How a SOCOM Integration Model Can Make Civilian Workplaces Veteran-Friendly

Joshua Wilson is the corporate relationship manager at America's Warrior Partnership.
Joshua Wilson is the corporate relationship manager at America's Warrior Partnership. (Photo courtesy of America's Warrior Partnership)

The hardest veterans to reach are the ones who spend most of their time commuting to work, working all day and then commuting home. How can these veterans get the support and resources they need, when most of their time is spent supporting themselves and their families?

America's Warrior Partnership (AWP) wants to show corporate America how to do that, whether it's looking to recruit veterans or train civilians on the issues returning vets face in the workforce.

But executives and management can't drive the effort. That requires a bottom-up effort from employees.

"Offices geared toward military integration and veteran hiring initiatives are often full of wonderful and motivated people," said Joshua Wilson, corporate relationship manager at America's Warrior Partnership. "But in large companies, those offices don't always have the same area of effect at the employee level."

There are a lot of resources for veterans making the transition into civilian life. AWP is all about bringing those disparate entities and resources together through its Corporate Veteran Initiative (CVI) to help any company create or enhance its relationship with the military and its potential veteran workforce.

"It can be something as simple as a Facebook group, an internal email chain or a regular monthly meeting," Wilson said. "The company's entire military-connected population in an employee driven-program can offer networking, mentorship opportunities and engagement with each other. They will talk about their relationships. And you will be connected directly to those veterans, and you will see what you can do for them."

America's Warrior Partnership believes that, by empowering communities to support veterans, veterans will be empowered themselves -- and they do this through what it calls "community integration."

Formed in 2013, the Augusta, Georgia-based nonprofit created a four-step model to integrate veterans into their communities: connect, educate, advocate and collaborate. The model connects veterans to the resources they need, educates communities on the needs of veterans, advocates for the vets and their needs, and collaborates with everyone involved to get the job done.

That's the community integration aspect, and it's the foundation of the America's Warrior Partnership's outreach effort.

America's Warrior Partnership was founded by Air Force veteran Jim Lorraine, who also founded the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Care Coalition. America's Warrior Partnership was modeled after the Care Coalition program, which relies on collaborative efforts between military and civilian agencies.

The idea is to pull in organizations and earned benefits to create a framework of support necessary for veterans to thrive and for the community to benefit through that success. Using local talent and resources ensures the program developed for a certain company or area is specifically tailored to their needs.

This holistic approach encompasses all areas of an individual's life, including housing, employment, health, education, access to benefits, spirituality, recreation and relationships.

Community integration delivers the tools a community needs to be responsive to the needs of veterans, their families and caregivers, according to AWP.

In the workplace, this means combining resources from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor and state and local programs that might be beneficial to vets and to the workplaces they enter.

Workplaces are an important part of a veteran's livelihood, but as difficult as a transition can be for the veteran, there is a lot about the vet's post-military experience that a civilian workplace may struggle to understand. Post-traumatic stress is just the tip of the iceberg.

"We definitely see that making a company aware of these issues has a profound effect," Wilson said. "They may not institute huge training programs, but this initiative takes a lot of dedication. Companies are willing to continue the partnership with us, and we continue to help them make the military a priority in their offices."

The effort pays off for the companies that work with AWP. Civilian employees will learn more about the military, its culture and the lives of veterans. Veterans who feel more at home in their companies will show their appreciation through higher retention rates and quality output. The workplace culture itself becomes stronger and more positive.

For veterans involved in America's Warrior Partnership, the results speak for themselves. AWP has helped more than 53,000 veterans since 2014. Of those veterans, some 97% enrolled in school have graduated or are on track to do so, 85% are enrolled in VA health care and the AWP veteran unemployment rate sits at 6%, AWP says.

Employees love the partnership's programs, and employers benefit greatly from them, according to AWP.

"What's so great about this model is that it's flexible, depending on the size of the company and what their needs are," said Kaitlin Cashwell, AWP's director of community integration. "Companies grow programs at their appropriate scale, and we work with a company to figure out the best way to build a program that works for them."

While America's Warrior Partnership began its life at a local level, it now serves communities all over the United States. For more information, visit its website.

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