From Combat Boots to Business Suits

Approximately 200,000 military service members transition to civilian life every year. They often find themselves in a unique predicament after completing their military careers. Namely, how will they transition back into the civilian workforce? Finding gainful employment is an integral part of the road back to the lives they once knew before their service. This time of change comes with many ups and downs. It can also be a time of hope as new opportunities present themselves and next life chapters are written.

Ashish Vazirani

In October 2023, Ashish Vazirani – who serves as acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, had this to say: “Service members are better prepared for their transition to civilian life today than at any other time in history.” The comments were part of his testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees on military-to-civilian transition. Vazirani specifically cited the effectiveness of investments being made in service members’ training, education and financial readiness. He went on to relate that “Veterans using the post-9/11 GI Bill are more likely to graduate and have a higher grade-point average than those of previous periods. Veterans are 20% more likely to be homeowners than their civilian counterparts. Also, veterans enrolled with the Department of Veterans Affairs have better health outcomes than their civilian counterparts.”

The VA and DOD work together to supervise the transition process for veterans. Significant improvements have been made in terms of mental health support services and homelessness prevention. The thrust of the initiative is to make sure military members and their families “thrive beyond the battlefield.”

James Rodriguez is the Department of Labor’s assistant secretary for the Veteran’s Employment and Training Service. His department provides assistance in preparing veterans and military spouses for substantial careers. They benefit from expertise, resources and protection of their employment rights. (

Joseph Nayock

Navy veteran and St. Johns County resident Joseph Nayock remembers being an outdoor enthusiast while growing up in Crabtree, Pennsylvania. Even as a kid, he was competitive and had a love for all things athletic. He eventually served in the US Navy as a Hospital Corpsman. Over the course of 21 years, he touched down in upwards of 30 countries, such as Afghanistan and Kuwait, on humanitarian missions. “As I made the transition from military service to civilian life, I couldn’t help but notice…the importance of translating military skill sets into civilian terms,” recalls Nayock. Part of the challenge involved military jargon. “I think military skill sets are so valuable in the civilian sector, and it is just about how you can use those skills to provide value to whatever position or organization you are looking to work for,” explains Nayock.

Scrupulous planning proved to be Nayock’s most effective tactic. He thoughtfully mapped out his goals spanning close to one year. He also tapped into a network of colleagues who were willing to lend a hand and serve as sounding boards along the way.   

Today, Nayock himself serves as a mentor to those seeking the very guidance he once needed. Three words come into focus when we distill Nayock’s strategy: recognition, resources and connection. Humbly recognizing that the journey from military service back to civilian life is not meant to be taken alone is of utmost importance for Nayock. He further advises that one “seek out resources that specialize in translating your unique skill set.” When obstacles inevitably arise, Nayock shares this stirring advice: “…maintain resilience in the face of setbacks and rejections…keep networking, stay committed to learning and rest assured, the pieces will eventually fall into place.” Nayock is a Senior Business Analyst with Optum.