Serving the military community

By Scott Schimmel

“You must have instant credibility and traction with them or else you’ll be dead in the water.”

That was the warning I was given during my initial conversation with the founder of a military transition institute for Special Forces. Perhaps he was stating the obvious, or maybe he was putting words to my deepest fear. 

The YouSchool got started working with military with an audacious and unproven idea: that the program we spent 18 months developing for high-achieving high school students would be relevant and valuable to an elite military audience two to three times older. 

When we were introduced to the founder of The Honor Foundation, Joe Musselman, and heard about his plans to build an elite transition program for the most elite Special Forces, I heard myself say things like, “We can help,” and “Your transition program needs a mechanism to help people process their stories, understand their past and get clear about their path for the future- we are that mechanism.”

Joe listened, was intrigued, and gave us a shot.

Here’s the pep talk Joe gave me two minutes before our first session: “There’s a guy in the room that you need to know about. He’s the most senior leader in the cohort, he’s famous inside the SEAL teams, he’s intimidating as hell, and if he doesn’t like you then the other guys are going to follow his cue and eat you alive.” 

Gulp.

Following a brief introduction I addressed the room and explained that I was there to help them make a successful transition, and to do that they were going to do a lot of self-exploration and get to know themselves better, to understand where the’ve come from and get a clearer glimpse of where they were going in life. I told them they could trust me, that I would be guiding them through the experiential program to get them talking about themselves. 

A hand was slowly raised, and I knew by the look of giant muscles, tattoo sleeves, a bald head and battle-worn wrinkles that this was the senior guy that I was warned about. Let’s call him…Joe-The-Terrorist-Hunter. “Excuse me, Scott, with all due respect- we’ve been specifically trained NOT to talk about ourselves, so I appreciate what you’re trying to do with us, but you’ve got to understand that we just don’t do this $#*t.”

Gulp.

Have you ever had a moment that felt like THE moment? The moment that would make or break you? The moment that would define your character? That moment felt like THE moment for me.

I looked down, felt the color drain from my face, looked him straight in the eye and said something like, “Sir, with all due respect to you and the gentlemen in this room- you are completely unprepared for life after the military, you desperately want to transition well, and I’m the guide to help you get there. You need this program, you need me, and you WILL trust me.”

This time, I held my breath. 

His response? “Alright.”

Since that moment, we’ve guided nearly 200 Military Special Operators (mostly Navy SEALs) through the YouSchool program. We’ve seen and heard tremendous feedback:

“I’m finally relieved to be among my kind of people to discuss things I’ve been waywardly going about on my own.”

“This process is a breath of fresh air- the military teaches us to be who the institution wants us to be. Without knowing your true self, you can never become your true self.”

“This helps me understand myself more and prepare me for what I face in the future, so I’m 100% on board.”

“Because of the YouSchool, I found out who I am and where I’m going.”

We’ve also had the opportunity to serve a couple dozen military veterans involved with Team Rubicon USA, an organization that redeploys veterans to serve in disaster relief situations nationally and globally. We’ve established an ongoing relationship with them to serve their key volunteer regional leaders. 

For the past two years, we’ve learned a lot about the military that is shaping our approach and posture:

  1. They’ve exemplified service in a sacrificial way that ought to make any millennial blush.
  2. They are humble, funny, refreshingly honest and direct. 
  3. They’re also vulnerable- their training, expertise, culture, language, and mindset is unique, and they need help in translation and transition.
  4. Most of them have misdirected assumptions: that their value is waning, that their skills aren’t transferable, that their purpose and value is in the past.
  5. Dressing up a veteran with a slick resume, interview skills and a LinkedIn profile is helpful- those are necessary tools, but it’s not enough. Not at all!

Let me be clear, although this article is detailing our experience and success in working with the military, our overwhelming experience is a complete and utter privilege for us to be a small, temporary character in the stories of the participants. What we’re discovering is that we’re connecting dots; our program is a missing link in the theory of military transition and redeployment into the private sector. We’re solving a real problem, however we’re not the heroes. They are the heroes, the sacrificial ones, the ones who’ve served us, the ones who will continue to serve us by being exceptional and exemplary citizens. 

So, we’re continuing to serve them. We’re actively seeking opportunities to serve more military, and we’re constantly learning more about their community, the challenges they face, and how best to guide them through transition so that their best days are ahead. 

If you'd like to help us expand our efforts to serve more veterans, click here to sponsor a veteran.

Google+