Transitioning From Military To Civilian Life In Tampa Bay: "Not Your Average Speakers''

As home to MacDill Air Force Base, Central Command, Coalition forces and a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station, the Tampa Bay region often wins the hearts and minds of military personnel who want to stay here after they complete their tours of duty.

But in order to stay here, most have to find civilian jobs -- jobs that pay well enough to support families and can take advantage of the special skills learned through military training.

Think precision technology. Think logistics. Think aeronautical engineering. Think speakers and interpreters of multiple languages. Think pilots, mechanics, firefighters, police officers, human resources directors, bus drivers, teachers, nurses, dental hygienists and doctors, community planners, supervisors, administrators, statisticians, accountants, contract specialists, managers and steady, dependable workers.

Think of just about everything learned in the military -- from high tech to highly disciplined -- and chances are pretty good that whatever constitutes an individual's skill set can be reinvented, retooled or reimagined to fit into a civilian job that benefits the person, an employer and the greater community.

But not everyone experiences a transition the same. And not every veteran is properly prepared to leave the strict environment within the military. Some come out damaged, physically and/or mentally. Others flounder, not knowing what to do. Some walk the streets as homeless veterans bouncing from shelter to free clinics to soup kitchens looking for safety and something to eat.

So what are the challenges and opportunities facing military personnel as they transition into civilian life? And what are the challenges and opportunities for the community to carve out room for the men and women who have served abroad and at home with an expectation of finding employment in the private or public sectors when they are ready?

What special programs and services exist to nurture successful transitions? Where are financial and other resources available that can help? How does one find out more about the people, the employers and the jobs available?

Such questions will be the focus of 83 Degrees Media's next "Not Your Average Speakers''-led community conversation called "Bring 'Em Home! Transforming Military Might Into Civilian Talent'' from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Tampa Firefighters Museum, 720 E. Zack St., in downtown Tampa.

You can RSVP here.

Community Dialogue Starts With Conversation

Panelists include:

Col. Scott V. DeThomas -- Commander of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base since July 2012. DeThomas is responsible for more than $2.8 billion in base property and capital assets and controls an annual budget of more than $249 million. Studies estimate MacDill's economic influence on the Tampa Bay region in excess of $5 billion annually. A native of Rhode Island, DeThomas is a graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and has been awarded the Bronze Star and the Distinguished Superior Service Medal.

Kiersten Downs -- A doctoral student in applied anthropology at the University of South Florida. Downs completed a 3,800-mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Washington D.C. this past summer to raise awareness for student veterans and raise $50,000 for the nonprofit organization, Student Veterans of America. She is the former president of USF's chapter of Student Veterans of America and currently sits on the national student council for SVA. She served for seven years in the Air Force and New York Air National Guard. After leaving active duty in 2005, she earned a bachelor of arts in political science from Binghamton University. 

Ryan Moran -- A Project Manager with LVI Environmental Services, Inc. in Tampa and the CEO and Founder of TheVeteransEdge, a nonprofit organization designed to help veterans find appropriate jobs. He is pursuing a degree in Business Entrepreneurship at the University of Tampa and also sits on the Board of Directors for Second2None Excursion, a nonprofit organization that offers outdoor excursions as a means to improve the Disabled Veterans’ quality of life through adventure and sense of accomplishment, provide opportunities to socialize and network with other disabled and able-bodied veterans in a team building environment and provide opportunities for families to reconnect in activities that enhance physical and mental health. He is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brian Murphy -- President and CEO of ReliaQuest, a security consulting service for Fortune 1,000 firms and government agencies. He is a member of the board of directors of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF) and the Ryan Nece Foundation and serves in leadership roles for the Tampa chapters of the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Assoc. and the National Defense Industry Assoc. A graduate of Florida State University, he has degrees in accounting and finance.

Serving as moderator for the discussion will be Tampa Tribune Writer Howard Altman, who covers military affairs and has spent time embedded with troops overseas.

Underwriting partners for this free event that is open to the public include Nielsen, MOSI Tampa and PNC Bank.

You can RSVP here.

Looking Back

83 Degrees Media launched the "Not Your Average Speakers'' series in October 2011 with a panel discussion about "What's Working In [Tampa Bay] Cities.'' Since then, local topics have included "Champions for Change,'' "Community Building,'' "Placemaking,'' "Talent Squeeze,'' "Valuing Diversity,'' "Putting P3s To Work,'' "Innovation,'' "Tampa's Curious Quest To Be Cool.'' "STEM or STEAM: Shaping the Future of Tampa Bay'' and "What's New and What's Next for Downtown Tampa.''

Past events have been held at a variety of cool places, including The Vault in the Franklin Exchange, Hillsborough Community College-Ybor City campus, CAMLS, Jaeb Theater, Stageworks Theatre, Freefall Theatre, The Roosevelt 2.0, Walker Brands, the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, MOSI Tampa and Encore! Tampa. To suggest a venue to host a future event, email 83 Degrees.

83 Degrees Media covers growth, investment and social innovation in the Tampa Bay region by featuring stories about Talent, Innovation, Global Diversity and Environment -- a new narrative for a new economy. "Not Your Average Speakers'' features creative, innovative and influential people in and around Tampa Bay who are doing their part to move the region forward.

Tweet about 83 Degrees and the NYAS events on Twitter by using #83DegreesNYAS @83degreesmedia. Also, if you’re feeling likeable, like us on Facebook. We just might like you back!

Diane Egner is publisher and managing editor of 83 Degrees Media. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Diane Egner.

Diane Egner is the publisher and managing editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. 
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