We're With David: A Soon-To-Be Air Force Veteran Figures Out His Next Step with the Help of the USO Transition Program

By Kayla Clark

When he jumped onto the video call with his USO Transition Specialist for the first time, David, a first sergeant in the United States Air Force, showed up with a warm energy, smile and a friendly hello. David is one of those individuals that instantly makes you feel at ease and comfortable. He’s laid back with a lightness and sense of humor that can quickly break down barriers and make others feel welcome in his presence. He’s genuine, and from that first meeting with this USO Transition Specialist, he was one of the most dedicated, passionate and committed clients the USO Transition Program in the USO Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region has had the pleasure of working with.

When David, a first sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, began the process of transitioning out of the military, he reached out to the USO Transition Program. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

“I am an extrovert that can sometimes seem a little shy,” shared David. “I love talking to people and building relationships. I wouldn’t say I am the type of person that enjoys being in a crowd full of strangers ready to talk to anyone and everyone, but I do enjoy building meaningful relationships. I am the type of person that will connect with someone and build upon that connection to a deeper state.”

David was born into a military family when his father served and they were stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas. Right after he was born, his family soon relocated to San Antonio, Texas. As a child, he moved all over the world – Texas, Turkey, Alabama. Like many other military kids, David says that he is “from all over,” but he officially claims Alabama as his home state, since he spent most of his childhood there.

As David grew up, he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the military, as his father has always been a huge role model and inspiration to him. In fact, both he and his close cousin greatly looked up to him, and so both ended up joining the Air Force after high school.

Photo credit Courtesy Photo

As a military child, David watched his father serve and decided to follow in his footsteps and join the U.S. Air Force.

Throughout David’s 20 years in the Air Force, he served in a variety of different roles. He first enlisted as a Telecommunications Technician and then transitioned into Client Systems. With time, David transitioned into the role of Cyber Defense Operations, and in the tail-end of his career, had the pleasure of volunteering and then serving as a first sergeant.

“Dedicating my time to the young airmen and people has always been my passion so becoming a first sergeant in the U.S. Air Force was a no-brainer,” he shared.

As David prepared for his upcoming retirement, he got engaged with the USO Transition Program. He heard about the resource from a mentor of his who was also retiring, a few months ahead of David. He felt all over the place with his thoughts and emotions and needed some guidance. His mentor told him to reach out to the USO.

“One of the most daunting and challenging aspects of separating or retiring is the unknown. You see, in the military, you may get orders to go to a new place but regardless of not knowing about that new place, what you do know is that the military will take care of you. You will have a sponsor, a government travel card to reserve your lodging and travel expenses, possibly a friend or mutual contact from someone you know in the local area, an organization that will support you as you become acclimated to the local area. The military streamlines a lot of these things for you so you don’t have to worry. They provide everything for you so you can focus on your family and other things. Separating or retiring from the military is different and can be extremely daunting. The fear of the unknown is real.”

The USO Transition Program is an opportunity for all service members and military spouses to be connected with a USO Transition Specialist and receive personalized, one-on-one support for every transition and chapter in their military career and lives.

Photo credit USO Photo

A service member and a military spouse meet with a USO Transition Specialist to discuss next steps in their career searches beyond the military.

USO Transition Specialists meet with their service member or MilSpouse clients, assess their needs and then set up a customized Action Plan with resources for employment, education, mentoring, VA benefits and financial readiness. From being stationed overseas for the first time, to getting ready to separate or retire from the military, the USO Transition Program is always by the sides of the people who serve and their military family members.

After connecting with his Transition Specialist, David felt a lot more at ease with his transition out of the military. The thing he loved most about the program was the personal mentorship he gained. It was what he felt was most instrumental to his success.

“I really just needed someone to be in my corner and give me guidance on the things I can focus on while also giving me the confidence in the things I have achieved,” David said. “I feared that I wasn’t going to be enough. I questioned if I could belong. I worried because of the unknown and having someone be in your corner to coach you through all adversity was huge for my confidence and continued success. The resources the USO provides with their job board, training opportunities for certifications, other mentoring programs like Veterati, and so much more are all great resources that everyone has the opportunity to take advantage of.”

Over the next four months, David worked with his USO Transition Specialist monthly – checking in and providing updates on the resources and tasks the two discussed and set up in his personalized Action Plan. David gained access to the USO Job Board, with over 50,000 jobs around the world with the USO’s corporate sponsors and partners.

He got connected to mentors in the cybersecurity field, went through a Project Management Professional (PMP) bootcamp, obtained a new cybersecurity certification, attended USO MVP events on navigating the VA home loan and mastering LinkedIn and ultimately received an incredible job offer with one of the most prestigious Department of Defense contractors.

David is now comfortably back stateside with his wife and kids. He loves college football, going to the gym and enjoying great food and wine. As he and his family move into this next chapter in their lives, David advises others in the military community to start planning out an upcoming separation or retirement early.

Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Now that David is retired and stateside, he is able to spend more time with his family.

“Your last year will go by so fast and so slow. You will think it is the longest year of your life because you can’t wait for your separation date, but it will also feel like time is slipping away because things will come up faster than you can expect. Plan early and plan well. Map out everything you can. Do a SkillBridge. Reach out to people in an organization that you feel you may want to seek employment with,” he said.

“Most importantly, make meaningful connections with people. The power of people can be underrated. Sometimes it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know.”

And thankfully, members of the military community know that USO is by their side every step of the way throughout their military journey, including as they transition back into civilian life and find their way.

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