tran standing in uniform with flags in the background

SAN DIEGO – A 2011 Rancho Alamitos High School graduate and Garden Grove, Calif., native is currently an instructor for the U.S. Navy training sailors in operating the technologically advanced Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Tran has been an instructor at the LCS Training Facility (LTF) since June 2018.

The LTF, the first surface warfare training facility to provide integrated bridge and combat systems tactical scenario training for sailors serving on board an LCS, is operated by the Center for Surface Combat Systems’ (CSCS) learning site Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center (FLEASWTRACEN) in San Diego.

Tran teaches a five-week LCS Capstone that focuses on basic Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS) operations and tactical decision making in a combat environment.

“I am responsible for ensuring future LCS sailors receive the most up to date and advanced training,” explained Tran. “I mainly focus on teaching tactical decisions and tactical advantages that help deploy fully trained Sailors out to sea.”

Sailors serving in the LCS environment demand a higher quantity and quality of training.

“LCS class ships drive a new approach to individual, team, and unit-level training to accommodate the minimum manning and rotational crewing concepts,” explained Capt. Brandon Bryan, FLEASWTRACEN’s commanding officer. “This new approach drives the need for the shore-centric Train-to-Qualify (T2Q) and Train-to-Certify (T2C) concepts, which rely heavily on high-fidelity shore-based trainers. Our simulators integrate LCS command and control, propulsion control, and bridge control systems to support individual training in a team environment at the basic, intermediate and advanced levels.”

Tran enlisted in the Navy in May 2013.

“I joined the Navy to have a solid foundation because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life,” Tran said. “With this, came the opportunity to serve my country and travel and today, I proudly serve as a United States sailor.”

His first assignment was Tactical Air Control Squadron 12, where he served as green crown controller conducting tactical air control onboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) homeported in Sasebo, Japan.

“At the LTF, we prepare sailors to execute a wide variety of missions around the world,” Bryan said. “They leave our training facility ready to stand their watch and execute the Navy’s mission.”

Tran is the son of Khanh and Vanessa who reside in Garden Grove, Calif.

CSCS’ mission is to develop and deliver surface ship combat systems training to achieve surface warfare superiority. CSCS headquarters’ staff oversees 14 learning sites and detachments located throughout the continental United States, Hawaii, and Japan and manages and operates a Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) training division in Rota, Spain. CSCS provides over 538 courses, awards 114 different Navy Enlisted Classifications (NECs), and trains over 38,000 sailors a year. CSCS delivers specialized training for officers and enlisted sailors required to tactically operate, maintain, and employ shipboard and shore-based weapons, sensors, and command and control systems utilized in today’s Navy.

For more information on CSCS, visit https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/cscs/ or follow CSCS on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Center-for-Surface-Combat-Systems/1480366868885239

Source: Navy Outreach

Inside the Specially Adapted Home Wayfair Furnished for a Veteran with a Disability and His Family

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Disabled veteran and family stand outside their new home

When John and Brittany Curtin got married in 2015, they never dreamed they’d be living where they are today.

The couple met at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland back in 2011— Brittany was a volunteer with the Red Cross and John was in outpatient treatment for injuries he sustained while deployed in Afghanistan.

A Marine Lance Corporal, John joined the Marines at 19. He lost both of his legs and severely damaging his right arm when his foot triggered an IED one month into his deployment. He now gets around with the help of prosthetic legs or a wheelchair.

As difficult as John’s injuries were to adapt to, he and Brittany, both 29, live their lives today with incredible ease. For that, they thank two organizations: Homes For Our Troops and Wayfair, who have provided them with a specially-adapted — and fully furnished — home of their dreams, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

Homes For Our Troops is a non-profit organization that donates custom houses to veterans with disabilities, allowing them freedom in their homes as thanks for their service abroad. The organization teamed up with online furniture marketplace Wayfair to completely overhaul the Curtins’ home this past June, customizing it to both John’s accessibility needs and the pair’s personal style.

“We feel so unbelievably blessed,” Brittany tells PEOPLE of the experience. “Just for our day to day, our routine has entirely changed. Because John isn’t so taxed just doing small things, he’s able to do so much more both inside and outside the house.”

“It’s been an absolutely life changing experience,” John agrees. “It’s just transformed my life completely. When Brittany and I were first living in Virginia together we lived in a little 700-square-foot apartment, and we couldn’t even pass each other in the hallway because my wheelchair took up the whole space. So the ease of living is just unreal compared to those experiences.”

Not only is the 2,800-square-foot home and surrounding property entirely complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and wheelchair-accessible, but a variety of gadgets inside the home are designed to help John complete daily tasks with ease.

For example, extendable shelves in the kitchen and closets can be pulled down to be at John’s eye level, and a track chair in the backyard allows him to move around the property — which has paved and graded paths — and do yard work.

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

Make Your Next Job Fair Be Your Last

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veteran standing outside convention center wearing a suit carrying a briefcase

Job fairs are a great opportunity to network and be proactive in the employment process. In order to make the most of these opportunities, set realistic expectations for what you hope to achieve.

Prepare for the job fair like you would for an interview, have a plan for when you arrive, make a good impression with the recruiters, and be sure to follow up with any connections you make.

Here are some other ways to make the most of your next job fair:

•    Research: The week prior to a job fair, find out which companies are participating and learn more about them. What are some interesting things the company is currently working on? Does the company have new leadership or a new product? These tidbits can be used as conversation starters that will impress a recruiter and possibly open the door to a new opportunity for you.

•    Dress for an interview: Job fairs typically involve on-the-spot interviews, so present yourself as you would for any other kind of interview. A suit is most appropriate, even if you’re applying for a technical job. It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

•    Prepare: For your top employment choices, consider preparing folders that include your resume, cover letter, recommendations and appropriate work samples.

•    Carry plenty of business cards: Give the business cards to recruiters and other job seekers you meet. They need not be expensive or fancy. A simple design will do. Make sure they contain your name and contact information: phone number, email and address.

•    Organize: You may want to carry a portfolio or clipboard to easily manage and collect information. Be sure to have a pen for taking notes.

•    Relax, breathe and smile: Do your best to make a strong first impression.

•    Walk around: Get the lay of the land, see where your top companies are located and plan your connection strategy.

•    Network: Talk to other job seekers and ask questions. Find out what types of positions they’re seeking, and tell them a little about yourself. You never know who they might know, or if you might be able to help them with an introduction. Don’t hesitate to exchange information if you make a connection.

•    Visit booths: You may want to start by practicing your personal pitch with recruiters who represent companies that may not be your top choice. Have a list of companies you really want to visit and check them off as you go. This will keep you from introducing yourself to the same recruiter twice by accident. Listen to the “interviews” in front of you to get an idea what to expect and develop questions based on what you hear.

Speaking to recruiters
•    Connect: Make eye contact, smile, state your name and shake her or his hand. Use a prepared elevator speech—a 10-second summary of your bio, your skills and your achievements. Make sure to rehearse the speech until it becomes comfortable.

•    Listen: Pay attention, respond to questions and ask for more information. When appropriate, hand your resume to the recruiter and pause for them to do a quick review. Be prepared for questions about specific examples of your experience.

•    Keep it brief: Recruiters are typically swamped, so be mindful that your conversation may be limited to a few minutes. If appropriate, ask questions about next steps, applicant qualifications or any suggestions they may have for you.

•    Get recruiter contact information: Request a business card, and if one is not available, ask the recruiter for their email address. Conclude the conversation by thanking them for their time.

•    Step aside: Make time to write conversation notes before you move on to the next recruiter. If the previous recruiter mentioned she went to Florida State, capture that information. If she told you the company will hire for your desired position soon, write it down. Summarize your job fair experiences immediately in order to take full advantage of the event.

•    Call or email: After a few days, call or send an email, thanking the recruiters for their time and the information they provided. If you send an email to the recruiter who mentioned she went to Florida State, it is appropriate to write, “I’m the administrative assistant at the job fair who discussed Florida State with you.” That reminder could help her recall the conversation. Just taking the time to follow up will separate you from many job fair attendees.

•    Stay in contact: If the recruiter responds back to you, stay in contact. Keep an eye open for articles about their organization or industry and don’t hesitate to forward them on with a note. If you see the perfect job for you in their organization, and you’re qualified, apply for the position and then email the recruiter and let him or her know you applied.

•    Build your network: If you connected with other job seekers and traded contact information, you should follow up with them as well. You never know when they might have a job prospect for you, or vice versa.

If you need information or personalized assistance with your employment search, or have questions about education opportunities, visit the Military OneSource SECO page, or call 800-342-9647 to talk with a career coach.

Daymond John — Turning Heroes into CEOs

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Daymond John speaking into microphone on stage

The Shark Tank’s Daymond John encourages veteran entrepreneurs to make waves in business.

By Lori Denman

Entrepreneur extraordinaire Daymond John has cast a pretty large net in the realm of business.

John, otherwise known as, “The People’s Shark,” is a busy man—leading his multi-million dollar FUBU clothing line and hosting the popular reality ABC hit, “Shark Tank,” that’s celebrating its 11th season.

But he never hesitates to take time to help a promising entrepreneur—particularly those who have served our country. “I’m working with veterans as much as I can,” he said.

John is in his third year of partnering with Bob Evans Farms to host an entrepreneurial contest called “Heroes to CEOs.” Finalists receive a free trip to New York City for a personalized, 45-minute session with John to help them perfect a pitch that could win them a $30,000 grant for their business.

John says the same traits that make veterans successful in combat—courage, teamwork, overcoming challenging obstacles, taking inventory of a situation—also apply in the boardroom. A veteran’s large network of supportive comrades is a further advantage, he added.

“I call it OPM, or other people’s manufacturing, mind power or marketing,” he said. “Meaning if you want to start up a business, make a list of friends and acquaintances who can assist in the mission. Soak up their knowledge and insight.”

Still, there’s a few personality traits characteristic of the military that may actually hinder a veteran entrepreneur, according to John in a recent interview for The Motley Fool.

Shark Tank panel seated together
Panel: (L-R) Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin OLeary, and Daymond John of Tribeca Talks: Ten Years of Shark Tank poses for a portrait. MATT DOYLE/GETTY IMAGES

“Vets were brought up to think about everybody else and stand in the line of fire. They don’t always put their needs first.”

There’s been more than a few veterans who have heeded John’s advice. Last month, Jonathan Norton, founder and CEO of Peak Safety Systems, was voted the winner of the third annual “Heroes to CEOs” program. A former Army Ranger, Norton invented the RopeSafe Edge protection system—life-saving equipment for military, first responders, and rope access professionals.

Norton says his company was born out of personal experience. ““I witnessed a student nearly fall to his death while he was repelling because the edge protector that we were using failed,” he said in a recent interview on cheddar.com.

“It was a scary moment and created a lot of fear, doubt and uncertainty. But it inspired me to find a solution. That was the impetus for developing the product.”

Although RopeSafe just launched, Norton has successfully sold to several areas throughout the U.S., including FDNY, NYPD, Dallas SWAT and more. Even a window washing company in Rochester, New York.

Daymond John books on display at book signing
Books on display during Daymond John book signing ” Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life”. JOHNNY LOUIS/GETTY IMAGES

When asked about entrepreneurial qualities he acquired during his time in the military, Norton says, “In spite of the hardships or the bumps in the road, it’s really about commitment to the mission and knowing I am serving a bigger purpose.”

John says he was blown away with Norton’s creativity, innovation and solid business plan. “He really rose to the top as an exceptional leader who is ready to take his business to the next level.

With several successful ventures under his belt over the last 30 years, John says he’s often asked what advice he gives veterans and others who wish to start their own business.

“I would say don’t mortgage your house for 100K,” he joked recently on Ladders.com, citing his own personal experience as John did indeed get his start by mortgaging his mother’s house.

After that, John started his successful clothing line but considers the risky move very lucky, adding, “It turned out for all the better, but knowing what I know now, I was very close to losing the house and everything we had.”

Daymond John standing wearing a gray suit
Photo: ADRIAN EDWARDS/GETTY IMAGES

His top 5 tips to veterans wanting to start a business as well as other entrepreneurs on Shark Tank:

  1. Set goals to know where you’re headed

By age 16, John had told himself he’d be a millionaire by age 30. But when he turned 22, he was broke and struggling to make a buck by buying and selling cars.

“I didn’t know how to properly execute goal-setting. It’s not just visualizing of a number or a certain age,” said John.

When the idea for FUBU came along, he decided to reshape the goal he set for himself. Instead of committing to making a million dollars by age 30, John instead made it his goal to outfit the hip-hop culture. Designing a clothing line became less about earning money and more about dedicating himself to a community — one that he thought would turn into future consumers.

“My goal became doing the best I can for the company I love,” John said.

  1. Homework — you still have to do it

After sneaking his way into a menswear conference in Las Vegas, John proudly showed off early prototypes of T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of his budding company, FUBU, an acronym that means “For Us, By Us.” He secured $300,000 worth of orders, and after his mother took out an equity line on their house in Queens, he took $100,000 to outfit a factory to get production going.

Just one problem: He hadn’t done any research on what it would cost to start a clothing line and get production going. In the process, he nearly lost his mom’s house and ended FUBU before it got off the ground.

Knowing what you need to launch a venture is something John stresses to the hopefuls who appear before him on Shark Tank. He has to see that an entrepreneur looking for funding has done their work to know what their market is and who their competitors are — and that they’ve used that knowledge to not only start driving sales but also improve on their track record.

  1. Adore what you do, and success will follow

A true entrepreneur must love what they’re doing—a seemingly trite lesson that John said is crucial for any successful entrepreneur. It’s passion for a project that will allow a person to push past failures and feeling burned out.

“Do what you love, and success will follow. Money may follow; but I can’t promise that it will,” he said. “But money’s more likely to follow when you’re doing something you love, because you’ll do it for 10 years or 20 years.”

  1. Remember, you — not just your business — are a brand

These days it’s easy to manufacture a personality using social media. But building a business is as much about how you carry yourself as it is about meeting quarterly sales figures or developing new products.

“Be very honest with yourself, especially today with social media. At any given time, your employees can see you,” John said. “So you have to know what the DNA of the brand is. It only takes your employees two weeks to treat your customers the same way they’re being treated.”

  1. Keep swimming, no matter what

John’s final point makes use of what he calls the power of positive thinking. Even as FUBU grew into a bigger company, he maintained a “healthy paranoia” about running a clothing company.

“I always said fashion brands are hot for five years and then they’re gone,” he said.

But keeping a persevering attitude spurred him to come up with solutions to problems instead of giving up. As John wrote in his book, The Power of Broke: “You have to be relentless, nimble, moving ever forward. No matter what.”

From The Army To Campbell Soup To Floor Coverings International

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Jennifer & Jose Elias stand in front of their Floor Coverings International vehicle

Jose and Jennifer Elias recently opened a Floor Coverings International franchise and now happily visit customers’ homes in a Mobile Flooring Showroom stocked with thousands of flooring samples from top manufacturers.

The couple serves customers throughout Sacramento and the surrounding areas.

Jose and Jennifer met when they were working at Campbell Soup Company, after both earned bachelor’s degrees in Food Science; Jen from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and Jose from Rutgers University in New Jersey, where his family moved after arriving from Ecuador when he was eight years old. At age 18, Jose joined the Army and served for three years.

When the couple decided to have children (Hudson, born in 2016, and Madeline, in 2018), Jennifer set aside her corporate career – where she gained a diverse array of experience from product development to operations – to be a stay-at-home mom. “My experience, both personally and professionally, has provided me a great foundation to really build this company,” she said.

“The relationship with Floor Coverings International grew naturally and it ended up being the perfect fit for us,” said Jose, who along with Jennifer, learned of the franchisor through a recruiter. “Running a small business as a husband and wife team has been fun. We absolutely love it so far.” That’s a far cry from where Jose found himself midway through 2018, six months after he thought all his hard work had paid off when he earned a “huge promotion” to lead and manage a food manufacturing facility with 500 employees and $5.2 million in monthly sales. “I had a realization. Working 15 hours a day, weekends included, and missing dinner with my wife and kids wasn’t worth it. It really wasn’t worth any amount of money” Jose said. “I realized I was sick of working that hard for someone else and just wanted out of the corporate world. Jen and I sat down and decided it was time we do something for ourselves and for our kids. We are both hard-working, smart individuals and decided to take the leap.”

In Floor Coverings International, the couple found a company that has tripled in size since 2005 by putting a laser focus on consumer buying habits and expressed desires, its impressive operating model, growth ability, marketing, advertising and merchandising. Floor Coverings International further separates itself from the competition through its customer experience, made up of several simple and integrated steps that exceed customers’ expectations.

“Floor Coverings International is not just a flooring company,” Jose said. “What drew us in most was how much they focus on the customer experience. Selling beautiful product was important to us, but really providing amazing customer service that is truly unmatched in the home improvement industry is what sealed the deal for us.”

ABOUT FLOOR COVERINGS INTERNATIONAL

Floor Coverings International is the #1 Mobile Flooring Franchise in North America. Utilizing a unique in-home experience, the mobile showroom comes directly to the customer’s door with more than 3,000 flooring choices. Floor Coverings International has 150-plus locations throughout the U.S. and Canada with plenty of opportunity for continued expansion in 2019. For franchise information, please visit www.flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location, www.floorcoveringsinternational.com.

How Should I Answer This?

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Woman being interviewed sitting at a desk with potential employer

Interview tips for veterans entering the civilian workforce

Like many other service members leaving active duty service, I found preparing for the civilian workforce frustrating. Crafting your military service into a resume and preparing for an interview is daunting. One of the most common questions that I receive is, “How should I answer interview questions?” But it is just as important to think about what questions you will ask the employer.

Interviewing is a two-way dialogue. Yes, your potential employer will ask questions to learn more about you and the skills you bring to the table. It is great to leverage tools, such as the STAR technique (i.e., situation, task, action, result), which will help you practice translating your military experience and assist with preparing a clear and concise response to your interviewer.

While you are preparing to answer questions, it is equally important you prepare relevant questions to learn more about your potential employer, supervisor and the position to ensure that the opportunity is a good fit for your career aspirations. The best approach to asking fact-finding questions is to keep them focused, open ended and not too broad. Just remember to stay away from questions that yield yes or no responses. If you are unsure about what to ask in an interview, below are some key examples that will help you showcase you are the perfect hire.

At the beginning of an interview, an employer often asks to learn more about you and what you are seeking in a job. This question is an opportunity to set the tone of the interview and to showcase what you want to highlight about yourself. As you conclude your answer, use the opportunity to learn more about what the interviewer is seeking.

Perhaps, “I was excited to meet with you today. Could you tell me a bit more about you’re looking for?” This question accomplishes a few things. First, it prevents you from talking too much. When job candidates are not being interrupted—and are possibly nervous—they tend to ramble.

Asking a question can give you a break and allows the employer to talk. This strategy can also help establish a trend of productive back-and-forth dialogue. Another question to ask at the beginning of the interview is, “Could you explain the roles and responsibilities of this position in more detail?” When the employer answers this question, ask if him or her could prioritize the duties for you as well. This way, when the employer asks you to articulate what you’ve done in your previous roles, you can highlight how your previous experience aligns with the position in front of you.

Next, consider drafting questions that can help you learn more about the organizational culture, day-to-day jobs, responsibilities, education, skills and experience requirements, as well as soft skills or character traits the employer is seeking. The employer will be analyzing you on competency and culture fit, looking skills, education, personality, and desire to do the job well. At the same time, you should be looking to determine whether you want to work for the company, and whether the opportunity is one you can perform.

To help your thought process, it can be beneficial to ask questions about the goals or objectives for the position:
—How does the employer determine success in this role?
—What obstacles might you encounter to accomplishing those goals?
—Are the goals realistic?
—What resources are available to achieve the goals?

Remember, an interview is an exchange of information. Asking thoughtful questions is a great way to determine whether you really want the job. Good luck!

Author-Pamela Johnson
Pamela Johnson is the Veterans and Military Families Program Manager, Goodwill Industries International.

Source: goodwill.org