Col. Joe Messina, Fort Belvoir Garrison commander, addresses a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring our Heroes Summit at the Community Center, April 11, for transitioning service members, veterans and spouses. The Chamber announced 12-week no-cost fellowships for military spouses, to correct one of the reasons that servicemembers leave active duty.

Hiring our Heroes smooths transition for Fort Belvoir Soldier

MAJ Chris Ehlers was getting ready to transition out of the Army last year and establish his new, civilian career. After 20 years of service, Ehlers was unaware of powerful opportunities at his disposal through Skillbridge, as he told the Belvoir Eagle through emailed responses to questions.

Ehlers explained that he was ‘somewhat aware’ of Skillbridge, but didn’t pay much attention, as he was fully intending to depart his post as Operations Research and Systems Analyst with Fort Belvoir’s Center for Army Analysis (CAA) and apply for the same position as a civilian. He said it wasn’t until June 2023, when he was presenting at West Point, when he ran into a former colleague, and began discussing his upcoming retirement plants.

He was encouraged to speak with another symposium attendee who had just completed a Corporate Fellowship through Hiring our Heroes (HOH), the National Chamber of Commerce’s program which connects the military community—service members, military spouses, and veterans—with American businesses to create economic opportunity and a strong and diversified workforce.

Chris Ehlers used Skillbridge to successfully transition from active duty to become a Lead Network Project Manager with AT&T.

“Once I discussed it with Jeffrey, he gave me a great roadmap to ensure a successful transition out of the Army and into the civil workforce,” Ehlers said. “I quickly realized I was putting my eggs in one basket and was too narrowly focused on my potential follow-on hiring into the workforce,” and he contacted the National Capital Region’s HOH program manager, Adela Wilson.

“Little did I know, I was close to completely missing any opportunity for participation,” Ehlers said. “When I finished the symposium, I called Adela only to find out I just missed the submission window for the eligible cohort. I was completely dejected at that point since I was fully inspired to complete the HOH fellowship.

“Adela was sensitive to my desire to participate and did everything in her power to get me into the program before the official fellowship starting date with AT&T. Adela was able to contact a manager at AT&T – a former AT&T HOH fellow as well – and he had a couple appropriate slots left and he felt one of them was perfect for my skills,” said Ehlers.

Ehlers noted that Hiring Our Heroes was a significant driver toward refining his resume and determining what skills he should highlight to capture the attention of potential employers. He said it was what got him in front of employers and to help him comfortably negotiate his salary once he was offered the position.  

At a HOH Jobs Symposium at Fort Belvoir’s Community Center April 11, Eric Eversole, president, Hiring our Heroes, pointed out a major solution for that has spurred many service members to leave active duty.

“The Military Spouse Career Accelerator Pilot is your answer to that problem. It’s a DoD program that provides a 12-week internship at no cost to the applicant and – importantly – they'll you pay a stipend for 12 weeks.

“Getting out of the military because your spouse can't find a career? We're here to solve that problem,” Eversole said.

Col. Joe Messina, Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander, while urging active-duty service members to continue serving, said that there is a reason that military service is so attractive to businesses.

“Whether it's preparing for a transition from military life into corporate world, or a military spouse considering reentering the workforce, Hiring Our Heroes participants hunt for, and find, meaningful employment and economic stability. Servicemembers and veterans bring incredible training, discipline and dedication to the mission when they transition to civilian life,” Messina said.

“The Army value of people first is evident in this program and it’s encouraging that a growing number of employers realize that their business can thrive with your military values of leadership, discipline, integrity, and most importantly, deliver excellence under pressure.” 


Learn more about transition opportunities through Hiring our Heroes at Home Page - Hiring Our Heroes

Learn more about spouse fellowship programs at Fellowships - Hiring Our Heroes

Paul Lara, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs