Mar 28, 2024

The COMMIT Foundation is looking for a new Director of Veteran Services

Founded in 2012, The COMMIT Foundation empowers service members, veterans, and their families through personalized progr...

Founded in 2012, The COMMIT Foundation empowers service members, veterans, and their families through personalized programs, resources, and the support of our community to create purposeful and fulfilling transitions. COMMIT believes service members live a post service life of purpose and build community when they discover their identity, their values and design a life in accordance. The COMMIT Foundation creates a caring and supportive environment that allows service members to pause, assess their goals, and gain clarity by providing personalized coaching, resources, and guidance as they take their next steps. The COMMIT Foundation seeks to add a full-time Director of Veteran Services to the team. The Director of Veteran Services is dedicated to assisting a diverse population of service members, veterans and their families find meaning and purpose after their service in the military. This position will report to COMMIT’s Chief Operating Officer. Click here to see full job description No longer accepting applications at this time.

Read More
  • Mar 18, 2024

    The COMMIT Foundation Names JC Glick as New Chief Executive Officer

    The COMMIT Foundation, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and empowering veterans in defining their identity and purpose after military service, is pleased to announce the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) JC Glick as Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. Glick brings a wealth of experience as a leadership consultant and a deep commitment to supporting veterans in their transition journey. Since transitioning from 20 years of military service in 2015, J.C. has been a founder and partner of two leadership companies and the author of two books, including A Light in the Darkness: Leadership Development for the Unknown. In 2017, he was selected as a TEDX Speaker and delivered Rethinking Leadership at TEDX Hammond. Glick is also an adjunct professor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. Over the course of his Army career, Glick spent over seven years in the Ranger regiment, serving in two Ranger Battalions as well as Regimental Headquarters, participating in the Best Ranger Competition twice, and has over seven and a half years of command time with 11 operational and combat deployments to Haiti, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Afghanistan. “I am humbled and honored to join The COMMIT Foundation and to have the opportunity to work alongside such a dedicated team. I am deeply committed to our mission of empowering veterans and our nation’s future leaders to write their next chapter. I look forward to building on the foundation of success established over the past decade,” said Glick. The COMMIT Foundation empowers service members, veterans, and their families to create purposeful and fulfilling transitions by providing personalized programs, resources, and the support of community. COMMIT creates tailored solutions for top veteran talent and reaches veterans across the Nation through high-impact workshops and one-on-one transition assistance programs. COMMIT’s Board Chair and Co-founder, Guy Filippelli, praised Glick’s record of excellence. “We are thrilled to welcome JC as the new CEO of The COMMIT Foundation. He represents everything we could hope for in a leader. He will absolutely bring this organization to another level, and truly make a meaningful difference for veterans as they define their lives after service." About The COMMIT Foundation: The COMMIT Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering service members, veterans, and their families through personalized programs, resources, and the support of community to create purposeful and fulfilling transitions. Through one-on-one coaching, professional development workshops, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities, The COMMIT Foundation helps veterans navigate the challenges of transitioning to civilian life and build a post-service life of community and purpose. Learn more at

    Read More
  • Sep 18, 2023

    PRESS RELEASE: The COMMIT Foundation Announces Leadership Transition

    The COMMIT Foundation announced today that Rear Admiral (Ret.) Alex Krongard will step away from his position as CEO by December 31, 2023. In his message to the COMMIT community, Alex shared: “It has been an incredible journey serving as COMMIT’s CEO and being a part of this remarkable organization. Together, we have achieved so much, and I am deeply grateful for the dedication, passion, and impact that each of you brings to our mission every day. The decision has not been an easy one, but I believe that it is the right time for both me and the organization.” Alex came to the COMMIT Foundation after retiring from the United States Navy as a rear admiral in 2016 after 31 years of military service. Notably, he served as the Deputy Operations Officer of United States Africa Command and previously commanded Naval Special Warfare Group ONE. Under Alex’s leadership, he built a strong leadership team enabling the COMMIT Foundation to successfully move from a startup organization to a well-organized non-profit rooted in principle-based management that thoughtfully and intentionally serves the military community. During Alex’s tenure, COMMIT expanded the depth and breadth of services offered to military service members, veterans and their families, expanded its donor base, increased its revenue, and improved its collaborative partnerships with other non-profit organizations. “This is an exciting time for COMMIT,” said Guy Filippelli, Board Chairman. “Alex is a wonderful leader who has left a great mark on this organization and its leadership team. He’s become a true partner and friend to me and the entire board, and we’re deeply appreciative of his efforts. We’re energized to build on this momentum, and our sights now turn to finding the right leader to bring the organization to yet another level.” The Board of Directors will immediately launch a national search for Alex’s successor. During this transition period, the Board of Directors, in collaboration with the strong and dedicated team at COMMIT, will be working diligently to ensure a smooth and successful transition of leadership. In the interim, Board Director Mimi Bock will act as special advisor. The executive leadership team will oversee the day-to-day operations and continue the mission-driven work of the organization without interruption. About the COMMIT Foundation: Founded in 2012, the COMMIT Foundation has refined a highly effective and individualized approach to transition for post-9/11 veterans and military families. COMMIT’s mission is to empower service members, veterans, and their families through personalized programs, resources, and the support of our community to create purposeful and fulfilling transitions. Our success comes from the process of identifying exactly where each veteran is on their transition journey, helping them design a balanced and purposeful life post-service, and then connecting them with services and networks to make that vision a reality. For media inquiries, contact Bana Miller at

    Read More
  • Jul 10, 2023

    Press Release: The COMMIT Foundation and JTMF Partnership

    Media Contact Amy Taft FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The COMMIT Foundation 280 West Kagy Blvd. Suite D 313 Bozeman, MT 59715 The COMMIT Foundation Receives Multi-Year Grant from JTMF Foundation to Transform Veterans’ Transition in the Pacific Northwest Bozeman, MT June 27, 2023 With the support of the JTMF Foundation, The COMMIT Foundation will be able to advance equality in the veteran transition space, preparing more service members for personal and professional success in the Pacific Northwest post-service. The Pacific Northwest is home to over one million veterans and houses numerous military bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord, one of the largest in the country. Expanding COMMIT Foundation’s unique, research-based approach focused on positivity and self-discovery for post-9/11 veterans and their families will improve this population’s overall health, both physically and mentally. This investment will not only make a meaningful impact to hundreds of individuals locally, but it will also be a catalyst for COMMIT to evolve its personalized programming nationally. “We believe service members deserve both our gratitude and support, and we are proud to invest in COMMIT’s innovative approach to supporting our veterans, meeting their immediate needs while also helping them build successful, fulfilling lives long-term,” shared Tami Marick, Trustee, JTMF Foundation. “Expanding COMMIT’s work is essential to veterans of the Pacific Northwest, and we are excited to hear more about their contributions to our community in the coming years.” The COMMIT Foundation’s individualized programs allow veterans to find jobs that align with a new sense of purpose, provide for a good personal fit, and dramatically increase the probability of job stability and work-life satisfaction. Nearly 90% of COMMIT program participants report that they feel better prepared to handle the stress and challenges of transitioning out of the military, and 80% report that COMMIT programs were key to their understanding of who they wanted to be after military service. “The bravery of our service members, veterans, and military families goes far beyond their time in uniform, and we are very thankful to the JTMF Foundation for this generous investment in their success post-service." expressed Alex Krongard, CEO, COMMIT Foundation. “With these additional resources, more individuals will receive the personalized support they deserve to lead purposeful and fulfilling lives and careers.” ###

    Read More
  • Apr 17, 2023

    COMMIT Quarterly - Spring 2023 Edition

     HAPPY SPRING FROM COMMIT! Spring has sprung at The COMMIT Foundation and the first quarter of 2023 was jam-packed! We hosted one workshop for over 19 service members with the support of our generous hosts and sponsors. We also (finally!) officially launched our Spouse Program, our COMMunITy, welcomed a brand new Chief Programs Officer, and continued to serve our veterans and their families through our programming. Read below to learn more about what we’ve been up to  NASHVILLE TRANSITION MENTORING WORKSHOP In the midst of the music and positive vibes of Downtown Nashville, 19 transitioning service members gathered for a two-day COMMIT Transition Mentoring Workshop hosted by Bridgestone Americas in their corporate headquarters. The service members, representing more than 430 years of military service, kicked off the two-day workshop with a deeper dive into some of the work they'd done through Pursue Your Purpose and with their executive coaches. The multi-story state-of-the-art building was an inspiring venue for participants to imagine the next chapter of their life they are designing. They discussed their hopes and fears and some specific and actionable goals they'd like to tackle. During a dinner hosted by Bridgestone, Ralph Schultz, CEO of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce shared a few remarks about Nashville and some of the Chamber's priorities. Schultz encouraged the participants to consider looking at opportunities in Nashville and surrounding areas and described incredible growth in the healthcare and technology industries. During the second day of the workshop, mentors from Bridgestone, Microsoft, and local businesses joined the participants. Together they shared stories, crafted narratives, and developed a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities around transitioning from the military. Rob Seibert, President of Off the Road at Bridgestone Americas and former Army officer, shared a bit about his transition from the military and his career at Bridgestone and reflected on the importance of networking and taking advantage of learning opportunities. After the event, several participants shared that the workshop provided new confidence in their transitions. "My separation plan has been strengthened and bolstered with positive energy and a pathway to looking forward while recognizing our accomplishments," said Nicholas St. Louis, a transitioning service member and participant from the Nashville Workshop. "I am hopeful for the coming year to see where I end up, and I can only hope to be another COMMIT success story." COMMIT would like to thank Bridgestone Americas for hosting and Brian Summers and Linda Alberstadt for all the work they put into planning this special event, as well as Pilot Travel Centers and Mission BBQ for their support. The next in-person event will be in Silver Spring, Maryland in April.  INTRODUCING OUR NEW CHIEF PROGRAMS OFFICER The COMMIT Foundation is proud to welcome Brian Von Herbulis as our new Chief Programs Officer. Brian brings with him a diverse background of over 25 years of military, business, and nonprofit leadership experience as a retired U.S. Marine Corps Officer. While serving on active duty, he commanded reconnaissance and special operations units at the platoon, company, and battalion levels. He was a “plank owner” (original member) of 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command. His final assignment on active duty was as the Commanding Officer of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. He retired from active military service in 2014 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Post military service, Brian has become a successful business executive, entrepreneur, and nonprofit leader. Brian earned a Bachelor of Arts from Hampden-Sydney College and a Master of Business Administration from Boise State University. He also earned a Certificate in Executive Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University. Brian now lives in Eagle, Idaho with his wife and two children.  SPOUSE PROGRAM LAUNCH In 2022, The COMMIT Foundation launched a pilot program to address the needs of spouses who had service members that were transitioning. Validating the need and creating a community of support for these spouses became a priority for the organization. After two cohorts of pilot workshops, COMMIT officially launched the spouse program in January 2023. This year COMMIT will virtually host 4 cohorts of spouses and lead them through a journey of self-discovery and planning for the future. This program will create a shared language between the service member and spouse as the family designs their post military service life. One pilot cohort member stated “this was the first time she has felt like her and her spouse have been on the same page in a long time.” COMMIT would like to thank The Cigna Foundation as the leading sponsor for our spouse programming. Through the support of the Navy Seal Foundation and R4ST, The COMMIT Foundation was also able to bring this workshop to San Diego for a two day in person event. At the in-person event, the spouses were able to explore topics such as values, goal setting and telling their stories. The COMMIT Foundation is proud to lead the efforts of understanding that the military lifestyle is a family affair and that every member of the family has unique needs during transition. If you would like more information about the spouse transition program or how you can support this program, please reach out to Amy Taft, Read more about our family programs here.  COMMunITy Calling all COMMIT Foundation alumni! The COMMIT Foundation is excited to provide an online community for our tribe. We are inviting all of our alumni to join our COMMunITy. This interactive platform will support the COMMIT vision to build a vibrant virtual community and strengthen our network. COMMunITy is a secure, trusted location to share information, advice, work opportunities, lessons learned, as well as access to mentors and introductions. It will not duplicate social media and tools like LinkedIn™, but rather allow for greater leveraging of such networks. The commonalities of the COMMIT experience and military service for our participants will ensure the network remains relatively small with high trust. If you would like more information about the COMMIT COMMunITy or how you can support or join this program, please reach out to Michele Olive,  EXFIL TRANSITION SEMINAR COMMIT had the honor of presenting at the Exfil Transition Seminar on Feb. 22-23, serving the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and 5th Special Forces Group. This was the first multi day event for 2023 and we appreciate the opportunity to share our insights with over 30 separating Night Stalkers. Read more about our workshops and seminars.  SPOTLIGHT: TIFFANY MYRICK-WOODLEY In honor of Women’s History Month in March, The COMMIT Foundation featured an interview with Army leader and trailblazer, Tiffany Myrick-Woodley. Tiffany’s military service spanned 20 years and a wide variety of different leadership positions. Read more about her inspiring story and advice to young women in the military here!

    Read More
  • Apr 13, 2023

    Spotlight on Women in the Military Featuring Tiffany Myrick-Woodley

    In honor of Women’s History Month in March, The COMMIT Foundation interviewed Army leader and trailblazer, Tiffany Myrick-Woodley. Tiffany’s military service spanned 20 years and a wide variety of different leadership positions. Click here to read more about her inspiring story and advice to young women!

    Read More
  • Nov 18, 2022

    COMMIT Quarterly - Fall 2022 Edition

    Gratitude is in the air, and we certainly have a lot to be thankful for here at The COMMIT Foundation: our incredible sponsors, who consistently step-up to fund our work and take our services to the next level; our exceptional mentors, who selflessly share their experiences and advice to provide the one-on-one guidance our service members deserve and need; and our many passionate friends and advocates, who generously give their time, talent, and treasure to ensure supportive transitions are available for veterans across the nation. But most importantly, we are grateful for the men, women and families who serve this country with bravery and sacrifice. We are all indebted to you. We promise to continue to show our deep appreciation by providing the services and resources that create purposeful and fulfilling transitions. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. - The COMMIT Foundation Staff Sponsor Highlight: Brown Advisory Brown Advisory, a longtime supporter of The COMMIT Foundation, hosted both our Transition Mentoring workshop and “All Staff, All Hands” meeting in their beautiful, state-of-the art Baltimore office. Brown Advisory’s CEO, Mike Hankin has been a dedicated donor to our organization and service members, and he came through again with the offering of this incredible space. A special thank you to Chris Bartlett for graciously hosting the COMMIT team, workshop participants and mentors. COMMIT Achieves Great Nonprofit Status in 2022 It's official. The COMMIT Foundation is on the Great Nonprofits 2022 Top-Rated List! Great Nonprofits is the leading website for community recommendations of charities and nonprofits. With a 5-star average, we are truly honored to be recognized, and especially humbled by the thoughtful reviews we received. “The COMMIT Foundation was absolutely critical to my transition out of the military. Prior to COMMIT, I was unsure of what I truly wanted to do and how I could chart a path to get there.” - Tyler (Navy Veteran) “There is nothing that compares to what the COMMIT Foundation is doing for veterans. Their ability to help navigate this process and prepare for the next chapter has been incredibly valuable.” - Robert (Army Veteran) Read more here. > Support COMMIT in our Year-End Campaign Introducing COMMIT’s Year-End Fundraising Campaign! Kicking-off on Giving Tuesday (November 29) and ending December 31, we’re aiming to raise $50,000 in order to expand the reach of our programs, and give more veterans the assistance they deserve. We’ll be enhancing this month-long effort with two events - Colorado Gives on December 6 and the highly anticipated Army/Navy Game on December 10. Combined, we hope to rise to the challenge and meet this ambitious goal. Click here to make a donation or become a fundraiser on behalf of The COMMIT Foundation. Then, encourage your friends and family to donate as well. And don’t forget to spread the word on social media using #COMMITto50K. Together we can improve and change the lives of those who are owed it most. Transitioning Workshop Wrap Up Fall has been in a busy season at The COMMIT Foundation. We conducted workshops in California, Maryland and Montana, serving nearly 50 veterans. The session featured mentorship, planning and community building. It is exciting to imagine what transition might look like 6 or 36 months down the road! We also offered three Seminars in North Carolina, Virginia, and Germany! Combined, over 100 service members and spouses participated and learned about taking those first steps towards a successful transition. These seminars continue to strengthen our partnership with JANUS and NSW Development Group, and we are grateful for the opportunities! WORKSHOPS Menlo Park, Calif. - In September we hosted 18 service members in Menlo Park at a workshop hosted by Andreessen Horowitz. Along with an incredible group of mentors, we had several alumni, many of whom work with a16z, join us for the closing reception. It was inspiring to see what transition might look like 6 months or 36 months down the road!Baltimore, Maryland - Eighteen transitioning service members joined us in Baltimore at Brown Advisory for an amazing two day workshop. With stunning views of Baltimore’s inner-harbor, the participants had the opportunity to meet with incredible mentors as well as many of their coaches. COMMIT board members, staff, and co-founder Guy Filipelli were present as well. Bozeman, Mont. - In October, 10 veterans gathered at the Quiet Waters Ranch outside Bozeman. The participants and mentors embraced the shared experiences of transition and went away with a renewed sense of community. We are so grateful for the continued support from Warriors and Quiet Waters - another truly great veteran service organization.Charlotte, North Carolina - We wrapped up 2022 workshops with a strong cohort of 15 participants joined by nine mentors from the region at the McKinsey & Company headquarters in downtown Charlotte. What a beautiful venue in the heart of the Queen’s City! We are so grateful for the mentors and of course the participants who brought their whole selves to the workshop.SEMINARS JANUS (Germany) - In October, COMMIT was invited by Drew Stamp, co-founder of the nonprofit, Donovan & Bank, and creator of JANUS Project, to host a 1-day seminar in Stuttgart, GE for a group of transitioning service members. The majority of the 50+ attendees were Special Forces/Support and included spouses. COMMIT facilitated the group through a series of transition and values exploration exercises. Additionally, two COMMIT alumni, Brian Cunningham, Navy CAPT (O-6), and Charlie Slosson Amy, COL (Ret) (O-6), spoke to the group, sharing their journey and experiences working with COMMIT. Overall, the event was a great success with overwhelming positive feedback.JANUS (Fort Bragg) - COMMIT strengthened its partnership with the JANUS Project as we presented for a second time this quarter in Fayetteville, NC. The group of 48 participants in the 1-day event included transitioning service members and spouses. Since this group had a wide variety of timelines and ranks, the facilitators led the participants through a value based exercise on Authentic Leadership. Participants found the information to be immediately applicable and a great beginning to trying on their personal values. This program is shaping up to be highly successful and a thought provoking first step to transition. NSW Development Group (Dam Neck) - COMMIT continues its partnership with R4ST to support the Naval Special Warfare community in their transition needs. We presented on-site at the command in Virginia Beach for 10 participants. This presentation was part of their initial implementation of transition seminars that we are thrilled to support as it grows. Applications Now Open: Spouse Workshop Applications are now open for Cohort 3 of the COMMIT Foundation Family Transition Support Spouse workshop. Throughout the program, you will explore the topics of identity, alignment, values, and telling your story. The class will begin January 19, 2023 and will run for 3 months. If you are a spouse and want to apply, please fill out an application. Learn more > Questions? Contact us United Miles on Mission If you are a United MilesPlus member please consider donating your miles for service members to travel to our transition programs around the country in 2023. These miles directly help COMMIT improve the lives of veterans and military families as they transition out of uniform. The best part? Your miles will be doubled on Giving Tuesday, November 29. Good leads the way. Donate your miles today! >. Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) Calling all Federal Employees! COMMIT has joined the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). The mission of the CFC is to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee focused, cost-efficient, and effective in providing all federal employees the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all. Pledges made by Federal civilian, postal and military donors support eligible non-profit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world. We hope you will consider listing The COMMIT Foundation as your charity of choice! Our listing number is 88085 or you can pledge directly by clicking here.

    Read More
  • Oct 25, 2022

    The COMMT Foundation is looking for a new Chief Programs Officer

    Founded in 2012, The COMMIT Foundation’s mission is to empower service members, veterans, and their families through personalized programs, resources, and the support of our community to create purposeful and fulfilling transitions. The COMMIT Foundation is changing the way veterans and corporate America think about military transition by providing high touch transition support that becomes the standard nationwide so veterans in all communities can access services helping them identify their passions, build strong networks, and leverage their skills in civilian careers. The COMMIT Foundation seeks a full-time Chief Programs Officer (CPO) to join the team. The CPO serves as a critical member of COMMIT’s C-Suite. In collaboration with the CEO and COO, the CPO is responsible for developing and implementing COMMIT’s strategic programmatic vision, managing program execution, and supporting organization-wide efforts to evaluate program effectiveness and potential innovations. This position reports to COMMIT’s Chief Executive Officer. Applications are closed.

    Read More
  • Aug 16, 2022

    COMMIT Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

    Continued Partnership with Wounded Warrior Project COMMIT will continue its partnership with Wounded Warrior Project to help build and expand life-changing resources and services to America’s wounded veterans and their families. The needs of our veteran community are continuously evolving and our services have grown to meet people where they are. Learn more about what’s on the horizon for this partnership in the coming year. The Other Side: Flourishing in Life Beyond the Military COMMIT’s coaching team is full of incredible thought leaders. Jason Roncoroni shares his perspective on why transition is hard for people who are used to doing hard things and how COMMIT and our extensive network of veteran advocates surrounds each transitioning service member to ensure they do not feel alone during this major life pivot. His in-depth exploration of the transition mindset and the importance of community are insightful and powerful. For the full story, click here Nobody Walks Alone Virtual 5k Isolation can be one of the most harmful elements to a service members transition from active duty service. Unfortunately, self-isolation is a natural reaction when a warrior is struggling with identity and a sense of loss. That’s why COMMIT is dedicated to surrounding transitioning service members with a supportive community to provide encouragement, guidance, and meaningful connections. On September 10th, COMMIT will host our Nobody Walks Alone virtual 5k to rally and celebrate our community of vested veteran advocates. It’s not too late to sign up: click here to register! For the full story, click here A COMMIT Summer: Spanning the Nation COMMIT leveraged this summer to connect in new ways with our community. From Denver to New York City; Eglin Air Force Base to Bozeman, MT, we spanned the nation to deliver transformative transition services to some of the most deserving and incredible patriots. For the full story, click here 2021 Annual Report Our 2021 Annual Report is available! Take a look at some of the amazing things you helped us accomplish last year. It’s no wonder 2022 is on track to be one of the busiest and most successful years yet for COMMIT! 2021 Annual Report Just Combined Federal Campaign 2022 Calling all Federal Employees! COMMIT has joined the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). We hope you will consider listing COMMIT as your charity of choice this September when the CFC launches! Our listing number is 88085 or you can donate directly here.

    Read More
  • Aug 15, 2022

    The Other Side: Flourishing in Life Beyond the Military

    “How do you experience joy?” Seems like a simple question. Would you believe that this is one of the most difficult for military leaders to answer? This assessment comes from hundreds of intimate conversations with leaders from all services transitioning from the military over the past three years. Reintegrating back into society after decades of service is not easy. The evidence is in the numbers. Veterans have a higher rate of addiction, mental health issues, and suicide. Despite the vast efforts made by public, private, and nonprofit entities to abate these challenges through awareness and prevention, the incidence of these social challenges have remained relatively constant for the past two decades. We’ve been playing defense against these social issues and it hasn’t worked. Maybe it’s time to play some offense. Instead of averting failure, we should focus on a different objective: flourishing. Our approach to transition should not be restrictive but hopeful. Fortunately, we have many of the tools necessary to help veterans build a strategic game plan. Positive psychology, the study of how to apply what people do well to optimize performance and happiness, provides a playbook grounded in theory, research, and scientific evidence. We also have the supporting cast of coaches, family members, and citizens like you who believe those who sacrificed to secure our happiness and freedom deserve an opportunity to find their own after fulfilling their duty. We can inspire military leaders with the idea that their best days lie ahead. We can help them find joy. In order to find out what it takes to find joy, we need to understand what we are working with. We have to understand why a question about joy is so difficult for so many military leaders to answer. Joy becomes a difficult construct due to the nature of what it takes to succeed in the military. It is a challenge of intention, presence, and culture. Once we understand the problem, we can apply what we know about positive psychology to achieve the ideal outcome in life beyond the military: the opportunity to flourish. The Challenge of Intention Joy is a difficult construct for military leaders for a number of reasons. The first has to do with an intention to look for it. Research from the field of positive psychology shows that enduring happiness is not a product of significant life events. The satisfaction we feel from graduations, the birth of a child, a promotion, or a vacation tends to decay rapidly. Happiness is born from what we experience in our everyday lives. It is watching your children grow, feeling your partner’s hand in yours, and hearing your kids tell you that they love you. In order to experience joy, you have to be looking for it. The problem for military leaders is that we don’t look for the good things that are happening. In fact, we are conditioned to do the exact opposite. Our job is to identify and solve problems before they compromise the mission or endanger our people. We excel at finding vulnerability and weakness. Out of necessity, we become experts in risk management. Psychologists call this defensive pessimism - the ability to proactively identify obstacles so that you can take action to overcome these challenges. Leaders hone this skill throughout their military careers. Unfortunately, defensive pessimism becomes a habit that bleeds over into every aspect of life whether it involves a military operation or planning a family vacation. When you expect to see problems, you tend to find them. The ability to prevent failure is not a recipe for finding happiness. Consider a scenario where you are tasked to count the number of red cars that you see on your morning drive into work - a relatively straight-forward requirement. However, when you arrive at the office, your boss asks you how many green cars you saw. You know that there were green cars along your route, but you weren’t paying attention to them. Your intention was focused on red cars. Same applies to hunting potential vulnerabilities with an expectation to find happiness. It is not that the moments of joy aren’t there, but you just don’t notice them. You can’t expect to notice the green cars when you spend all your time looking for red ones. Because we focus on what’s bad, we simply miss the good. The Challenge of Presence Joy occurs in the moment. It requires presence to experience this emotion. As military leaders, we are always looking to the future to shape events to create an advantage. If not forward, we are looking back to apply lessons learned. It is easy to notice when military leaders are off duty because they are the ones constantly checking their phones at their son’s baseball game. If you are a military leader reading this, how often are you checking your phone or work email over the weekend? Do you notice the sunrise when you wake up in the morning, or are you too busy looking at your phone to see if you got any messages through the night. Let’s face it, being present is not one of our more endearing qualities. In the military, this quality is a strength. Given the nature of urgent, complex, and complicated problems we face, we value the ability to sift through large volumes of information, conduct rapid analysis, and make a sound decision in dynamic, constrained, and dangerous environments. Let me offer one example based on my experience: One of the first, critical lessons we teach pilots in flight school is the ability to cross-check their instruments and systems. This involves the ability to glance at a dozen different analog and digital displays to process what is happening inside the aircraft while maintaining your focus outside the aircraft. Then, we ask aviators to do it at night under limited visibility that requires learning a series of visual cues to estimate movement and maintain spatial orientation. Then, we add five radios speaking simultaneously. Then, we put you in charge of an entire flight of aircraft. Then, someone starts shooting at you. These demands are consistent for pilots and nonpilots alike. Our operational environment requires a state of cognition analogous to the frequency hop mode of communications - we are constantly shifting our focus from one thing to another every few seconds. Over the duration of a career, it becomes a habit. On a physiological level, our brains become more efficient by constructing the neural pathways to facilitate these processes of active cognition. Because of neural plasticity, we build a structure that is hyper sensitive and calibrated to frequency hop from one task to another. It becomes a new state of being that works in the military such that when we leave, our brains are simply not calibrated to operate in single channel mode. The Challenge of Culture According to renowned psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, the concept of flourishing, the optimal state of performance and happiness, is a function of five qualities: positive emotion, engagement or a state of flow, positive relationships, a deep sense of purpose and meaning, and achievement - also known as the PERMA Model of subjective well-being in the parlance of positive psychology. Once we consider how the military nurtures these qualities through its culture, we can understand why transitioning from the service becomes such a formidable undertaking. The military culture fulfills the requirements for self-actualization through the rubric of Maslow’s Hierarchy. With a full suite of benefits and a paycheck that arrives on the 1st and 15th of every month, the military provides for the safety and security of the service member and their family. Military leaders face the prospect of losing this when we transition. In terms of psychological needs, the military provides a strong sense of belonging forged through a distinguishable and honorable group identity. Camaraderie is perhaps the most endearing quality of military service. Additionally, the military culture validates and reinforces esteem through the recognizable uniforms, customs and courtesies, rank structure, and rituals steeped in honor and tradition. We don’t have that in the civilian world. Finally, the nature of the work itself challenges leaders to push the boundaries of performance for themselves and the team. The military requires the very best of its people, and therefore pushes them to achieve the very highest level of their potential. We stand to lose a lot when we leave a culture that is familiar and satisfying on so many levels. On a neurological level, we feel this sense of satisfaction through the steady drip of oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins - otherwise known as the “happiness chemicals.” The oxytocin is the result of the trusted relationships, and love (especially love) that comes from that deep sense of camaraderie. The serotonin is fueled from the esteem that comes from doing meaningful work as part of a respected team. The novelty of achievement from complex problems provides the high we feel from mission accomplishment, and the endorphins allow us to push past the discomfort to realize the upper limit of our potential. The chemical resonance that comes from the flood of hormones and neurotransmitters provide that deep satisfaction and subjective well-being. We are satisfied despite the inherent danger of the work. We don’t need to focus on singular moments when riding a tidal wave of emotion that comes from engagement, meaningful activities, positive relationships, and achievement in the military culture. That wave comes crashing down upon leaving the military. There is a void that remains when the tide recedes. A certain emptiness that longs for the connection, sense of meaning, and engagement. Once you’ve been challenged to be your best self, it becomes difficult to settle for anything less. Flourishing is the standard because you know what that’s like. Secular pursuits in the name of profit or shareholder value simply don’t hold the same appeal. Over time, the emptiness is consumed by a sense of loneliness and despair. The idea of job placement against a backstop of resources - i.e. those designed to simply stop suicide - are not going to help our veterans find happiness in life beyond the military. A New Alternative: Finding Joy The challenge of transition is not to replace what is lost when you leave the military, but to find a new alternative - something better. We join the military for a number of different reasons - college money, an adventure, the opportunity to do something different, but choosing to make military service a career is so much more than that. It is a calling. We assume that service was the calling, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s not. The military journey is one path to fulfill that calling, but not the only one. Some of the difficult work in transition has nothing to do with the resume or LinkedIn Profile. It has everything to do with understanding a person’s internal drive. This requires an awareness of personal values, strengths, and purpose. Once you understand how military service aligns with this motivation, you have a template for understanding how another opportunity might align with that drive. This is how transitioning leaders find the engagement, meaning, fulfilling relationships, and worthwhile achievement in life beyond the military. What about joy? Well, positive emotion becomes the decisive factor in the transition process. Because we don’t see it while we are in the military, the ability to add this quality to our lives provides the potential of greater happiness and satisfaction in life beyond the military. The good news is that the science of positive psychology has already identified and researched interventions that can help set the intention to find joy and increase presence in the moment to experience it. We know what works need only to coach veterans on ways they can integrate these practices into their daily lives. Some examples of these interventions include journaling, acts of kindness, mindfulness, meditation, acceptance, and reframing. Unfortunately, integrating these behaviors into a daily routine is not easy. Building new habits is a difficult undertaking once an individual reaches their mid-thirties. Every retiree struggles to break free of the habits they formed in the military. According to Dr. Joe Dispenza, an adult’s personality is 95 percent formed by the time we reach the age of 35. When most of us joined the military, we were just kids, so the majority of our adult persona was shaped through the military culture. Now, we need that 5 percent of conscious intention to change our behavior. Furthermore, research suggests that the average time it takes to form a new habit can vary between 18 and 254 days with older adults tending to lean the right side of that scale. Given the physiology of the brain, it definitely takes more time to teach older dogs new tricks. It’s time to play offense. Choosing to flourish in life after the military is an ambitious undertaking, but one worth the effort. Imagine the value of injecting proven leaders who are committed to helping others and making a difference with a higher sense of purpose and drive than what they experienced in the military. Society benefits from the prospect of repurposing and empowering military leaders. This is the reason why tribal societies choose members of the warrior caste to become the chieftains and wise elders of the social order. However, the journey is not easy, and we’ve seen how veterans struggle to do this on their own. What we ask is for you to come down from your seat in the stands and join us on the field. With your help, the once difficult question of joy can become an easy one. Commit with us to provide more meaningful services such as coaching and an introduction to these interventions to help veterans be their best selves in life beyond the military. Be our partner. Together, we can do this. Let’s ensure that no veteran walks alone.

    Read More