FORT HOOD, Texas - The Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the United States Army is helping Soldiers, veterans and families connect with civilian mentors who can help them with everything from a career focus while transitioning from the military, to spiritual guidance through its professional mentorship program.
“We found an opportunity to bridge the gap between the community and Soldiers,” Kelly Brown, president of the CTFH Chapter of AUSA, said about establishing the program last year.
Fernando Fernandez, CTFH Chapter of AUSA committee chair, developed the mentorship program a year ago following then-Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy’s visit to Central Texas, while attending a community leader forum.
“While observing the exchange between the secretary (of the Army) and community leaders, I realized a couple of things. One, that there was a disconnect between the community and Fort Hood and second, a desire from the community to be a part of the solution and help in any way they could,” Fernandez explained.
After presenting his idea to the board, they were excited for the opportunity to find another way of fulfilling their mission, which is to help Soldiers and their families. By the end of 2020, the CTFH Chapter of AUSA helped 10 soldiers connect with mentors throughout the surrounding communities.
“It gave me a chance to look at what logistics is like from the outside (of the Army), versus what we do in the Army,” Master Sgt. Nadia Davis, 1st Cavalry Division, explained about her experience as a mentee of Megan Bradley, chief financial officer from Killeen Independent School District. “I found that it’s similar, which made things easier for me to say, ‘OK, I can do this on the outside,’ instead of getting out and not knowing what to expect.”
Brown said that while growing up, he always had mentors to look up to for guidance. He has since learned that, depending on where a person is during their walk in life, they may need different mentors for different things.
He said the program is not just about one-on-one mentoring. In November 2020, the CTFH Chapter of AUSA partnered with Fort Hood to pick up litter along the entrances and exits off Highway 190 leading to the Bernie Beck Main Gate, as well as the areas that touch Fort Hood along Rancier Avenue and Fort Hood Street, outside the Frank W. Mayborn Gate. Approximately 400 military and civilian personnel attended that project.
“If anybody thinks it was just about cleaning up a road, they missed the whole point,” Brown explained. “We had a mix of Soldiers, families and community members. It was the conversation that was going on during the cleanup. And it was great because nobody was voluntold to be there.”
Brown added that a Soldier was considering becoming a realtor after transitioning from the military, so they partnered him with a local realtor, who walked him through the process of becoming a realtor and gave him honest answers about the real estate business. Brown added that the process is helpful because, for someone who has only known the life of a Soldier for 20 years, they will not have to waste their time and energy to later realize a certain career field may not be for them.
Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra, who is a realtor with Homevet Realtors, has helped mentor several Soldiers looking for a career transition into real estate. Segarra said he is happy to be a mentor for the program because it gives Soldiers a better understanding of the options available to them when they transition.
“We help them truly get an understanding of what a sales career is and what is required in order for them to be successful,” Segarra added. “Because, just like any career, you will have to do things you may not always enjoy, but it is part of the journey in order to be successful.”
Brown and Fernandez said that Soldiers who have been in the Army for 20 years have always those leaders and mentors in their lives, so transitioning to a civilian job may cause extra stress.
“If we can assist one person in achieving their goal of making an easy transition,” Fernandez said, “then we’ve achieved ours.”