Iraq War veteran Scott Plunkett's experience after leaving the Marines as a corporal mirrored that of many young vets searching for what to do with the rest of their lives.
He went to community college, picked up a degree at Northeastern Illinois University, dabbled in stand-up comedy and took a job in sales that fell short of his still-undefined ambitions.
Then he saw an ad on a sports site for something called "Code Platoon," which promised intense training in coding and the networking necessary for job placement for veterans willing to put in the time and effort.
"Might as well give it a shot," Plunkett, 29, of Chicago, thought.
Code Platoon, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that is authorized for attendance with the GI Bill, calls itself a "full-stack coding bootcamp" that can be attended at its classroom in Chicago's Loop or remotely.
"We'll teach you full-stack development over the course of 14 weeks in our downtown Chicago classroom, and train you to be eligible for paid internships and full-time employment as a web developer," the promotional material states. "No previous programming experience is necessary."
However, organizers warn that there is a rigorous admissions process for entry, and participation is limited to veterans.
"Our mission is to serve the veteran, not the company," said Rodrigo Levy, founder and CEO of Code Platoon.
Levy had attended the for-profit Dev Bootcamp in immersive coding.
"[It was] pretty amazing. I thought I'd take that model and bring it to a community I care about," he said.
Code Platoon began in 2014 and graduated its first class in 2016.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist" to make it through Code Platoon, Levy said, but it does require commitment and long hours -- and that's before the applicant gets in the door.
"We're targeting the deeply interested beginner," Levy said.
To get into Code Platoon, applicants are required to submit a series of essays and complete what Levy described as a number of "coding challenges" for beginners.
The cost of the course is about $13,000, but Levy said applicants are eligible for scholarships from corporate sponsors.
Plunkett, the Marine veteran, said the course cost him about $2,500 out of pocket. It wasn't easy but it was worth it, he said.
"It completely changed the trajectory of my life," Plunkett told Military.com.
For him, one of the best features of Code Platoon was the door it opened to internships and apprenticeships for graduates.
Levy ultimately asked Plunkett to come back on as an assistant instructor for the next Code Platoon cohort. An apprenticeship eventually opened up for him at the 8th Light software and development firm in Chicago.
Former Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Dorsey, 29, of Chicago, was still working his way through Code Platoon when he spoke with Military.com last week.
"I've got about two months to go. I think it's great," he said. "Those first couple of weeks -- that was really tough," he said.
"It's not just about coding," Dorsey continued. "You learn different software skills and you learn about how to deal with the civilian world, what to do and what not to do. And they'll pair you up with somebody to write a resume."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.