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Veteran Transition: The United Service Organizations (USO) CEO on the Benefits of Hiring Veterans

September 12, 2016
Dr. J.D. Crouch II, CEO of the United Service Organizations (USO)

This week, the Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative and the United Service Organizations (USO) to host an event that highlights the resources and careers available to transitioning service members, veterans, and their spouses.  As we dive into this important issue, the Bush Institute is publishing a series examining the important role that employers and non-profits play in veteran transition and recommendations on how to leverage a veteran's leadership talent.

Today, Dr. J.D. Crouch, II, the Chief Executive Officer of the United Service Organizations (USO), discusses why hiring and investing in veterans isn't simply the right thing to do, it's the smart thing for business leaders and employers to do.

Can you give us some background on how/why the USO’s Transition 360 Alliance was formed?

You can look at that question from two perspectives: why transition and why the USO? 

There is a central challenge that every military member faces.  Whether they spend an entire career in the military or complete one tour of duty – they have to transition out of the service.  There are around 250,000 service members transitioning out of the military every year.  It is vital that those transitions be good ones.  It is vital for our national security; if that transition is not good it will impact whether people are willing to volunteer to be part of our armed forces in the future.

There are a lot of organizations involved in military transition.  We looked really hard at this to determine where the USO can make a difference.  The spot we felt we could make the most difference is transitioning service members and their families who are currently on active duty.

The USO is well positioned to address this demographic: our patrons know who we are and we are on the bases where people are transitioning.  Many of the organizations out there doing great work are smaller and widely scattered.  We thought we could create something new by collaborating with some of those best-in-class organizations to scale up the overall services.  The combined expertise and reach gives access to many more service members and, as a result, enables us to have a much greater impact.

Can you outline for employers why hiring veterans will benefit their company?

Any potential employer should find veterans and snap them up.  These are young people who have been trained in a skill that is very hard to learn: teamwork.  The ability to lead, to work as a team, to assume demanding or stressful projects, manage large or valuable resources… you won’t find many 25-30 year olds outside of the military who have had that kind of experience or responsibility.

Another key benefit of hiring veterans is the tremendous value set they add to an organization.  Anyone who has run an organization knows that culture is the most important factor in achieving results.  Culture is also the most difficult to shape.  Veterans bring respect, integrity, honesty, and hard work to an organization.  The military is extraordinarily good at inculcating these values – values that are vital to any organization.

What would you say to a veteran who may be struggling with their transition?

First, recognize that you have a lot to give.   You do have to be able to explain that to a civilian employer in terms that they understand and you may need some help to do that.  So don’t shy away from getting that help or that support. 

Second, stick with it.  What you think you may want to do when you leave the military could change several times and that is quite normal.  Think about transition as a process and not an end goal.

Finally, know that you are not alone.  There are lots of veterans out there working through similar challenges.  And there are lots of people out there who appreciate what you have done for our country and want to be helpful.  Reach out to your fellow veterans and reconnect to the community.  We are all here for you.

Tell us about the significance of the USO's 75th Anniversary?

For 75 years, the USO has been a leading military support organization serving the men and women in the U.S. military and their families throughout their service, from the moment they join, through their deployment and as they transition back to their communities.  We’ve grown to embody the nation’s commitment to military.  Our anniversary gives us the chance, on a national stage, to foster new bonds between Americans and the military. 

Why did you ask President Bush to serve as the Honorary Co-Chair for the 75th Anniversary?

Our 75th Anniversary Honorary Committee includes leaders of industry, entertainers and national leaders who have illustrated compassion, care and steadfast support for America's military community.  Each has made personal sacrifices to help the USO further our mission of connection.

The Bush family has a distinguished record of supporting the military and the USO.   The longstanding relationship dates back to 1942 when Prescott S. Bush became the organization's second campaign chairman.  We invited President Bush to serve as our 75th Anniversary Honorary Co-Chair because of his unwavering commitment to our men and women in uniform.  In fact, his work with the Bush Institute's Military Service Initiative inspired us to take additional action to support transitioning veterans.  

Finally, President Bush’s previous role as Commander-in-Chief made him the ideal Co-Chair to mark our diamond anniversary and help us highlight and honor the tremendous courage and sacrifice of America’s servicemen and women and their families.