How to Land a Government Contract

LinkedIn
A headshot of Katie Bigelow

By Katie Bigelow, founder, Mettle Ops

Government contracting is not for the faint of heart. The barriers to entry are high and the regulations are complicated and overwhelming. If easy money is the goal, government contracting is not the way to get it. We lose 99 bids out of 100. Can you take that kind of beating and keep going?

The first steps to government contracting are pretty simple. Register with Dun & Bradstreet. Don’t pay them or anyone else to do it. Regardless, of how it seems, it is a free service. They will give you a DUNS number. Use that to register in Sam.Gov where you will get a CAGE code. Don’t skip the opportunity in Sam.gov to complete the SBA Dynamic Small Business search. Read all the regulations that you are committed to follow. Next, register with Beta.sam.gov and look for opportunities to bid. When you find something that looks good, read the whole thing. That’s right. Read all 76 pages paying particular attention to the Performance Work Statement, Section L, and Section M. Submit your bid per their instructions. That’s it. Too easy.

I don’t actually know anyone that has made any real money doing it this way. No doubt there are people out there that simply followed the prescribed path and struck it big. More often, there are people that followed the path and ended up in the pokey, too.

The hard truth is that nobody in this business is rooting for you. I have never found a Government Small Business office that did anything other than put your name on a list and provide a PowerPoint presentation.

Government Contracting Officers, as a general rule, don’t want to do lots of small contracting actions for small businesses. They want to execute fewer contracting actions for big businesses with big dollar amounts. One of my first customers tried to offer me a $14 million contract. The contracting command gave us all a giant “NO!” We were too small, too new, too much of a nuisance.

“Go work for a prime for 5 years,” is the verbatim advice we’ve received from contracting officers. Large government primes have lots of attorneys, lots of money, and lots of shareholders to please. They use small businesses, strip the name of the small business off the work and offer it as your own. It’s not illegal. If you don’t mind, this may be the route for you. It’s not the route for me.

Here’s my secret sauce: Work really hard. Do all the things I mentioned in paragraph 2 and then work hard. We take every opportunity we can afford to meet people, to shake hands, to share what we’ve learned. We don’t shy away from making referrals, even if we get nothing in return. We wear our character on our sleeves, our business cards, and our websites. We were warfighters and always will be at heart. There is a standard of values that comes with that.

We are students of our industry. Take DAU classes. We read and connect and learn. We reach out personally to potential customers every single day. Our goal is to understand more about government contracting than even our customers know. We aren’t trying to outsmart them. We are trying to provide great value to them.

To date, I have only won 4 government contracts since 2015. The first was for $70,000, then $14 million, then $19 million, and the most recent another $19 million. Since I told you we won 1 out of 100 or less, you can do the math to see how many times we lost. Decide if this is the industry for you. If it is, call me. Maybe we can do it together.

Katie Bigelow is the founder of Mettle Ops, a woman-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned, disadvantaged small business. WBE, WOSB, EDWOSB, NVBDC, CVE, VOSB, SDVOSB, U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) Certified 2027

From the Corps to Corporate America

LinkedIn
Headshot of Laurie Sayles

U.S. Veterans Magazine asked Laurie Sayles, president and CEO of Civility Management Solutions (CivilityMS), and Jackson Dalton, president and founder of Black Box Safety, Inc., to share what it was like for them to transition out of the military and into the boardroom.

Laurie Sayles with Civility Management Solutions

Founded in 2012, CivilityMS provides professional consulting services as an SBA 8(a) certified, verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), Economically Disadvantaged Woman and Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB/WOSB). The firm’s status as a SDVOSB is verified with the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) and the Veterans First Contracting Program.

USVM: Tell us about your transition from military life to one as a business owner.

Laurie Sayles (LS): I am from Chicago, IL, and have always sought out a means of having my own money or supplementing my income. I was a baby-sitter to single women in the low-income projects complex I resided as a young girl and I modeled professionally during high school, all before I joined the USMC. So, I often say that I have always been an entrepreneur.

But after getting out of the USMC, I returned to supplementing my income. I tried medical billing as a home-based business only to learn it was a scam. I also became a wellness coach and a bootcamp fitness instructor, to name a few.

My journey was long after transitioning because there was no outreach during the 90’s for military personnel leaving the USMC. For example, TAPS didn’t exist, and no one in the marketplace really cared that you were a veteran. Also, the Internet was not what it is today and there was no support to help translate your MOS. It was a more challenging time.

But I wanted to work in corporate America, so I took a job for $17,000 in 1989 as a receptionist. With that, the journey began to learn the difference of being a civilian in this space as an African-American woman with no degree. Within a short period of time, I began to take English, grammar and speaking courses to help me modify my means of communication.

I climbed the corporate ladder from receptionist to administrative assistant, to an executive assistant, to an operations director to a project manager over a 20-year period. Then in 2012, I became president and CEO of Civility Management Solutions.

USVM: How did your experience in the military influence your skillset as a business owner?

LS: My experience from the military has a huge influence in my skillset as a business owner. Again, being an African-American woman in business adds more challenges that many cannot identify with unless they belong to this ethnicity. But, thanks to being a woman that served in the Marine Corps, I am accustomed to operating in a man’s world and a world that is full of alpha males! The Marine Corps is not known to be, “The Few, The Proud, The Marines,” just as a slogan—it’s a culture and a lifestyle. As I often say, if you re-enlist in any branch of the military, it really speaks to you adapting and accepting that culture completely, otherwise you get out after first term. No one—and I do mean no one—that knows me personally walks away not knowing that I served in the Corps. It shows up in my demeanor and my strength as a business owner.

USVM: What advice would you give someone transitioning from the military into becoming a business owner?

LS: Make sure you start your homework early when you know your end date. There is so much to offer us when we get out of the military, and finally this country is beginning to recognize this fact. Our discipline, leadership, resilience and determination set us apart from anyone else who never served. So, with running anything … you’ve been trained while you wore the uniform; trained to operate in high integrity; and trained to leave no man behind. All three of these lead to you being a strong leader willing to take full responsibility for your actions. Help others be successful as you become successful.

Do take advantage of all the training being offered by the SBA in your State, affiliates of the SBA, and programs offered to veterans of the military. Get yourself affiliated with associations and advocacy groups that focus on the type of work you want to do as a business owner.

Lastly, network, network and network some more to find people that you can engage with. And get yourself some mentors! Each one will add different values and you can call on them as needed.

Jackson Dalton and Black Box Safety, Inc.

Headshot of Jackson DaltonBlack Box Safety, Inc. specializes in the prevention of serious injury in the workplace by supplying safety equipment for government agencies and organizations. Dalton is a Board-Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Master’s degree (MPH) in public health—only 17 percent of CSPs hold both (Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2017) —as well as a Bachelor’s degree in business administration.

USVM: Tell us about your transition from military life to one as a business owner.

Jackson Dalton (JD): I was injured while serving in the Marine Corps. As a direct result of the injuries I sustained, I went through 3 leg surgeries and was not able to walk for a year. While serving, I was hurt at work—essentially an occupational injury. From this experience, I have made it my mission in life to ensure that others aren’t hurt at work, so that they can continue to do the things that they love to do.

As a direct result of my Marine Corps experience, I transitioned from the military into a career in occupational health and safety. I pursued a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Public Health, and spent over 10 years working as a Safety Engineer. Three years ago, it was my desire to help more people in a more meaningful way so I left my job at 3M and started my company, Black Box Safety, Inc., which is a supplier of safety products and safety training to government agencies and organizations that are looking for ways to reduce risk and help their employees stay safe and healthy.

USVM: How did your experience in the military influence your skillset as a business owner?

JD: My experience in the Marine Corps instilled two traits: Grit and bearing. Grit is the ability or decision to persevere in the face of extreme hardship and danger. Bearing is the ability to maintain a calm and confident demeanor in the face of adversity and uncertainty. I learned that the most contagious thing in the world is not infectious disease—it’s human emotion. As a leader, if I lose my bearing and communicate emotions of fear and stress, those emotions will be transferred to those I’m leading. I served as a squad leader in the Marine Corps and today I serve as President of Black Box Safety, Inc., where I am responsible for the health and welfare of 2 full-time employees and 4 part-time employees.

USVM: What advice would you give someone transitioning from the military into becoming a business owner?

JD: This is the advice that I would give to someone transitioning from the military to entrepreneurship

  1. Take advantage of every educational opportunity available including but not limited to: Post-secondary education funded through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Dept. of VA Vocational Rehabilitation Ch.31,; free business start-up courses offered through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) [SBA offers free business courses online at SBA.gov]; apply for a free SCORE mentor; podcasts featuring business start-up advice; and finally an often-overlooked resource that proved to be of great value and benefit to me, Shark Tank and YouTube.
  2. Join an incubator that is composed at least partially of active-duty and veteran business owners. I benefited greatly from the camaraderie I found by applying to a veteran incubator called Tactical Launch. I went through this incubator 2 years ago, and I am still close friends with many of the members of the cohort and many of us continue to be successful in business. The camaraderie is necessary when starting a business, especially if you are the sole founder. It’s actually the number one thing that servicemen and women miss the most when transitioning out of the military.
  3. If you are able to do so, start your business now. Many business startups require very little in the way of capital and expense. Most can be started out of your home with a phone, a laptop and a lot of determination. The biggest mistake I see in other founders is the desire to have everything ready prior to launch. A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow.

2 WWII veterans who are lifelong friends celebrate 96th and 97th birthdays together

LinkedIn
WWll veterans pictured smiling lifelong friends celebrate birthday together

World War II veterans and lifelong friends celebrated their 96th and 97th birthdays together in Whittier, California on Sunday. U.S. Army Veteran Randel “Randy” Zepeda Fernandez is turning 96 this week. His best friend of nearly 90 years, U.S. Coast Guard veteran Salvador “Sal” B. Guzman, just turned 97.

Fernandez’s son, Steve Fernandez, decided a major event was in order to mark the momentous occasion.

So he organized a massive celebration that drew a parade of community members, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and even mariachi musicians.

“This is amazing. I didn’t expect it to be this big,” Steve Fernandez said.

Both veterans said they were surprised by the outpouring of gratitude.

“I knew nothing about this,” Guzman said.

The men’s friendship dates back to childhood.

“We’ve known each other since the second grade,” Randy Fernandez said. The men attended elementary school and junior high together, before they both attended Garfield High School, they said.

Randy Fernandez helped liberate concentration camps and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which helped organize the event. Guzman patrolled the Northern California coastline on horseback from 1943 to 1944.

“Both veterans reunited in the 1950s and bought their first homes on the same street in Montebello, raising their families together,” the sheriff’s department said in a written statement.

Continue on to CBS News to read the complete article.

Remembering America’s Military

LinkedIn
Memorial Day

Throughout American history, men and women have loved our country so deeply that they were willing to give their all to preserve its safety and freedom. On the last Monday in May, our nation honors the selfless heroes who gave their lives to defend the land we love and the freedoms we believe everyone deserves.

Memorial Day was first observed as Decoration Day on May 30, 1868. People visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. Often people decorate the graves of the Civil War soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

The custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves is an ancient and worldwide tradition.

Ways to Honor Our Fallen Heroes
This tradition continues on Memorial Day when we reflect on the courage of service members who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. Here’s what you and your family can do to remember these heroes this Memorial Day:

✪✪Display the flag—The U.S. flag is flown at half-staff from dawn until noon on Memorial Day. Some people also choose to fly the POW/MIA flag to honor prisoners of war and those missing in.

✪✪Visit a cemetery—Honor the memory of a family member or another veteran by putting flowers on their grave.

✪✪Join the national moment of silence—Pause wherever you are at 3 p.m. for a moment of silence to remember and honor the fallen.

✪✪Attend local parades—Many cities and towns have Memorial Day parades to remember those who gave their lives for our country.

✪✪Wear red poppies—Red poppies are worn on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war.

Source: militaryonesource.mil

5 Ways Veterans Can Leverage Facebook to Grow their Career or Business

LinkedIn
Payton Iheme smiling at the camera

By Payton Iheme, U.S. Public Policy Manager, Facebook

Each year, an estimated 200,000 service members return to civilian life and for some, this brings uncertainty to what’s next in their career, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, these service men and women continue to contribute to their country, even when they return, albeit in a different way.

I have spent more than 15 years on active duty and continue to serve—from being an officer in the Army’s Special Operations Command and a White House Senior Policy Advisor to currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard. In addition, as the co-owner of a home remodeling business, I know firsthand how important it is to have the right tools and support, whether it’s in the military or as a veteran small business owner.

Everyday Facebook serves as a platform for veterans to find and be a part of groups that help them build community. In fact, more than 900,000 people in the US participate in more than 2,000 groups for military members, veterans and their spouses on Facebook. As a proud supporter of the military-veteran community, Facebook has also made it easier for veterans transitioning into civilian life to find career opportunities and draw on their unique skills to start their entrepreneurial journey.

That’s why we recently announced the launch of the Military and Veterans Hub to provide an all-encompassing resource for veterans to continue to build their community, find job opportunities and enhance their digital skills through Facebook to grow a business or a career.

Facebook also partnered with SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer expert business mentors, to provide business education and mentoring to military members, veterans and their families who want to become entrepreneurs. I utilized SCORE’s resources during my transition into civilian life and it helped me not only build on my experience and skills to find a new career, but it also gave me the confidence to start something new. I’m particularly thrilled about our partnership with SCORE and the opportunities it will unlock for fellow veterans.

Whether you want to build a business or a career, here are five ways military members, spouses and veterans can use Facebook’s Military and Veteran Hub to their advantage:

1. Connect with a mentor from a cohort of SCORE’s experienced business mentors, who are also U.S. veterans themselves, through the Mentor Match program.

2. Access our veteran-focused educational toolkit for launching a business that includes steps for developing a business plan.

3. Attend a veteran-focused interactive workshop to receive guidance on starting a business. We’ll be working with ten local SCORE chapters to bring these in-person workshops to cities that we’ve determined to have a high concentration of military members and veterans.

4. Find employment opportunities through the Facebook Jobs Tool. Frank Diaz, an Army veteran and owner of Tin Hut BBQ, uses the Facebook Jobs Tool, for example, to source employees at his mobile restaurant with an objective to hire discharged veterans in need of work and mentorship.

5. Test out the Facebook Military Skills Translator, designed to help people find careers on Facebook relevant to their military experience. As the Public Policy Manager at Facebook, I’m proud to be a part of a company that values my experience and allows me to use my military skills to make an impact on the business.

Facebook’s Military and Veteran Hub make it easier for military spouses and the military community to find and access Facebook’s resources, tools, events and groups. For more information, visit our website here 

Payton Iheme (Facebook US Public Policy) focuses on policy issues on a range of topics, but works closely on issues related to the Internet, digital economy/small business, counter terrorism, cybersecurity, data privacy, and partnerships. Previously, she served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Communication Technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She holds honor degrees from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in Government Policy from the George Washington University. Iheme currently serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard.

Meet Brittney Nicole: Navy Veteran Turned Fashion Entrepreneur

LinkedIn
A clothes hangar filled with women's coats

Transitioning from military life back into civilian life is a challenge for any veteran. While there are many different approaches in choosing a career, one U.S. Navy Veteran decided that she would approach her career choice by following her passions.

Always having a love for fashion, Brittney Nicole decided to open her own clothing business, Coco’s Wardrobe, upon her retirement from the U.S. Navy. The New Orleans based boutique designs, manufactures, and sells women’s clothing that is meant to look as good as they feel, blending comfort with style. All of the clothing in Nicole’s shop has a women’s desire to feel confident and comfortable at the forefront of everything that is produced.

In addition, Nicole has also began selling uniquely designed face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is America still the home of the brave?

LinkedIn
homelesss veteran sits on bench outside looking solemn

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, veterans were already experiencing homelessness at a higher rate than the civilian population. While we hunkered down in the comfort and safety of our homes, our veterans’ situation worsened. As of April 2020, veterans are 12.5%[1] more likely to pass away if exposed to the virus, making homeless veterans even more vulnerable.

Is America still the home of the brave if in these challenging times our heroes are left alone to fend for their lives in the streets of LA? Where is home for our heroes? What do we tell the Funderbergs of America who were once young kids fighting in Vietnam and are now 63-year-old men deprived of their dignity? Have we as a nation failed them in some way?

We ask, because we as American citizens who proudly sing about being “The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave,” we are all responsible for making sure that the Funderbergs who proudly fought for our nation are taken care of.

New Directions for Veterans (NDVets) was founded by veterans for that precise reason, to empower men and women who served in the military, and their families, to lead productive and fulfilling lives. For more than 25 years, we have been providing transitional and emergency housing, food, clothing, counseling and vocational assistance to veterans in Southern California. NDVets currently operates eight permanent supportive housing facilities, with six additional properties scheduled to be completed and filled by the end of 2020.

We also run the nation’s first transitional housing for veterans that returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Residents leave NDVets with housing, a job, savings, renewed self-confidence and a support network of mentors and peers.

A misunderstanding NDVets tackled from the get go is that housing does not fix the problem. A majority of our homeless veterans survive with lingering effects of PTSD and substance abuse. The truth is mental health and sobriety is the key to ending the homeless crisis and taking our veterans out of the vicious cycle of homelessness.

At NDVets we assess our veterans to see what their needs are and create an individualized plan to ensure they feel supported. We offer clinical services, therapy sessions, and neurofeedback support. We provide the life skills and money management classes necessary for them to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

As you can imagine, we are now going through difficult times. The pandemic has impacted us and our veterans in a variety of ways, putting a strain on our organization whilst creating new challenges to tackle. Veterans feel more isolated, their mental health is declining and we fear the worst.  We’ve had to create a safe environment for our case and frontline workers, slow down the moving of veterans into available apartments, and are now  struggling with unbudgeted expenses such as hiring temporary workers.

While we partly rely on funding from the VA, most of our funding comes from grants and donations. Without you, we wouldn’t be here, without you, the veterans we house would be in the street.

California’s economy is one of the largest in the world, competing with that of Germany or the U.K, yet LA houses the largest population of homeless veterans in the country. That means that we can do better, we must do better.

Whether it is through volunteering, sewing masks, in-kind donations or donations, we must all think of ways we can give back to our veterans. They’ve done so much for our country, it’s time we do the same for them.

This year we will be holding two big charity events, to which you are all invited:NDVets Logo

– The 1st Annual Veteran’s Valor Golf Classic: Monday, August 17, 2020, at the exclusive Braemar Country Club in Tarzana.

The New Directions for Veterans Honoring Our Hero’s Gala 2020: Wednesday, October 21st, 2020, at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. An opportunity to honor both our veterans and those advocating for them.

The funds raised through the tournament and the Gala will be used to help continue supporting the veterans in our programs with the services that they need to become self-sufficient productive members of society once again.

We invite you to reserve your sponsorship or foursome today by contacting Dawn Zamudio, our Development Manager at (626) 627-6552 or via email at dzamudio@ndvets.org.  You can also visit our website at www.NDVets.org for more information.

Our Executive Director Leonardo Cuadrado, retired Captain,U.S. Marines Corps (USMC) likes to say “ In the Marine Corps we were always taught never leave a Marine behind both in garrison and in the combat zone, these veterans have served our nation honorably and it’s time for us as a nation not to leave any veteran behind.” Help us make America the home of the brave, help us support our nation’s heroes.

[1] National Coalition for Homeless Veterans CEO Kathryn Monet, House Hearing on Homeless Veterans and COVID-19 Pandemic, April 28, 2020.

USO Supports Service Members During Military Appreciation Month

LinkedIn
USO members and servicemembers stand on the dock in front of Red Cross Ship

May kicks off Military Appreciation Month, and the USO will continue its mission delivery to the military and their families. The USO has been on the front lines providing for the emergent needs of the Armed Forces during the COVID-19 pandemic. The USO’s mission of strengthening service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country is more critical than ever before.

The USO has proudly provided support to almost 150,000 service men and women and their families in just six weeks throughout the Western States through virtual programming, front-line support and distanced programming to quarantined isolated service members and family.

The USO has quickly mobilized to transition to military virtual programming including story-time for families, fun classes for kids, health and wellness for spouses and service members, and live engagements with celebrities and athletes. During the month of May service members in Alaska, California, Arizona and globally will have engagement with leading entertainers and celebrities including Eli Manning, Ciara, Trace Adkins, Ne-Yo, Sarah Silverman, Craig Robinson and more.

The USO during COVID – 19 has activated its small team to facilitate:

  • Weekly deliveries to essential military personnel throughout the region of supplies of food and toiletries
  • Care package deliveries to quarantined military, including units returning from deployment
  • Morale boosting and meal deliveries to National Guardsmen volunteering at local food banks, field hospitals and in the community
  • Providing support to the USNS Mercy docked at the Port of Los Angeles with morale boosting activities and meal donations

During Military Appreciation Month activities are increasing, upcoming USO support events throughout the West Coast include:

  • USO Alaska:
    • May 8: Eielson AFB is hosting a spouse spa bag and USO mask give away to celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Visit Alaska.USO.org to donate and learn more about coming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 59,978
  • USO Arizona: 
    • May 9: MilSpouse Appreciation Luncheon Serving 150 with lunch and spa bags at Davis-Monthan AFB. Visit Arizona.USO.org to donate and learn more about coming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 54,443
  • Bob Hope USO: 
    • May 13, 20 and 27: Weekly Wednesday Lunch for USNS Mercy serving local eats to the Sailors and Marines providing ground support and security for the USNS Mercy
    • May 20: LAAFB Spouse Appreciation Event hosting virtual event for spouse appreciation month complete with grab bags and entertainment. Visit BobHope.USO.org to donate and learn more about upcoming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 13,937
  • USO Nevada: 
    • May 8 and 15: May Lunch on the USO and Dinner on the USO which is intended for families at Creech and Nellis Air Force Bases.  Visit Nevada.USO.org to donate and learn more about upcoming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 11,178
  • Northern California: 
    • May 12: Providing over 900 military medical staff at David Grant Hospital at Travis AFB with sweet treats in honor of Nurses Appreciation Week and their support during COVID-19
    • May 15: Distributing Spouse Appreciation kits to over 200 military spouses at Beale and Travis Air Force Bases. Visit NorthernCalifornia.USO.org to donate and learn more about upcoming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #s to date: 4,600
  • USO San Diego: 
    • May 8: Military Spouse Appreciation Day Take the Night Off Dinner Kits and Swag Bag Giveaway  at USO Liberty Station and USO Camp Pendleton
    • May 16: Armed Forces Day USO and San Diego Padres Mobile Drive-Through Food Distribution at Petco Park. Visit SanDiego.USO.org to donate and learn more about coming events.
    • COVID – 19 impact #’s to date: 26,840

To learn more about USO West’s COVID-19 response, upcoming donations, Military Appreciation Month Activations and more visit BobHope.USO.org.

About the USO:
The USO strengthens America’s military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country, throughout their service to the nation. At hundreds of locations worldwide, we are united in our commitment to connect our service members and their families through countless acts of caring, comfort and support. The USO is a private nonprofit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and entertainment tours are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff. To join us in this important mission, and to learn more about the USO, visit USO.org or at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Empowering Veterans to Address Mental Health Challenges

LinkedIn
America's Warrior Partnership Operation Deep Dive-team members stand together in front of poster board for support group

By Jim Lorraine, President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while veterans and their families are leaders in navigating stressful situations, there are times when they can use some help to overcome a challenge. Whether the severity of a mental health issue ranges from mild to critical, there are programs and services tailored to help veterans navigate their unique situation.

During times like this, it is important to connect with resources that are available to help.

Accessing Mental Health Support

First and foremost, as I have, you should memorize the number to the Veterans Crisis Line. Any veteran who is experiencing an urgent crisis should call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, or text 838255. The Veteran’s Crisis Line enables veterans to reach caring and qualified responders with the Department of Veterans Affairs. These counselors can help veterans who may be feeling anxious, lonely, or are thinking about suicide. Veterans in crisis or need of help can reach out to the hotline for connection and immediate support.

For situations that are less urgent but no less severe, there are physical and virtual resources that veterans may be able to use. For example, in your community, there could be a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, Community Based Outpatient Clinic, or Vet Center. In addition to these programs, there are community behavioral health and health centers that can address many less urgent stressors. A great point of contact in the local community would be your local County Veteran Service Officer. They likely know of local resources and can facilitate your connection. Lastly, you may seek peer support from local Veteran Serving Organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Team Red, White, and Blue, or the American Legion.  However, if you are unable to navigate your community resources, you can contact the America’s Warrior Partnership Network, who will reliably connect veterans with a service provider from outside of their community, such as Vets4Warriors or the Cohen Veterans Network that specialize in peer and mental health support.

Advocating for New Resources and Programs

In addition to raising awareness of existing resources, one of the most important things that veterans can do this month – and throughout the rest of the year – is to advocate for new policies that will better support their brothers- and sisters-in-arms who live with a mental illness. One of the most cutting-edge pieces of legislation is Senate Bill 785, also called Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019. This bill unanimously passed the Senate and is one of the most significant pieces of legislation to improve mental health and end veteran suicide. We strongly encourage a bipartisan and bicameral approach to make this bill law.

Advocacy is especially critical in the national fight to reduce suicide and self-harm among veterans. One of the initiatives contributing to this effort is Operation Deep Dive, a four-year study currently being conducted by America’s Warrior Partnership and researchers from The University of Alabama with support from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. The project is examining community risk factors involved in suicide and non-natural deaths among veterans in 14 communities across the country. By the study’s completion, researchers will develop a methodology that any community can implement to identify the unique risk factors of suicide among their local veterans and then address those factors through a customized support program.

As part of this study, Operation Deep Dive researchers are currently interviewing individuals who have either lost a loved one, friend, or acquaintance who was a veteran to suicide or a non-natural cause of death. These interviews will enable researchers to examine how a veteran was engaged within their community before their death, and more importantly, what can be done to better support veterans in the future.

To participate in an interview, individuals must be 18 or older and live within one of the 14 communities where Operation Deep Dive is taking place (the veteran must also have lived in that same community before their death). More information about the interviews and details on how to participate are available online.

By advocating for new policies and supporting essential programs, veterans can ensure their fellow service members who struggle with mental health challenges can build the quality of life that they have earned through their service.

About the Author

Jim Lorraine is President and CEO of America’s Warrior Partnership, a national nonprofit that empowers communities to empower veterans. The organization’s mission starts with connecting community groups with local veterans to understand their unique situations. With this knowledge in mind, America’s Warrior Partnership connects local groups with the appropriate resources to proactively and holistically support veterans at every stage of their lives. Learn more about the organization at AmericasWarriorPartnership.org.

Meet the Two Veterans Leading the First Mission Back to Space

LinkedIn
Colonels Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley crossing their arms in front of the Dragon spacecraft

In 2011, Marine Colonel Doug Hurley served as the pilot of the last U.S. space shuttle mission aboard the Atlantis. Upon their arrival, the United States has since used Russian rockets to send astronauts into the cosmos. But nearly ten years later, this is all about to change.

On April 17, NASA announced the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft, the first manned space vehicle to launch from U.S. soil since the Atlantis’ return. The mission will be commanded under Hurley alongside Air Force Colonel and Endeavour veteran Bob Behnken. The Shuttle is set to launch tentatively on May 27 and will be taking off from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida.

The two men have had their fair share of space time, both having gone to space at least two times. Behnken was aboard the Endeavour in 2008 and 2010, while Hurley served on the Endeavour in 2009 and the Atlantis in 2011. Being no stranger to the stars, the two men have been assigned the roles of joint commanders on the mission, with Hurley serving as the craft’s commander, responsible for the launch and landing of the rocket, while Behnken will be in charge of rendezvous and the docking and undocking of the vehicle at the space station.

Should the launch commence on May 27, as planned, this would also be the first time in history that NASA used a privately owned and operated spacecraft to send astronauts into orbit. The Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft are currently owned and operated by SpaceX, created by Elon Musk.

The May 27th mission, though monumental, is not the only plan for a U.S. vehicle to be launched from U.S. soil. NASA announced it is currently in a partnership with Boeing to create another manned space vehicle. However, this project was put on hold due to the setbacks Boeing suffered from the Starliner space craft.

How Wells Fargo is Prioritizing Veterans

LinkedIn
An American Soldier with his wife and young son, smiling for the camera

By Natalie Rodgers

In 2012, Wells Fargo and Company founded its Military Affairs Program, with the goal to connect with current and past military personnel and their families, and provide them with the proper resources to succeed in their day-to-day lives.

Through this program, Wells Fargo has repeatedly reported the importance of connecting and understanding the concerns of our troops to better serve their needs. This past week, Wells Fargo has gone the extra mile in improving its program by hiring a new head of military talent external recruiting and enterprise military and veteran initiatives—Sean Passmore—who will also oversee the Military Affairs Program. Passmore will officially take this title on May 11, 2020.

Passmore’s resume could not be more impressive. He served in the U.S. Army for over 22 years and has an extensive background in helping military veterans to transition from the battlefield to the workforce. Enforcing Wells Fargo’s desire to better connect and understand its military clients, Passmore’s experiences will help to better cater the program to the needs of its participants.

Passmore has also worked as the executive vice president of strategic initiatives and military affairs for the Perfect Technician Academy (PTA) and as the military hiring advisor for United Services Automobile Association (USAA). In these positions, he became an expert in the recruitment and hiring of military personnel into the workforce. Passmore also served at the White House as a senior presidential officer.

“Sean comes to Wells Fargo with exceptional experience,” Indirhia Arrington, Wells Fargo’s head of Targeting Sourcing and Passmore’s point of report, said. “Sean will be a tremendous asset overseeing this program and building a stronger relationship with the military community at large on behalf of the company.”

To learn more about Wells Fargo’s Military Affairs Program, visit wellsfargo.com/military.

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans