Clark Foundation Awarded the 2022 Children’s National Joseph E. Robert, Jr. Prize in Philanthropy

 

Easing the Transition from Military to Civilian Life

Grantee Story

When it was time for Kendra Ohlson to retire from the Air Force, the worry she experienced about the future was greater than she had anticipated. After more than 20 years of service, Kendra amassed quite a “backpack” of skills that she knew would be valuable in the corporate world, but she was still anxious about finding the right position… in the right place. Kendra  wanted to relocate to Florida where she and her husband hoped to make a new home after the military.

“It’s scary walking out into that unknown. The military is a safety net. I was so enthralled with the services The COMMIT Foundation offers to retiring veterans like me,” Ohlson says. She credits The COMMIT Foundation with easing the transition and helping her find a senior-level cybersecurity position at a FORTUNE 500 company in the Tampa area. “Most importantly, they do an excellent job of helping you pursue your passions.”

Asked in a COMMIT exercise to envision her ideal future, Ohlson says she imagined a lemon tree in her yard, which she took as a symbol of the work-life balance she hoped her new life would have. Now, she has it.

The U.S. military is an entity unlike any other. And its service members develop skills that are the envy of the corporate world — self-reliance balanced with respect for authority and chain of command, industriousness and efficiency, among many others.

In fact, “retirement” is hardly the word for it at all. Most retiring military vets are still young, relatively speaking, and can easily enjoy a decade — or two — of corporate life post military. And yet, when it comes time for a veteran to step away, there is often trepidation and uncertainty on how those skills will translate in the business world.

It’s not an uncommon story for retiring vets to share. COMMIT eases the transition from military to corporate life. COMMIT’s mission is not so much to “help” veterans transition to civil life, says COMMIT CEO Alex Krongard, himself a retired Navy SEAL, but rather to create “serendipity” for those vets by matching their skills and interests to jobs in the corporate world.

COMMIT conducts one-on-one career training, hosts in-person workshops and, in turn, trains corporations how best to capitalize on the unique and valuable skills of vets. It is all free of charge to any veterans who wish to engage. In 2020, despite the pandemic, 905 retiring service members benefited from COMMIT’s services, almost 800 of whom were first-time clients.

“Most of our clients are not concerned so much about finding the perfect job as not being happy in the job they do find,” says Margaret Riley, chief operating officer of COMMIT. “Their careers were so focused on doing something rewarding and now they’re not sure where they’ll find that sense of purpose again.”

The A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation helps COMMIT advance its mission by providing multi-year investments that enable COMMIT to expand services, invest in new technologies and partner with other Veteran Service Organizations with similar purposes.