Newsletter Spring 2017


In the next five years, over one million military members and their families will transition to civilian life. For many, finding employment will be the most challenging part. The Onward to Opportunity program – a public-private partnership between the Schultz Family Foundation and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, in collaboration with the United States Department of Defense – has the potential to fundamentally shift how the private sector engages and supports our service members and their families as they navigate the transition to civilian employment.

O2O by the Numbers

To date the O2O team is incredibly proud to report that 536 service members and veterans have been successfully hired. Some examples of companies hiring O2O graduates include:

  • Accenture
  • USAA
  • Walmart
  • La Quinta Inns and Suites
  • Starbucks

Congratulations to our hired graduates, and thank you to our partners supporting Onward to Opportunity!

Employer Partner Spotlight


The partnership between USAA and the IVMF continues to grow as the Onward to Opportunity (O2O) as Joint Base San Antonio begins its second year of service throughout Texas.

USAA is a contributing funder for O2O JBSA and is keenly involved in multiple O2O Cohorts. Mike Kelly, AVP Military Advocacy, and John DiPiero, Director Military Advocacy, spoke during JBSA’s 5th O2O Cohort. Both gentlemen shared their own military transition stories and provided valuable insight on how to effectively network with employers.

Additionally, they spoke about their veteran/military spouse hiring initiatives and encouraged O2O participants to apply if they discovered a job on the USAA career website that was a great fit.

Michael Briggs, O2O JBSA Alumni

Executive Operational Planning Manager I Corporate Communications | USAA

How helpful was the O2O training in preparing you for your new career at USAA? 

“What I found most helpful about O2O was the discussion about each step of the transition process.  They spent significant time talking about everything that happens the day after you wear your uniform for the last time on active duty.  This included dealing with how you may feel (missing the military, depression, etc.), how to search for a career, resume tips, interviewing, interpreting a job offer, negotiating a salary, professional attire, changing your vocabulary and writing style (military terminology), and adjusting to corporate culture.  The greatest benefits to me in relation to my career at USAA were the interviewing, resume and culture discussions we had.  Those talks gave me the basics and sparked me to read more about those topics after the training was completed.”

What advice would you give to other transitioning military and spouses regarding taking advantage of what O2O has to offer? 

“I would encourage everyone eligible who has never been in or has been out of the civilian work force for an extended amount of time to enroll in O2O.  I participated in the Executive Transition GPS course and without O2O I would have been severely under prepared for what to expect.  It was about more than finding a career.  I feel that O2O helps you adjust to a new way of life.  I joined the Navy in 1990 at 17, so for the most part the Navy way of doing things was all I knew, it was my lifestyle.  O2O helped me think about and consider things that just were not second nature to me (asking for a job, being able to tell anyone at any time what I wanted to do, promoting myself, developing my brand and functioning in a career with less structure).  I shared my opinions on this with Anthony and his team at the end of the classes.”

Supporter Spotlight

Hire Heroes USA

Hire Heroes USA began in 2007 with a mission to empower U.S. military members, veterans, and spouses to succeed in the civilian workforce. Currently led by CEO Brian Stann, HHUSA has confirmed more than 13,500 veterans and military spouses hired, and generated an estimated $163 million in economic impact for the veteran space. As an Onward to Opportunity supporter, HHUSA’s talented team of Veteran Transition Specialist’s provide coaching and mentoring to participants in resume writing, interview preparation, and tailored career planning based on the specific needs of the participant. Thank you for all that you do!

“Hire Heroes USA is proud to be among this team of industry experts, and we look forward to delivering our services to help set these military members and spouses up for success as they prepare for their civilian career.” – Brian Stann, CEO, Hire Heroes USA


Maurice Snipes, Tri-Base Jacksonville Cohort 1

“The O2O program is a great addition for any transitioning service member or their spouse. The perfect blend of networking, in class training and distance learning has given me the added comfort of jumping into the job market ahead of my competition. The certification programs, coordinators and partners are nothing short of awesome! They constantly check in on you and provide valuable feedback as well as local employment opportunities.  I highly encourage all transitioning members to exploit the O2O opportunity and take advantage of everything they have to offer.”

Ryan Gaston, JBLM Cohort 1, IT Track

“I wanted to thank you and O2O for the continued support I received while transitioning from Active Duty.  I recently accepted a job with Raytheon in Tucson, AZ and wanted to say that the effort everyone put in at O2O, to make my journey a successful one, has been greatly appreciated. The Service Members going through your program are lucky to have such support from a dedicated team of professionals.”

Installation Updates

National Team

  • Beginning in April 2017, the Institute of Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University will combine the Onward to Opportunity (O2O) program and its Veteran Career Transition Program (VCTP) to create a comprehensive career training and employment placement program for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses. The new program will align in a way that leverages and combines the power of both brands under the name “Onward to Opportunity in Partnership with the Veterans Career Transition Program.” The new program will be offered on site (at or near Department of Defense installations) and virtually to online learners. Both populations will also receive access to career placement support services to help them achieve their career goals. This alignment allows O2O to expand the benefits of its career training and certification program to offer the best of the O2O and VCTP programs for all participants. The new O2O/VCTP blended program will provide industry-recognized technical training, certification opportunities and employment placement services with hundreds of private sector employers representing growing segments of our modern, global economy. We are very excited to begin this new journey!

  • The National Team would like to welcome Daniel Piston as the Onward to Opportunity National Program Coordinator. Piston joins the O2O team from the Boots to Business Program at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families where he provided assistance in program management, managed materials and scheduling, and worked with partners around the world to facilitate continuous operations of the program. Piston is a US Navy veteran, serving six years as Helicopter Crew Chief and Rescue Swimmer. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Fort Drum

  • Congratulations to Army spouse, Busaya Somers! As part of Fort Drum’s O2O Cohort 1 Customer Service Excellence track, Busaya accepted a job offer from Post Exchange, AAFES, Fort Drum, NY. As a testimonial to the program, Busaya said her experience with O2O and Hire Heroes USA was great, especially the resume writing assistance.
  • Cohort 3 Launching April 10, 2017.

Joint Base San Antonio

  • Raymond “Tom” Nagley’s success story – he just accepted a Network Systems Administrator position with Engility Corporation. Great example of someone who took advantage of every networking event and all the resources availed to him through JBSA O2O and his networks.
  • Continued partnership with the SANS Institute, has proven results.
  • Upcoming cohorts begin on April 4th, June 6th, August 29th, and October 17th .

Camp Lejeune

  • Camp Lejeune’s Pilot program was approved and we are now fully up and running strong.  Our January Cohort had 23 participants join us.  We have attended several state level events in conjunction with the regional partnership with NC4ME.  O2O has a known resource for transitioning military members and we are increasing our reaches daily.
  • 7 hires from initial pilot cohort.
  • Have attended over 15 major informational events throughout the region.

Hampton Roads

  • O2O Hampton Roads kicked off its inaugural cohort with 22 engaged participants at Naval Station Norfolk on January 17, 2017.  Mr. Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber, and a 28-year Army veteran, provided inspirational remarks to the class to kick things off.  Numerous guest speakers attended demonstrating a strong show of support. Mr. Herrick Ross, Military Talent Acquisition Recruiter for Starbucks Coffee Company, spoke about organizational philosophy and customer service excellence and awarded class participants that showed the greatest initiative. Billie Cook, an award-winning HR professional with AMSEC LLC, offered helpful career tips to our cohort. Sultan Camp, Military Liaison and Talent Acquisition Specialist at Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, gave a spirited presentation on networking and effective use of social media. Reuben Mendez, Vice President of HR & Community Development at 360IT Partners, gave a “no holds barred” discussion on opportunities in the customer service and information technology fields. Additionally, Kurt Krause, Managing Director of The Main (Hilton), Norfolk, shared his hospitality and customer service tips.
  • O2O Hampton Roads will be launching its inaugural Virginia Veterans Cyber Training program on March 27, 2017.  This is a collaborative effort with the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Values Veterans, and corporate partners Cisco, Amazon Web Services, and (ISC)2.
  • O2O Hampton Roads will be kicking off its second cohort onboard Naval Station Norfolk on April 10th.

Camp Pendleton

  • The PMI – San Diego Chapter has extended a complimentary 1-year membership to all active duty military service members, veterans, and retirees to assist our graduates begin Project Management careers in San Diego, CA! Membership includes access to career resources, project management tools & templates, professional certification, support, on-demand webinars, how-to-guides, local networking opportunities, military mentorship, and much more!
  • On December 7, 2016, the O2O Camp Pendleton team recognized 24 service members, 3 spouses and 5 veterans at the graduation for Cohort 6. Out of 32 graduates, 20 completed the Project Management pilot learning pathway.
  • Laura Torres of Camp Pendleton’s O2O Cohort 4 has accepted a job as the Blue Star Families Career Manager. Congratulations Laura!

Jacksonville, FL

  • The third cohort graduated January 17, 2017 at Jacksonville University. The guest speaker of the evening was Capt. Matthew Tuohy (ret.). This graduation was attended by over 30 friends, family, O2O Alumni and current O2O students as well as approximately 25 employers and community organizations to show their support for our transitioning service members and military spouses.
  • First half of 4th Cohort launched at Wounded Warrior Project Corporate Headquarters.
  • Many students took advantage of signing up with the services WWP offers such as the Warriors to Work Project.
  • As of 2017, O2O Cohorts will be held at the WWP headquarters in Jacksonville.
  • Yellow ribbon tree at 7 Starbucks locations.
  • Lean Sigma Six starting April 2017.
  • Courses for 2017 will be offered starting January 23, April 24, July 24 and October 23.

Joint Base Lewis McChord

  • Networking social celebrated the completion of Cohort 5. Seven participants have been accepted into the Heroes Corporate Fellowship.
  • 193 total participants in the program at JBLM including 71 participants hired, 21 participants went on to full time educational programs, and 18 participants were upskilled, or used their training to secure promotion with their current employers.
  • New employer partners such as the Washington State Military Transition Council, Washington State Employers, and many other local employers.

Fort Bragg

We would like to welcome Veronica Sarantes to O2O Team as the Installation Program Coordinator at Fort Bragg. Previously she worked as a Career Counselor for the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program, where she provided comprehensive counseling, training and case managing to transitioning service members throughout the United States and overseas locations. She also worked as an Army Education Counselor in Vicenza, Italy.

Mrs. Sarantes is military spouse with over 15 years of experience in counseling, where she had the opportunity to empower veterans, military members and their families to reach their educational and career goals. She has a passion for mentoring and assisting military personnel overcome educational barriers they have in reaching their post-service career goals.

She received a Master of Science in Administration with concentration in Public Administration from Central Michigan University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with concentration in Management Information Systems from Fayetteville State University.