Military Construction (MILCON) Summit

Join us at Fort Hood in April 2017!

Bringing skilled transitioning Soldiers and Construction Industry professionals together.

ABOUT MILCON

Military and construction industry experts will come together to highlight upcoming reductions in force, major issues impacting soldier transition into the construction industry, as well as provide direct networking opportunities for soldiers and construction professionals.

Organizations Speaking at MILCON

NextOp Veterans Jobs in Houston

NEXTOP, INC.

NextOp recruits, trains, and places high-performing middle-enlisted military leaders into Industry careers.

NextOp provides companies with world-class, skilled candidates and coaches them on how to be effective employees. Our mentors work with each transitioning veteran to adjust to their new roles and cultivate the necessary skills to excel in field work, increasing satisfaction and reducing turnover for these positions. We serve those who have served so many—our hardworking veterans.

Speaker and Presentation

John Boerstler, Executive Director

NextOp Process  NextOp Process »


Veterans in Construction

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

ABC is a national construction industry trade association representing more than 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 70 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. ABC’s membership represents all specialties within the U.S. construction industry and is comprised primarily of firms that perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors.

Speaker and Presentation

Mike Glavin, ABC Workforce Policy Director

Construction Industry Workforce Data Construction Industry Workforce Data »


NCCER

The National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER)

NCCER is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) education foundation created in 1996 as The National Center for Construction Education and Research. It was developed with the support of more than 125 construction CEOs and various association and academic leaders who united to revolutionize training for the construction industry. Sharing the common goal of developing a safe and productive workforce, these companies created a standardized training and credentialing program for the industry.

Speaker and Presentation

Mark Thomas, NCCER- NCCER Construction Credentialing Programs for Engineering Soldiers & Officers


The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME)

The Society of American Military Engineers leads collaborative efforts to identify and resolve national security infrastructure-related challenges. Founded in 1920, SAME unites public and private sector individuals and organizations from across the architecture, engineering, construction, environmental and facility management, cyber security, project planning, contracting and acquisition, and related disciplines in support of national security.

Speaker and Presentation

Joe Schondrel, Executive Director SAME- Society of American Military Engineers

MSG Jason Parlor, US Army School of Engineering- NCCER Construction Credentialing Programs for Engineering Soldiers & Officers


The Soldier for Life- Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) Fort Hood, TX

The Soldier for Life — Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) is a centrally funded commanders program that provides transition assistance services to eligible Soldiers. Public Law is the foundation of the Transition Assistance Program initiative, along with DOD and Army policy.   SFL-TAP supports the Army’s Active Component recruiting effort by producing successful alumni. Those who are capable of translating Army skills, training, and experience into rewarding careers are living billboards promoting the Army as a great place to start.

Speaker and Presentation

LTC Jon Sowards, Soldier for Life Central Region Director

Permissive TDY Policies and Soldier Life Cycle  ARMY 101 »

Martin Traylor, Fort Hood SFL-TAP Transition Services Manager

Transition Assistance Program Transition Assistance Program »


Did you miss MILCON?

Don’t worry you can still register with NextOp

We will help you with your veteran hiring needs

Date and Time
Thu Apr 20, 2017
7:30 AM – 7:30 PM CDT
Fri. Apr 21, 2017
7:30 AM – 11:30 AM CDT
Location
Texas A&M University Central
Warrior Hall, Multipurpose Room
1001 Leadership Place Killeen, TX 76549
Parking Map
Military Construction
TAMU MILCON Parking Map

NextOp Placements since 2015

MILCON PROUD SPONSORS

Title Sponsor

AECOM is a global network of experts working with clients, communities and colleagues to develop and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most complex challenges. Delivering clean water and energy. Building iconic skyscrapers. Planning new cities. Restoring damaged environments. Connecting people and economies with roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems. Designing parks where children play. Helping governments maintain stability and security.

Installation Sponsor

Veterans in Construction

PCL Industrial Construction Co. is a diversified heavy industrial contractor, based in Atlanta, Georgia, and Houston, Texas, with extensive experience in the power, oil, gas, chemical, cement/aggregates, mining/minerals, and pulp and paper industries. An expansive project portfolio consists of work throughout the United States.

Soldier Social Sponsors

Turner Industries Veteran Friendly Employer
KBR Veteran Friendly Employer

Corps Sponsors

Performance Contractors Veteran Friendly Employer
Webber Veteran Friendly Employer
Jacobs Veteran Friendly Employer
Brock Group Veteran Friendly Employer

Been There, Done That: The Benefits of Mentorship

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During your time in the service, you were trained to lead. In the office or in the field,  you know leadership involves taking your junior service members to the side whether in a group or individually and teaching them the ropes.

You mentored them; you taught them how to think and take care of others, you gave them the tools necessary to succeed.

Your enthusiasm and knowledge made them the leaders they are today.

Now that many service members are transitioning, they need your guidance again. 

Remember how you felt when you made that decision to transition. 

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

—Benjamin Franklin

If you have an interest in becoming a mentor, register today!.


Mission Accomplished: The 300

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This year, NextOp Veterans had a goal; it was to have 300 veterans and transitioning military hired in the construction, healthcare, and energy industries by the end of 2016. 

We reached that goal on October 31st and to date NextOp has placed over 450 Veterans since March 2015.

NextOp’s impact on the local economy is over $25 million based on the first year earnings of 456 successfully placed veterans.

We wouldn’t be able to reach this goal without the support of our Corporate Partners and our Top Contributors. Without your contributions and support, we wouldn’t be able to successfully serve those who served.

Our Top Contributors and Supporters:

The William Stamps Farish Fund

Chevron Phillips Chem Co LP

Vaughn Construction Community Foundation

Strake Foundation

Herzstein Charitable Foundation

KBR

Adaptive Construction Solutions

Harris Health

Bechtel

Consolidated Infrastructure Group

Marek

Performance Contractors

Schulte Building Systems

Shell

Schlumberger

Cajun

Texas Medical Center TMC

Fort Polk

Fort Sam Houston

Fort Hood

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Texas Medical Center Hosted a Veterans Breakfast

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The Texas Medical Center (TMC) hosted a Veterans Breakfast honoring veterans in all branches who recently joined their organizations.

Some of the organizations represented at the luncheon today: Baylor College of Medicine, CHI-St Luke’s Health, Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Medical Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, and Houston Methodist.

Today’s keynote speaker was retired Army Major Marvetta M. Walker. She is working as the Clinical Administrative Director at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Her speech was very inspirational, full of great advice to veterans seeking opportunities within the Texas Medical Center.
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The ceremony also included a Challenge Coin Ceremony.  Veterans who joined one of the organizations at TMC received a coin welcoming them to the organization.

This event is just another example of why Houston is the best place to transition in after the military.

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Greater Houston Partnership presents Houston No Limits Football & Freedom Movie Night

Please read below for a great event hosted by one of NextOp’s Corporate Partners.

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Company: Greater Houston Partnership

Location: Houston , TX

Event: Houston No Limits Football & Freedom Movie Night

Event Date: 11/11/2016

 

Event Description: 

Date: Friday, November 11th (Veteran’s Day)
Time: 6:00pm – 9:15pm (Movie begins at 7:05pm)
Location: Discovery Green, 
1500 McKinney St, Houston, Texas 77010

Movie: The Blindside


Full Description: Join #TeamHouston under the stars for a celebration of two of Houston’s favorite things: Football and Freedom! The Greater Houston Partnership and the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee will tip their hats to local veterans and jump into Houston’s fifth season, football season, with a screening of football fan favorite film – The Blindside.

Come out for an evening of fun with photo opportunities with Houston Texans Cheerleaders, food and beverages for sale, raffle prizes, Super Bowl Host Committee and #TeamHouston giveaways and more!

Blankets, lawn chair and picnics are welcome. No glass containers or outside alcoholic beverages. Share your experience using #TeamHouston and #CityWithNoLimits.

Please RSVP to Lindsey Peters at lpeters@houston.org

For more info, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1198330933561539/ or email  lpeters@houston.org


Veterans ‘drilled’ for oil and gas: Insight on Schlumberger’s Industry Day

NextOp Veterans partnered up with Schlumberger for Industry Day, held at the company’s Sugar Land Technology Centers on Oct. 21.

The day was filled with informative sessions where veterans learned about the oil and gas industry, and how to enter the industry.

Veterans toured the rigs, received personalized resume coaching, and interview coaching by Schlumberger’s human resource professionals.

Schlumberger is one of the world’s largest oil field services company, with offices in Paris, Houston, London, and more. According to the Houston Business Journal, the company plans to move their National Headquarters to Sugarland. The anticipated completion date for the new headquarters is 2019.

The company is Houston’s third largest public company based on the Houston Business Journal’s research.

If you missed the last Industry Day, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the next Industry Day, and be sure to register with us for career placement assistance, mentorship, and career guidance.

 

 

 

 


Construction companies meet with soldiers on Fort Polk Industry Day

fort-polk-industry-day

On August 3, fifteen different construction companies gathered at Fort Polk, La. to speak about their experiences making the transition from military service into the construction sector.

Companies representing on the industrial construction side included Bechtel, CB&I, KBR, Jacobs Engineering, Cajun Industries, Performance Contractors, Turner Industries, UPS Industrial Services, along with Marek and Adaptive Construction Solutions, which trains soldiers to become NCCER-accredited ironworkers on the commercial construction side.

Cheniere was the only owner-company in attendance, since their partnership with Bechtel to establish an innovative welding program at Fort Polk has enjoyed so much success in transitioning soldiers to craft industrial workers.

All of these companies serve on the Construction Industry Advisory Board for NextOp, a Houston-based organization that helps recruit, train, and place high-performing middle-enlisted leaders into the energy and construction sectors in the Gulf Coast region.

The board meets quarterly to discuss ideas on how to pipeline more military into the construction sector, how to help positively impact military credentialing policy by partnering with SAME, and to have a better awareness of what opportunities and projects are coming together for each partner. It’s not a competitive atmosphere but one of collaboration as all companies are united in the mission to recruit more veterans into the industry.

Fort Hood will be the group’s next target as one of the largest bases in the world that boasts the largest population of transitioning soldiers – over sixteen thousand a year – and home to six Army Engineering Battalions.

Fort Hood transitions 250 soldiers per week on average and many do not know how much potential exists in transitioning to a career in construction. NextOp’s job is to help educate these soldiers by engaging them on base via job fairs, employer briefings, and by coordinating industry visits with the transition assistance program leadership.

NextOp doesn’t want the industry or your company to hire veterans because you think it’s the “right” thing to do. We want you to hire veterans because it makes your jobsites more productive, safe, and team-oriented. Together we will all help build a better future by pipelining more military talent into our industry.

If you’d like to get involved with NextOp’s Construction Advisory Board or participate in an upcoming industry day or job fair, please email them at info@nextopvets.org or go online to register as a Corporate Partner by logging onto www.nextopvets.org.


Three Resume Tips From a Recruiter

Photo source: www.flazingo.com/creativecommons
Photo source: Flazingo Photos

When it comes to applying for jobs, the first impressions are not usually in person, but on paper.

And by that, we mean resumes. The resume is what employers look over before deciding to pick up the phone and make the call to set up an interview.

But what makes an employer pass on a possible candidate?

It’s not just grammar and spelling errors. There are other blunders that a human resource specialist will catch and place your resume on the “pass” pile.

Thus, here are three types of common errors many applicants make, and you must avoid:

  1.     Responsibilities vs. Results.

When inputting your job descriptions, it’s easy to put in your duties at your previous places of employment.

“Was responsible with sensitive information.”

“Was in charge of logistics.”

“Took care of twelve Marines/Sailors/Airmen/Soldiers/Coasties.”

Which is great, don’t get us wrong. And of course, the more responsibility you’re given, the more your higher-ups trust you.

However, what kind of results did you produced from those responsibilities?

Charles Dominick, president, founder and chief procurement officer of Next Level Purchasing, said there are four key words that must be used in your resume: increased, saved, reduced, or improved.

“Use them often because they indicate what you achieved, not merely what tasks were assigned to you,” Dominick said.

One method you can use and guide you is the PAR Method.

PAR stands for, “Problem, Action, and Results.”

As for how to put it down on the resume, you can always go backward.

“Increased productivity by 12 percent by hiring two more employees to the staff.

“Saved the company $12,000 by negotiating a new contract.”screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-4-14-05-pm

A good example of this is provided by Portland Community College, which you can find here.

Action words are also the key. If you need help on which words to use, Quintessential Careers has you covered here.

  1.     Relevance.

Now, just because you applied for a position in the energy, construction, or healthcare industry, doesn’t mean you add lifeguard duty or your time as a shoes salesman.

Instead, you should only add experiences relevant to the position you’re pursuing.

For example, if you were a corpsman in the Navy and you’re applying for a unit coordinator position in the Hermann Memorial hospital system, you want to tell the recruiter about your experience with patients. If you are certified in CPR or a licensed radiological technologist, you list it on your resume.

  1.     Keep your resume to ONE (1) page.

As we mentioned in the previous blunder, you only put down experiences, skills, etc. relevant to the position you’re applying for.

With that being said, be specific, but don’t be too detailed.

As we learned in the military, keep it short, straight and to the point.

You don’t want to lose the recruiter’s attention, and you don’t want them to pass you up. So keep these blunders in mind to avoid when you create or correct your resume.

If you are a veteran in need of help with your resume, career placement, and transitioning into the civilian world, register with NextOp Vets today.


Combined Arms: Comparing Danish and American Military Transition Systems

John W. Boerstler

The War in Afghanistan has claimed many casualties for NATO ISAF forces, the majority coming from the United States and United Kingdom.  However, several smaller NATO member states have made significant troop contributions since the beginning of the mission.  The Kingdom of Denmark is one of these important partners, having contributed over 3,500 troops working in combat arms roles such as infantry, armor, engineers, medical support, and others that have been critical in engaging Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in some of the most treacherous regions like Helmand and Kandahar.  After preliminary research into the Danish participation in the Global War on Terror by engaging experts in Washington, DC, our Project Team discovered that the Danes have suffered the highest number of combat casualties per capita when compared to their fellow NATO troop contributors, according to the think tank Cooperation and Conflict.  Further research showed that the Danish soldiers who had served in Afghanistan are suffering from significantly lower levels of unemployment, homelessness, and suicide when compared to their American counterparts, according to studies conducted by Europe PubMed Central.  This information encouraged our team to conduct a comparative analysis of US and Danish military transition systems, with the support of the German Marshall Fund, Veterans Support Foundation, McKesson Foundation, and several NGO’s in Houston, Texas that will be mentioned later in this report.

Our goals were to learn more about the civilian reintegration process for Afghanistan veterans in Denmark and compare that to how American troops return to civilian life in Houston, Texas in an effort to learn from the Danish military transition system and apply lessons to improve our own comparable model at the community level.  Although 5,177 miles separate Houston and Denmark, the two share several important traits that made it easier to link instead of comparing the entire American system with that of Denmark, which is obviously much smaller and would produce skewed results.  For example, Denmark has an approximate population of 5.6 million people.  In comparison, the Greater Houston Area has approximately 6.2 million, which makes it easier to evaluate the community-based services offered for veterans living in both systems.  In contrast, Houston has a higher Afghanistan War veteran population, numbering around 10,000, according to the US Department of Affairs VetPop data by county, whereas Denmark has approximately 3,500 who have served in the same conflict. Despite the differences between the two, it’s much easier for our team to use Houston as a basis of comparison because of the overall population similarity and the fact that we have significant experience operating in the arena of military transition programming.  Because this project is only a cursory comparison of the two systems, our research methods were a combination of evaluating academic articles and conducting expert interviews in Houston, Ringsted, Slagelse, and Copenhagen.  Several assumptions were made about the major cultural differences between the Houston and Denmark that should be addressed before continuing to the findings.  Denmark has a substantial social welfare system that provides health care to its citizens, which soldiers have access to after leaving the military. Denmark also has a much more homogenous population whereas Houston is now the most diverse city in the US.  These assumptions were important to our team to address up-front and consider throughout the examination in order to focus on what programs we could have an impact on back home that fit within our system.

Danish Veteran CentreOne of the major takeaways from interviewing experts in Denmark was that they established the VeteranCentret or Danish Veteran Centre in 2011, which serves as the Ministry of Defense’s formal military transition hub (pictured left).  Through the Danish Veterans Center, transitioning soldiers can receive mental health treatment, employment and reintegration case management services, legal help, assistance in navigating the complex system of military benefits, and enrollment in the health care system. The Center’s extensive network of community-based locations (shown below) allows transitioning veterans access to services close to home. Although Houston has one of the most well-connected and collaborative informal networks of governmental entities and NGO’s serving the transitioning military population, we do not have a central hub for transitioning service members to seek these types of services.  The closest thing we have is the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center’s Post Deployment Clinic which focuses on enrolling returning veterans in the Veterans Health Administration for medical and mental health treatment but does not provide ancillary services related to employment, legal, and benefits assistance.

LocationsThe Danish Veterans Center is commanded by Army Colonel Jette Albinus and her staff consisting of both military and civilian professionals serving in various roles throughout the country.  Her mission is to execute the Danish Veterans Policy.  The Veterans Policy outlines many programs for the government to institute in response to the high number of combat veterans returning from Afghanistan but the program also serves all generations of veterans since Denmark has a substantial population who served in the Balkans.  The Danish Veterans Policy was developed in 2010 by the former Minister of Defence led by Gitte Lillehund Bech (pictured below) who our project team also met with.  In addition to providing all of the services referred to earlier, Colonel Albinus (pictured left) has direction to meet with and coordinate between the many important NGO’s that serve Danish veterans – a massive task in itself.  Her goal is to host an annual conference including the leadership from each NGO and to also visit these leaders in-person at least twice per year at their headquarters.  Her focus is on prevention of the issues that negatively impact a veteran’s transition.  Needless to say, after a 3 hour briefing by Colonel Albinus’ staff, our team was convinced that the Veterans Center concept is what Houston needs to better connect the multitude of programs and services offered by government and NGO’s in order to ensure we coordinate our efforts more successfully.  However, one of the key differences and challenges to overcome in Houston will be that the role of central coordinator between government and NGO programs is not designated through any equivalent, unifying veteran policy comparable to that of Denmark. Conceivably, without such a role outlined in policy, identifying, engaging, and holding these programs accountable could pose major challenges unless all those in the region opt-in to such an effort.

Our trip ended with a visit with the former US Ambassador to Denmark, Laurie Fulton, to gain her perspective on the lessons we were taking away from the experience.  Ambassador Fulton (pictured below from L-R: John Boerstler, Ambassador Fulton, Melanie Whittaker, and Peter Ernstved) took specific interest in what we are trying to build at the community level in Houston and has graciously introduced our project team to Consul Anna Holliday whom we plan to meet with in July in order to engage the The TeamDanish-American Chamber of Commerce in our planning.  We are proud to report that several key leaders within the Houston veteran community have begun meeting to outline a formal coalition of NGO’s and governmental entities in order to form a more collaborative network of services and to establish a central transition space similar to the Danish Veterans Center where all service members returning to the area will have an opportunity to meet with every type of program offered.  We hope that this effort will strengthen existing relationships, create new ones, and most importantly focus on preventing veteran unemployment, substance abuse, family challenges, homelessness, criminal behavior, and suicide.

From the many interviews our project team conducted with Danish veteran experts, several additional action items were identified that we can recommend for changes at the policy level in the US military transition systems.

Recommendation 1: Standardize Military Credentialing at the Federal Level

One of the largest gaps in translating military skills and experience to that of the civilian world is credentialing and licensing of various skilled and vocational trades.  For example, an Army electrician who has served in that role for 4 years does not come out of the military with a certification that is equivalent in most civilian systems.  Although efforts are currently being made by the Department of Defense, the American Legion, National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) and private companies like Bechtel, a standardized, uniform national system that translates military vocational skills into civilian credentials is critically needed.  The Danish HKKF (Privates and Corporals Trade Union) is light years ahead of this problem after they took the European Union (EU) Center for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop) skilled trade standardization guide and applied it to all of the Danish military occupational specialties and career fields in order to ensure transitioning soldiers have the credentials to work in the civilian sector upon discharge.  This program greatly impacts the soldiers’ successful transition from military to civilian life and is a model that our country should adopt in order to breakdown these barriers to employment.  It is our hope that the leader of the HKKF, Flemming Vinther, will be invited to participate as a panelist at the 2016 Military Credentialing Summit hosted by the American Legion in order to help make the necessary changes. Our team will try to facilitate his participation to further the Trans-Atlantic exchange of best practices in this field.

Recommendation 2: Evaluate the US Military Psychology and Chaplain Corps

Combat stress and symptoms related to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury affect over 2,000 soldiers in Denmark.  As a result, the Danish military has bolstered its mental health programming in order to prevent chronic cases from developing.  6 military psychologists and several chaplains are assigned to each battalion 6 months prior to deployment to Afghanistan where they remain with the troops scheduling regular appointments during the campaign and staying with them upon return.  This is an extremely conscious and effective continuum of care provided to the soldiers that the US doesn’t have.  Another stark difference is that the Danish psychologists and chaplains are not rank-holding officers as they are in the US, instead they are professional civilian defense employees.  This has several advantages that our team determined.  For example, soldiers experiencing symptoms related to combat stress are much more apt to speak with someone they don’t have to address as “sir” or “ma’am”.  In this model, chain of command and military customs and courtesies are immediately taken out of the equation, which allows soldiers to open up more about their experience.  This undoubtedly has a positive impact on their overall transition and hopefully experience less chronic combat stress issues. Additionally, this consistent “embedding” of the same non-rank-holding clinicians allows for better identification, treatment, and addressing of pre-existing mental health issues among the troops prior to experiencing stressful situations in combat. The Department of Defense should consider changing to a similar model in preparation for future conflicts. Such a change would be consistent with the DoD’s goal of ending the stigma associated with seeking mental health services among those currently serving in the military.

Recommendation 3: Develop Regional Coalitions

Many experts advocate for a more community-based approach to helping veterans make a successful transition from military to civilian life.  The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently launched the Veterans Economic Communities Initiative (VECI), a community-based program focused on coordinating employment and education programs, which is an indicator that the federal government sees the value in a more local approach.  For example, the European Union has developed a formal coalition of NGO’s and government services led by an supranational organization called EuroMil.  In Denmark a national model has been adopted and because of their tradition in providing a much more comprehensive social welfare state, the MoD-led initiatives work as a supplement to the existing services, not as a parallel like the VA system.  Because the VA will likely never possess the ability to provide leadership in coordinating services at the community level, the need to develop formal networks or coalitions between governmental, private, and nonprofit entities is now greater than ever with the military’s reductions in force.  Hundreds of thousands of service members will return to communities across the country armed with very few relevant resources provided by the DoD transition system and it will be the responsibility of these community coalitions to ensure service members reintegrate successfully.  Regionalized planning and service delivery with a focus on prevention should be the goal of these networks similar to the Danish Veterans Center model. And perhaps, over time, the local, regionalized approach would allow the VA to slowly shrink the scope and size of the duplicative (separate) services they offer directly, allowing the core of what they offer to be effectively supplemented or complemented by those service providers they coordinate with.

Recommendation 4: Individualization of transition services

One major difference highlighted in our team’s interviews of Danish experts is the conscious effort on the part of the Danes to individualize their services for serving and transitioning military members. For example, by embedding psychologists with units before, during, and after deployments, those mental health professionals are able to establish a personal rapport with nearly every service-member in the unit. Also, when it comes to interviewing members transitioning out of the military, this is done on a multi-visit, one-on-one basis so that an in-depth analysis of what each individual service-member’s training and job responsibilities entailed. This is done with a realization that, beyond a basic understanding of what each broad military occupation involves, the skills and qualifications gained by the individual soldier can vary greatly depending on their particular unit or deployment experiences. As much as is practicable, the US DoD should also individualize the services it offers to transitioning military members. We realize this will be extremely challenging for our military, given the massive size of our force, but the current “one-size-fits-all” approach taken by DoD in most of the current programs has shown how a failure to individualize can allow large numbers of military member to effectively fall through the system’s cracks.

The Danes have developed several strong programs that Houston can learn from and even implement. However, we have to acknowledge the differences that exist between the two societies and apply only those lessons that fit within the existing culture and infrastructure.  That being said, more research is needed to uncover more innovative ways we can learn from one another, so this project will not stop with this report.  Both systems have room for improvement but its important to step outside of one’s own area of operations and see how our allies approach similar problems related to military transition.  The allure of “reinventing the wheel” is almost a regular occurrence within the DoD, VA, and community-based NGO’s but if we can effectively collaborate as a coalition of service providers focused on local impact and individualized services rather than redundancy, we will be able to effectively prevent more veteran unemployment, substance abuse, family challenges, homelessness, criminal behavior, and suicide.  We all have a stake in the successful transition of military veterans into our communities.  Now is the time to take ownership.

Interviewees:

Gitte Lillehund Bech, Former Minister of Defence, CEO of Danish Ports

Jette Albinus, Colonel, Danish Army, Director of the Danish Veterans Centre

Flemming Vinter, Danish HKKF Director

Kristian Madsen, Politiken US Correspondent

Peter Ernstved, GMF Denmark Coordinator

Peter Serup, Major, Danish Army, Veterans Centre

Rene Pamperin, VeteranHaven Director

Lai Sorensen, Danish Afghanistan Veteran

Nicklas Bjaaland, Lieutenant, Danish Army Sports Program

Rune Oland Larsen, Danish Paralympic Committee Veterans Program

John Roberts, Wounded Warrior Project Executive Vice President

James Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Warrior Care Policy

Jennifer Perez, VA National Director for Transition and Care Management

Peggy Kennedy, VA Transition and Care Management Program

Dr. Stephen Hunt, VA Post Deployment Program

Dr. Drew Helmer, VA National War Related Illness Center Director

Lauren Lobrano, Wounded Warrior Project International Programs Director

Thorin Moser, Marine For Life Program

Sean Mahoney, zero8hundred Executive Director

Special Thanks To:

Kevin Cottrell, GMF Transatlantic Leadership Initiatives Director

Melanie Whittaker, GMF Program Officer

Kristian Madsen, Politiken US Correspondent

Lai Sorensen, Danish Afghanistan Veteran

Made Possible By:

German Marshall Fund | McKesson Foundation | Veterans Support Foundation

Lone Star Veterans Association | NextOp


Combined Arms: Comparing British and American Military Transition Systems

John W. Boerstler, Nathan L. Cook, and Matthew J. Frederick

Executive Summary

The United States and United Kingdom have both endured the most casualties in the Global War on Terror, specifically in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  As the first and second largest troop contributors to these conflicts, both countries have developed extensive programs to facilitate a successful transition for service members from military to civilian life with varying degrees of success.  The purpose of this study is to conduct a comparative analysis between the military transition and resettlement systems in the United States and United Kingdom.  This informal overview details the project team’s experience meeting with experts in the UK to draw comparisons between the two systems and identify new and innovative ways to more effectively serve returning veterans in both countries.

Our project team is Houston-based and focused on the delivery of services for our generation – Post 9/11 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.  All three of our project team members are Marshall Fellows, the flagship program of the German Marshall Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank dedicated to improving transatlantic relations.  We are all also Iraq War veterans who live and work in the Houston area.  We have all held leadership positions in the Lone Star Veterans Association (LSVA), the largest network of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in Texas.  Although our full-time lines of work vary markedly from one another, we are all passionate about making Houston the best place for transitioning military families and Post 9/11 veterans.

The three of us play a leadership role in our region – one of the largest populations of veterans in the United States – and hope to implement learned concepts at the community-level.  If the project team is successful in showing how our community can improve our coordination of care for transitioning service members, we are optimistic that similar practices can be adopted by other communities across the country and perhaps even among our Allies.  More specifically, Combined Arms is the system that we are developing to unite the community to accelerate the impact of veterans on Houston using the lessons derived from our trips to the UK and Denmark, as well as other communities in the United States.  It is our hope that this project will be a meaningful exchange of ideas that may influence more innovative and effective ways to improve the military transition process and collaborate among the veteran-serving organizations.

Great Britain and the United States have enjoyed a valuable and important relationship as leaders in the international community.  As a former British colony, the United States shares many similarities with our forbearers, especially in the way our military organizations are designed.  However, our cultural, political, and social systems are markedly different, which enabled our project team to develop several important assumptions that keep these fundamental differences in mind in order to conduct an effective comparative analysis.

Definitions & Assumptions

  1. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have a much more expansive social welfare system than that of the United States.  The National Health System (NHS) will be referred to several times throughout this report, and it should be noted that the American private health insurance and provider model is significantly different from the government-run universal healthcare delivery system in Britain.  Due to different organizational structures and patient populations, it is challenging to objectively compare the NHS with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which is the largest government-run healthcare delivery system in the United States with a close second being the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Health Agency.  That being said, it is interesting when comparing the NHS to the VHA. According to the Congressional Research Service, only 27% of American military veterans access the services the Veterans Health Administration offers, and 36% of Iraq and Afghanistan or Post 9/11 veterans that this report focuses on, according to the VHA’s recent reports.  All other veterans use private health care providers, paid for by either private insurance or other governmental healthcare payers, like Medicare or Tricare.
  2. The definition of the term “veteran” is different in both countries.  A veteran in the United Kingdom is technically anyone who served one day in the Armed Forces, according to a new review conducted by Lord Ashcroft, a former member of Parliament who published the Veterans Transition Review to evaluate the British Resettlement system and define eligibility criteria for who a “veteran” is in the UK.  A veteran in the United States has many different eligibility criteria based on service term length and how a discharge is characterized.  However, to receive education, home loan, disability, or some health care benefits, a veteran is technically anyone who served at least 90 days outside of training and has an honorable discharge, although several caveats do exist in the VA’s interpretation of the term, according to a Congressional Research Service report detailing the differences.  Additionally, the US refers to those leaving the military as “transitioning service members” whereas Britain refers to them as “service leavers” – both of which will be referred to throughout this analysis.
  3. British veterans are strongly tied to their units or Regiments, both during and after their term of service.  This strong sense of community has a significant impact on networking for employment and other peer-to-peer support services that come as a natural byproduct of service during wartime.  Due to the geographical size and organizational complexity, this isn’t as practical in the US as it is in the UK.

Ministry of Defence – Resettlement & Career Transition Partnership | 27 May 2016

Combined ArmsNext the team met with Ministry of Defence Resettlement Head Colonel Andrew Deans, Struan Macdonald, and Neil Lewis (pictured below with John Boerstler (left), Matt Frederick and Nathan Cook on the far right). In a broad stroke, MoD’s program for resettlement is contracted to the Career Transition Program (CTP) and is comprehensively different than the analogous program(s) of its US counterpart, Department of Defense (DoD) .  In short, the MoD is held accountable for a positive outcome for its veterans and the successes/failures are measured, tracked and analyzed by the MoD after service members exit the service.  To further highlight the differences, the MoD conducts one resettlement/transition program for all branches of services and the vast preponderance of the work is contracted to a global manpower management firm, Right Management.  Comparatively, the DoD is held accountable for conducting an approximately week long transition class (~35 hours) as a condition to end active service and the composition/standards of those classes are different per service. Additionally, the DoD is not held accountable for employment transition outcomes.  There isn’t any information available to suggest that data is tracked, analyzed and acted upon in terms of employment of a US veteran post active service.

The latest MoD-CTP Ex-Service Personnel Employment Outcomes report shows that 83-85% (with 95% confidence) of transitioning veterans employed, defined as sixteen weeks of continuous work within 6 months of ending active service.  This team is not aware of a similar metric tracked by the DoD and the best source of comparison is to extrapolate the Department of Labor’s regularly published Employment Situation of Veterans in order to back into unemployment statistics for US veterans.  This point highlights the philosophical difference between the MoD and DoD.  A quote from Lord Ashcroft’s Veterans Transition Review states that “good transition is important for the country. Having invested heavily in the training and development of individuals over months or years, the public can expect the Forces to ensure that those individuals are in a position to be contributors to society not just during their Service career but when they leave.”  In short, a subset of the MoD mission is to facilitate a successful transition because if veteran net contribution to society is positive after active service, this can be viewed as a force multiplier for the nation.  The flip side is if the transition is a negative net contribution, then society and the veteran is pays a much higher price.  The DoD’s mission and purpose is to “…deter war and to protect the security of the nation” which doesn’t include a subordinate mission of ensuring transitional success post active service for American veterans.

The Career Transition Partnership (CTP) is a department within the for-profit entity Right Management, which is the UK division of Manpower, a global staffing, recruiting and human resources consulting firm.  CTP is contracted by the MoD to provide career transition services 24 months prior to discharge and 24 months post-discharge for anyone leaving service in the UK.  CTP staff are stationed at each military installation to deliver the pre-discharge programs and regionally based to deliver the post-discharge services.  The entire operation is tracked through one centralized customer/client relationship management (CRM) tool called “Adapt”, a key technological enabler.  Adapt is used to ensure that no service leaver falls through the gaps when making the transition from military to civilian career and allows case managers to track their progress through the resume preparation, interview skills, and networking workshops that are all provided on-post and in a community-based setting.  At first glance this program far outshines its reciprocal program in the United States – DoD Transition Assistance Program (TAP) because of the advantages of having community-based staff, a nationwide CRM platform to track transition progress and maintaining the responsibility of a service member’s successful transition 24 months prior to and following discharge.

Certainly no perfect system exists. Like many large public and private systems, the process is entirely dependent on individual commands, personalities, regions/communities capabilities and culture. However, many positive attributes exist within each system.  One certainty is that it’s much more cost effective to be proactive in a service member’s transition in order to prevent these issues from impacting their life post-military. Catching them early in the process will undoubtedly prevent future transition troubles and save the government, service member and the communities they return to significant human and financial capital.  Programs like CTP that teach service members “how to fish” as a method to empower rather than just “taking them fishing” as a method to entitle and check a box like DoD TAP are vastly different in their outputs and outcomes.  Additionally, the top-down, nationwide CRM platform enables the MoD to track data, evaluate trends, analyze failure, and improve the system whereas the DoD does not have that ability to do so.

Another positive attribute that is applied in the MoD program is the insertion of Service Resettlement Advisors (SRA’s) in the process whose sole purpose is to hold MoD, individual service members, individual commands, and the CTP staff more accountable.  The role of the SRA is functionally equivalent to a care coordinator who follows the service member throughout the 24 months leading up to discharge where they are positively handed off to one of CTP’s regionally based program managers.  The results are that fewer service members ultimately fall through cracks which mean less unemployment benefit payouts and a more successful transition overall.  It must be effective because 88% of transitioning service members are accessing the services provided despite CTP being an opt-in, or voluntary program.

Ministry of Defence – Credentialing

The MoD and DoD training budgets are both substantial but an argument can be made to increase them on the front end to save money on the back end in an effort to achieve a higher average return on investment (ROI). One of America’s post-service employment challenges is lack of civilian credentials for the same type of work post service. “The Armed Forces offer what amounts to Britain’s biggest and best apprenticeship scheme” according to Lord Ashcroft’s report. The MoD is investing in service members by “over training” them and one example that is mandated by law that soldiers must have civilian equivalent credentials in order to operate or work on-base.  For example, roles like heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, electricians, plumbers and engineers are all licensed by civilian accreditation agencies, which not only standardizes skilled military labor but also ensures that soldiers have equivalent credentials upon transition from service. This positively impacts the transition process by increasing the probability of soldiers placing directly into a civilian-equivalent career

In contrast, the DoD training command is solely focused on the skills required to complete service in the context of fighting and winning the nation’s war(s).  For example, a US Army-trained electrician does not end active service with a civilian equivalent after completing basic and advanced training in the trade and gaining significant work experience in the field over the course of 4, 8, or even 20 years in some cases.  Because of this, the electrician (or any applicable trade craft) is forced to use their federal education benefits (GI Bill) to go through repetitive training coursework at a community college that becomes a burden on the soldier, the family, and the taxpayer.  If the DoD worked with civilian credentialing organizations to ensure the craft skill was certified to operate in the civilian workforce, he could transition immediately to a civilian career saving taxpayer dollars by not drawing unemployment benefits or enrolling in repetitive training courses.

The GI Bill is the core of America’s transition entitlement and is accessible to the vast majority post active service.  The benefit presents an enormous opportunity for unskilled service members, or those whose skills don’t directly translate to civilian careers, are able to earn a trade certification or degree in order to successfully transition into civilian life.  Progress has been made in regards to the Post 9/11 GI Bill in terms of availability to veterans in a multitude of different family and economic situations, although it is still not a viable option for many veterans seeking to immediately exit into a career as only 50% of those eligible actually access their federal education benefits, according to the Philanthropy Roundtable.

Community-Based Programs – Royal British Legion Pop-in Centers | 29 April 2016

Combined ArmsThe United Kingdom’s Royal British Legion has created something similar in 16 communities spread across the country called “Pop-In Centers”. The mission behind these community-based transition centers is to offer a “welcoming space for service personnel and veterans to get practical help and advice”. Our team visited the Pop-In Center in Manchester and in Leeds.  Information Officers like Graham Connor (pictured right) is very proud to provide such a space in a very centrally-located part of each region, not far from the main train station and close to all of the major retail areas in the bustling university town. The Pop-in Center is a collaborative space that also provides offices for 6 other partnering charities that offer a variety of services such as career transition, financial assistance, and benefits help. The centers are modern and very welcoming which is exactly what is needed when engaging returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in a community-based setting.  Matt Frederick and CTP Regional Employer Relations Manager Faye Livesey are pictured left in the modern, centrally-located Pop-in Centre in Manchester.  Using the decentralized Pop-in Center model as a modern example of what collaboration looks like in the UK, we hope that Combined Arms will also become an easily accessible, central point of transition for returning veterans and their families in Houston.  Combined Arms is founded on the collective impact or systems-based approach where major stakeholders in the governmental, non-profit, and private sectors are brought together to solve a community problem.

The mission of Combined Arms is to unite the community to accelerate the impact of veterans on Houston and will accomplish this task in three major phases:

  1. Establish a centrally-located point of transition by developing a physical co-working and program incubation space for organizations to collaborate and soldiers to receive services;
  2. Integrate resource and referral technology by connecting organizations through one central system in order to ensure tracking, follow-up, and successful transition of soldiers; and
  3. Actively market Houston as the transitioning veteran’s “new unit” so they’re not only aware of what services our community offers but welcomes them home.

This concept is but one approach that can be taken.  Others in Northwest England like Liverpool Veterans are another approach to collective impact that can play a significant role in better connecting the community.

Community-Based Programs – Liverpool Veterans | 1 May 2016

Liverpool Veterans acts as the hub for military programs in the greater Merseyside area and focuses its efforts on serving those who need direction to different programs that are embedded in the community.  The team met with Bob Blanchard, Founder of Liverpool Veterans, and learned more about their mission to triage the service member by conducting a critical assessment of their needs before making a positive referral to a social service partner in the community. Founded only 6 years ago, they serve all veterans in the area, and not just those who served in the most recent conflicts. Liverpool City Council initially turned down the idea of a need for such an organization, but relented when it was revealed they had many more veterans in the region than they’d believed (estimated over 32,000). Working through Liverpool’s city-wide leadership board made of representatives from all the service charities, local governments, and the NHS – the region now has a coordinated strategy for addressing and adapting to veterans’ needs. The regional strategy has three main areas of focus:

  1. Information, Advice, and Housing;
  2. Education, Employment, and Training; and
  3. Physical and Mental Wellbeing.

Members of the senior board chair sub-groups that oversee these three focus areas and meet once a quarter for planning and accountability.

Liverpool Veterans serve a critical role as the overall accountability mechanism for veteran services in the region, whether those services are provided by governmental or service charity entities. They continuously follow-up on casework and referrals, both with the veterans and the service providers, to constantly improve service and outcomes.

Among their standout programs, a little outside the box thinking lead Liverpool Veterans to begin training programs for the Merseyside/Liverpool police around veterans awareness. With a three phase focus coupled with a 12 week, veteran-only, NHS-funded substance abuse treatment program, they believe the model is having a meaningful impact on the number of veterans caught in a perpetual criminal justice loop.

  • Phase 1: Veterans going into criminal justice system;
  • Phase 2: Veterans coming out of prison; and
  • Phase 3: Reducing veterans’ recidivism.

Policy Recommendations

From the many interviews our project team conducted with British military transition experts, several additional action items were identified that we can recommend for changes at the policy and community levels in the US military transition systems.

Recommendation 1: American Military Transition Needs a Champion

Find a champion for military transition in the United States like Lord Ashcroft was for British forces–someone who has political and cultural influence to produce a report on the state of the system, make recommendations on how to improve it, and have the report be taken seriously. Goals will be to evaluate services landscape, measure effectiveness, identify gaps and failures, and make recommendations to improve the process over time.

Recommendation 2: Evaluate Military Transition Contract Outcomes

Review existing DoD Transition Assistance Program contract outcomes, data measured, failures, and opportunities. The cost of the current DoD TAP contract was $85 million in 2014, according to a recent US Government Accountability Office report.  Several questions arose when reviewing this information:

  • Can taxpayer dollars be saved by switching the contract to the Manpower-Right Management-CTP Model?
  • How much can be saved by adding levels of accountability and reduce veteran unemployment and increase economic impact?
  • If the 24 month Model (before and after) were implemented, what would be the cost and potential ROI versus the existing costs of the DoD TAP contract?
  • Can the DoD TAP contract be changed?
  • Can the services provided by DoD TAP be contracted to community hubs for 24 months post-service?
  • How much is saved by Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in healthcare delivery costs if the number of employed veterans with access to health insurance is multiplied by average cost of VHA care per working age patient, aged 18-50?

The most effective part of the MoD’s CTP is the fact that service leavers start their transition 24 months prior to discharge and have access to community-based services for 24 months following discharge and accountability is mandated through contractual obligations.  Because consistent communication exists between transition professionals at the installations and in the community via one central CRM platform, service leavers are more effectively served based on the data shown in Lord Ashcroft’s report.

Recommendation 3: Increase Accountability by Integrating Referral Systems

Develop stronger accountability systems similar to UK Service Resettlement Advisor (SRA) role who act as case managers making sure the MoD, unit chains of command, service member and contractor are held accountable for transition successes and failures.  Develop a nationwide Client Relationship Management (CRM) platform connecting DoD TAP to community-based hubs. Several examples currently exist and can be easily replicated by one central contractor.  Community-based hubs need access to DoD brands once connected in order to legitimize services to employers and standardize program delivery across installations and communities.  Several examples of community-based hubs are:

  • Combined Arms in Houston, Texas
  • Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) AmericaServes model in New York, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and several communities in South Carolina
  • America’s Warrior Partnership
  • University of Southern California (USC) Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative

Using the decentralized Royal British Legion Pop-in Center model as a modern example of what collaboration looks like in the UK, we hope that Combined Arms will also become an easily accessible, central point of transition for returning veterans and their families in Houston.  Combined Arms is founded on the collective impact or systems-based approach where major stakeholders in the governmental, non-profit, and private sectors are brought together to solve a community problem.

Further research is needed to answer the following questions:

  • How much would this cost the taxpayer above and beyond what’s already budgeted for DoD TAP?
  • How quickly could this be implemented?
  • How much could this potentially save the taxpayer?

Recommendation 4: Improve Career Transition Pathways for Veterans

DoD should implement “career pathways” upon entry into the military with consistent emphasis on and utilization of throughout service members’ careers, regardless of career length.  The creation of these pathways can also mandate that soldiers must have civilian equivalent credentials in order to operate or work on base.  For example, roles like heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, electricians, plumbers and engineers can all be licensed by civilian accreditation agencies to ensure that soldiers have equivalent credentials upon transition from service and also standardize to meet external code.  This would also save taxpayer dollars to prevent soldiers from using their hard-earned federal education (GI Bill) benefits for training programs they’ve already completed in the military.  Several questions can be posed to ensure the implementation of such a policy makes economic sense:

  • How much would the Veterans Benefits Administration (taxpayer) save in reducing amount of repetitive training programs and hours spent by veterans using their GI Bill benefits?
  • How much time and potential frustration can be saved by the number of veterans this can impact?
  • Support more studies like the Veterans Civic Health Index by Got Your 6 Campaign that reflect the spirit of the UK’s Prosperity Agenda for veterans in order to advance the studies of key metrics.
  • Interoperability between DoD and VA electronic medical records must be made a reality, and not just a priority that both agencies continually fail to achieve.
  • De-stigmatize mental health conditions and treatment, both in the military and civilian cultures. The focus has always been to de-stigmatize the military culture, but without also removing the same prejudices from America’s civil culture, veterans and service members who do seek/receive treatment in the DoD and VA systems will fare no better upon transitioning away from the military and into successful, fulfilling civilian lives.

The British have developed many effective programs that our national and local systems can learn from and even implement. However, we have to acknowledge the differences that exist between the two societies and apply only those lessons that fit within the existing culture and infrastructure.  More research is needed to uncover new innovative ways we can learn from one another, so this project will not stop with this report.  Both systems have room for improvement but its important to step outside of one’s own comfort zone and see how our strongest ally approaches similar problems confronting those who transition out of the military.  The allure of “reinventing the wheel” is almost a regular occurrence within the DoD, VA, Academia and community-based NGO’s but if we can effectively collaborate as a coalition of service providers focused on local impact and individualized services, we will be able to effectively prevent more veteran unemployment, substance abuse, family challenges, homelessness, criminal behavior, and suicide.

We all have a stake in the successful transition of military veterans into our communities.  We are now taking ownership at the community level.

Join us.

Made Possible By:

German Marshall Fund | McKesson Foundation | NextOp

Interviewees:

Sue Freeth, Combat Stress CEO

John Leach, Team Rubicon UK CEO

Adrian Peters, Career Transition Partnership Head of Employment

Colonel Andrew Deans, Ministry of Defence Head of Resettlement

Struan Macdonald, Ministry of Defence Resettlement Office

Neil Lewis, Ministry of Defence Resettlement Office

Peter Smith, Help for Heroes Head of Recovery Operations

Faye Livesey, Career Transition Partnership in Manchester

Graham Connor, Royal British Legion Pop-in Center Manchester Information Officer

Steve Hollis, Liverpool Football Club Foundation Veterans Program Manager

Bob Blanchard, Liverpool Veterans Director

Emily Gee, FACT Liverpool Veterans Program

Jay Bell, FACT Liverpool Veterans Program

Mitch Besser, AgeWell Global CEO

Richard Swarbrick, National Health Service-England

Dave Rutter, Department of Health

Dr. Neil Greenberg, King’s College of London Military Research

Special Thanks To:

John Leach, Team Rubicon UK

Ken Harbaugh, Team Rubicon Global

Dr. Ali Hawks, King’s College of London

Dr. Allie Bennington, Help for Heroes

Dr. Drew Helmer, Veterans Health Administration

Filip Medic, German Marshall Fund

Michael Cohen, German Marshall Fund

Appendix A: Research Team Bios

John Boerstler, Executive Director

John is Executive Director of NextOp a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in Houston, Texas. John was named to his current position in March, 2015.

Previous Experience

John Boerstler was born in Houston, Texas, into a family with a strong history of military service. In 1999, John enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, where he earned the rank of Sergeant. During his time serving our country, John’s overseas assignments took him to Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Djibouti, and Kenya.

As a non-commissioned officer, John served a combat tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004-2005 where he was injured. John received an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps in 2007 and went on to complete his bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University and a Master in Public Administration degree from the University of Houston.

In 2009 John helped found the Lone Star Veterans Association (LSVA) in order to help make Houston and Texas the best place for Post 9/11 veterans and their families. LSVA has become the largest network of Post 9/11 veterans in the State of Texas and provides free, innovative services to this generation of service members and families.

In 2011 John was a recipient of the prestigious Marshall Memorial Fellowship where he was tapped to represent the United States in eight different European countries through a month-long fellowship. Today, John has become a strong advocate for veterans, after working for a United States Congressman, two Mayors of Houston, the Wounded Warrior Project, Veteran Energy and now as the leader for NextOp. John is continuing his career in public service by serving on the Board of Directors for Combined Arms, the Lone Star Veterans Association, the Texas Veterans Commission Advisory Committee and Family Services of Greater Houston.

Matthew Frederick, Williams Pipeline

Matt is the Manager of Construction for Williams Pipeline in Houston, Texas. Matt began his career at Williams in June 2013.

Previous Experience

Matt earned his degree and commission from the United States Naval Academy. He was commissioned in the United States Marine Corps in 2006 and graduated from Infantry Officer School in 2007. He was assigned to operational units based out of Camp Pendleton, CA and completed 2 deployments. His last duty station was Inspector-Instructor for an Anti-terrorism unit located in Lafayette, LA.

Matt deployed with Regimental Combat Team 5 and served as Heliborn Unit Commander, Mobile Assault Unit Commander and as Company Executive over the course of a 13-month deployment. Upon returning, Matt was assigned to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and served as Platoon Commander, Company Executive Officer and Company Commander. While assigned to 1st LAR, he deployed with Battalion Landing Team 1/4. His military decorations include Navy and Marine Commendation Medals, Navy and Marine Achievement Medals, and numerous other medals and honors.

Matt completed his graduate studies while serving out his last few years on active duty and received his Master’s of Business Administration from Louisiana State University.  Matt also serves as the Vice Chairman of Combined Arms as well as Vice Chairman of the Lone Star Veterans Association and Vice President of Honor Capital.

Nathan Cook, McKesson Specialty Health

Nathan is the Senior Manager of Government and Community Relations for McKesson Specialty Health—The US Oncology Network, in The Woodlands, Texas. Nathan has been with The US Oncology Network team since June, 2010.

Previous Experience

Before joining The US Oncology Network, Nathan served as District Director for Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), where he oversaw district operations and outreach strategies. Prior to that, he served as the Deputy Regional Director for US Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in the Southeast Texas region for four years.

Nathan served eight years in the US Army (Reserve), from 1997-2005, and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant while serving a one year deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, stationed at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq (‘04-‘05).

Nathan currently serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors for the Voter Awareness Council, a 501(c)3 dedicated to encouraging and equipping citizens in the Montgomery County (Texas) area to vote.  He held a Board of Directors position with The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, and still serves as a member of Senator Ted Cruz’s Service Academy Nominations Board. He is also active in advocacy and non-profit work on military/veterans issues, and is a Co-Founder and former Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Lone Star Veterans Association (501(c)3) in Houston, Texas. He has also served on the 2015 & 2016 Executive Leadership Committees for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Montgomery County Light the Night Walk.

He was honored to be selected as a 2012 Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund. Nathan earned a B.S. in political science from Texas A&M University. He and his wife, Mariana, live in Magnolia, TX.