Returning to the civilian sector after military service is an adjustment – whether reintegrating into family life, a change in routine and culture or reinventing oneself. Advocates say that the key to the transition experience is understanding one’s “civilian positionality."
Chaunte’ Myers, CEO and co-founder of Centurion Military Alliance (CMA)
, is an Air Force veteran who was raised in a military family. With firsthand knowledge of transition issues, Myers, through CMA, works to help ease the process for other military service personnel as they transition back to civilian life.
Lisnek: The United States Department of Defense estimates that approximately 250,000 service members return to civilian life every year. And for many transitioning personnel, educational advancement, securing employment, financial literacy -- among the challenges that face them when they come home. Hi. Welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Paul Lisnek. Joining me for a conversation on personalized transition assistance for our service members is Chaunte´ Myers. She is C.E.O. and cofounder of Centurion Military Alliance. Chaunte´, so nice to see you. Enchanté.
Myers: Oui. Thank you for having me.
Lisnek: This entire program has to emerge from that fact that you come from a military-service-laden family that just goes back generations for you.
Myers: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
Lisnek: Talk to me about that.
Myers: It´s the reason I joined the military. Growing up as a military dependent and transitioning from one installation to another, I could speak to the trials and the tribulations that were faced as a dependent, as a service member member, as a spouse of a wounded warrior, Purple Heart recipient, and now looking at all of our transition and how it all kind of comes together and how we were able to take maybe what we went through that could´ve been perceived as a negative or a bias and how we transitioned successfully. We did so as a family. We had a strong unit. We had something to come home to. And that´s what now, in carrying a legacy and moving forward, that was why we created Centurion Military Alliance.
Lisnek: And, indeed, we could talk about your grandparents, your brothers, I mean, everybody surrounding you, but I do want to focus in on your dad, because I don´t think we´re here without him.
Myers: That´s right. That´s right. My father paved the way. And he´s leaving this legacy for us. Centurion Military Alliance was his dissertation, and his dissertation is now the Sergeants Major Academy for the Army. And the curriculum speaks to educational attainment, financial literacy, and vocational proficiency. And his exact verbiage on our multi-disciplinary curriculum was, "Without one of those pillars, one won´t know their civilian positionality." And so, you have this trifecta. Again, educational attainment. Without education, I can´t speak to my vocation. Without being able to speak and articulate my vocation, I won´t have financial literacy.
Lisnek: So let´s talk a little bit about those pillars that are so very important, so important to your dad, so important to your family, and now to everybody. Educational attainment. You know, there is maybe a stigma that goes along with people that come out of the military. People think, "Oh, they -- you know, they´re not gonna have the same kind of successful careers as others," and that´s just so wrong.
Myers: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. We, again, believe that it starts with educational attainment. And a lot of times, we have this forward-thinking, "Well, I have this master´s degree from the war college and I´m good," or, "I have this -- I´m transitioning out and I have this certification or the licensure, and I´m gonna be okay." And then you realize that all of us economically free-fall $20K to $30K immediately, and so, that hinders our financial literacy. And so, when you go back to educational attainment and you tell, "Okay, dust off the old war-college degree. What´s gonna be that next thing that you´re looking at doing?" "Well, I´m interested in going into consulting." "Okay. Well, let me look at the project-management certification right now being offered by Onward to Opportunity, Syracuse University, that´s completely free for our transitioning service members, veterans, and spouses." And so, our goal with educational attainment is to be able to showcase and highlight these institutions that are military-friendly, that have some of the free opportunities, and that are coming in to truly support and to enhance that brand awareness.
Lisnek: And when these vets or their spouses, family members, get out of disability, of course, there´s the financial piece of this, because you have to run a business, you´ve got to enter a business, and I´ll be honest, I can barely balance my checkbook.
Myers: Right. Right. Well, in the military, if you can balance a checkbook, you´re years ahead, and we think you´re financially literate. The problem with that is, now, and especially when you -- You just brought up entrepreneurship, and we tend to push these things, or we get out of the military and we think, "I´m done listening to people. I´m gonna do my own thing," and so, you start your own business with no business background, with not understanding true financial literacy. What happens then is that, say your business fails. Sure, you get the initial loans, but how do you maintain? How do you go back to the bank the next year or your funders or your backers and say, "This is what I´ve done as a business, this is my structure, this is my plan"? And if you cannot speak to financial literacy, you´re probably not gonna get that backing for that second, third year to continue.
Lisnek: What´s also important for people to realize -- this is not a one-size-fits-all for everybody. What you do is an individualized case-management approached.
Myers: That´s right. Absolutely. And whether you´re the E4 sitting in the room or you´re the two-star general, what means the most to me at the end of a Centurion Military Alliance workshop is that, from the E4 coming up and saying, "Hey, I just enrolled in a bachelor´s degree program, and this is truly -- I´m starting to see my vocation," or the two-star comes up to you and he said, "I just enrolled with Onward to Opportunity for that free PMP certification, because I´ve got three kids in college. I´m starting my consulting business. In order to understand project management, I need a project-management certification," and so you see across the board, as veterans, as spouses, as dependents, we´re coming in and we´re willing to grow. We´re willing to ensure that we transition successfully so we can continue to become -- or to be -- productive members of society. We want to showcase and highlight that we joined a service to serve others, and as we transition out, we´re still serving by becoming servant leaders within the community.
Lisnek: I know your dad had some health issues, fighting with some health issues, and this is so important to his legacy and the work he does. He´s proud of you now, isn´t he?
Myers: He is.
Lisnek: So important. Thank you for the service.
Myers: Thank you very much.
Lisnek: I appreciate it, Chaunte´ Myers, with all the work that you´re doing. And thank you for joining us, as well. If you want more great conversations with leaders in your community, across our country, just go to comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Paul Lisnek. ♫♫ ♫♫