By Susan D. Brandenburg
December 7, 2016 marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor — a fitting day to pay tribute to U. S. veterans. At the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra that morning, nine U.S. veterans were on stage being honored as graduates of Operation New Uniform, a local non-profit organization that equips veterans to transition successfully from military to civilian life.
Operation New Uniform (operationnewuniform.org) was co-founded in 2014 by Navy veteran Justin Justice and Michele McManamon, vice-president of Sandler Training and 2016 chair of the PGA Red Coats. Both co-founders were on hand December 7th to talk about the perks of the program and to congratulate the deserving graduates.
Graduates included Allan Amos, Jr., 32-year Army veteran with a Master of Science degree in Human Resources Development from Webster University; Christopher Hancock, five-year transitioning Navy veteran with a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from Walden University; James Jackson, eight-year Marine Corps veteran with a Bachelor of Science degree in Technical Management from DeVry University; Jeff Townsend, 20-year Navy veteran with a Master of Science degree in Management of Integrated Logistics and a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University; Jewel Augustus, 20-year Navy veteran with an MBA from Columbia Southern University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from St. Leo University; John Connors, 20-year Navy veteran with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Columbia College; Keary Schear, 24-year Navy veteran with a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies from Roger Williams University; Vincent Ford, 21-year Navy veteran with an MBA from Jacksonville University; and Yolande Goodman, five-year Marine Corps veteran with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from New School University.
Hosted by the PGA Tour and Birdies for the Brave, the graduation of Cohort 16 (the 16th team to graduate from Operation New Uniform) was attended by families, friends, former graduates and a few potential employers. Highly skilled and well-educated, displaying an impressive aura of poise and confidence, each of the nine veterans spoke to the audience about their positive experience with their cohorts at Operation New Uniform and their intention to acquire a meaningful professional career.
Father of three and a Navy intelligence analyst who specialized in project management and technical training, Vincent Ford was discouraged to discover that his highly developed skills didn’t seem transferrable to corporate America.
“I’d trained hundreds of students, but I hadn’t been trained for the transition into civilian life,” said Ford. “After months of job-hunting, I told my wife, Scholastica, that I was just going to devote my time to finishing up my graduate studies in accounting and finance. I earned my degree and then my vocational counselor at Jacksonville University recommended that I contact Operation New Uniform. It was a turning point for me.”
The four-week Operation New Uniform program, Finding the Uniform, is facilitated by former graduate Jeff Robertson, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Following the graduation, Operation New Uniform offers a second program, Enhancing the Uniform, led by U.S. Navy veteran Mary Maszy, who works one on one with veterans, redesigning resumes and connecting them with potential employers.
Now in the process of polishing his resume and making contact with several of the potential employers he has met through using his new networking skills, Ford is firmly convinced that all branches of the U.S. Military should consider contracting with Operation New Uniform for equipping veterans to transition into civilian life.
“Our Operation New Uniform training cost us nothing except our dedication,” said Ford, “and it was so valuable. They need support to provide this training to more veterans. In fact, I think every person who served in the military should have the opportunity to go through the Operation New Uniform program. If you do the work, the tools are there to achieve success.”
Photo courtesy Susan D. Brandenburg
Operation New Uniform’s Vincent and Scholastica Ford with Jeff Robertson.