This is the finished documentary, A Veteran's Work: the Project RELO Story. It explores the multi-faceted problems—and creative solutions—behind veteran under-employment and professional fulfillment in corporate America. Specifically, the story will be told through the lens of Project RELO, a non-profit organization that provides hands-on immersive opportunities for veterans and business leaders to come together and bond in challenging environments. The film has two different target audiences—corporate executives in a hiring position, and transitioning veterans who are interested in corporate job opportunities.
(footsteps in leaves) - [Leader] All right, it's time, look at me. - [Men] Yeah. - [Leader] We're going to do the same thing we did when we first, met, all right. (laughter) All right. This is good, everyone's good? Keep looking at me. (camera shutter clicking) (laughter) (bugle music) - I am humbled, both on the last trip and this one, at the way I feel about the veterans.
- I didn't realize the depth that the military goes through for training, and how much they have to do, day in and day out, and year in and year out, to train, to learn, to adapt. Today, I got a real good sense of that. - What I like about Project RELO is that it forces you to spend a lot of time with people. You know, so a lot happens in a very short period of time. If you're looking to accelerate that process, of helping people build relationships, this is it, this is a great way.
But I think it's that concentrated focus of time, coupled with some adversity, which really made it a ton of fun. And I am humbled by all the veterans. I am thankful for your service, but I think it's time for guys like us to be courageous, and say, how can we give back? - There's some tremendous, tremendous value, and to the extent that we, as business leaders, can tap into that, we owe it to our veterans. But we also owe it to our businesses, because it just makes good business sense.
- Project RELO is about helping organizations understand that hiring a veteran is way more than a social good, it's good business. And Project RELO sets that up by building relationships between executives and veterans, as well as between executives themselves. And in the end, all the participants win. There's no handouts given, there's none expected. Yet you can expect coming out of a Project RELO mission enriched, and with a better understanding of a talent pool that can help you accomplish your organization's goal better, faster.
(proud music) - I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, so I enlisted into the Army back in 2001. - I joined the Marine Corps right after high school, so in 1999. I love the Marine Corps, the eight years that I spent in the Marine Corps, loved every second of it.
- And I joined the Navy right out of high school, and immediately went overseas, and spent the next, you know, 27 years, leading men and women all around the world, in countries in Asia, in Europe, and the United States. I mean, the most amazing experience. - My military career started in 1990. I became an officer in the United States Marine Corps. I spent three years on Okinawa, and then went to the crossroads of the Marine Corps, on Quantico, Virginia. I exited the Marine Corps as a Captain of Marines. - Graduated from West Point in 1986, was a Company Commander at Fort Bragg, of an airborne unit.
I did some duty with the United Nations in Sarajevo, Bosnia in 1994, during the war. - One of the qualities that I believe our service men and women can offer is a sense of mission, of purpose, of selflessness, of adaptability, resilience, and initiative. - That's ingrained, and that's there from day one. And it's a core of what we do, and what we believe in. And we can't be successful without it, so we spend a lot of time developing these young men and women from the first day they start, into where it becomes a part of your life.
And again, so that selflessness, that character that they bring, which is about team, esprit, and accomplishing something bigger than just the individual, is very, very valuable. - You know, you've got 19, 20 year old kids who are, you know, driving submarines, you know. You've got people who are doing amazing things, with tremendous consequences, and so their leadership skills are just so much more well developed. It doesn't even compare to the normal workforce. - Every two years, I had to go to a new job, a different career field, I had to learn it quickly.
I had to be an expert at it very quickly, and then I had to lead men and women who do this full time. - No matter what a veteran did in the service, no matter what their branch was, no matter what their rank was, they have had the opportunity to lead, they have had the opportunity to be a part of a team, be a team player, and the other thing is, they're just cool under pressure. You know, nothing that we ever are going to do in the civilian world is quite as life changing as, you know, serving in the military, and being in a war zone, and everything else.
- And so to come into an environment where they're not being shot at, where no one's life is at stake, if they apply that same level of perseverance, and dedication to the mission, to their civilian job, they're rock stars. (military drums) - There is a hiring bias that adversely affects military veterans, and there's two sides to this.
So the first side is, you have corporate America, and the HR departments are really unfamiliar with what military veterans bring, in terms of their experience, their background, their sort of unique qualities and characteristics. - They post the jobs, they're looking for quality people, they know what they're looking for. And it says, this criteria, we need X, Y, Z. Well, the veterans' jobs, we have 20 years of that experience, in different categories, and different names, and so those things unintentionally get screened out. So this level of automation that they're desiring, to make it more efficient, is actually reducing the quality of the candidates that you're getting.
- On the other hand, that bias is actually amplified by the fact that veterans are actually very poor at communicating outside of their respective language. So they speak in acronyms, they speak in sort of obscure terms, at least from a corporate perspective. - And I was selected for a commission under a program called the Limited Duty Officer Program. - Limited Duty Officer package in for Operations. - And then I became AGR, which is the Active Guard and Reserve. - Operations LDL. - And not as an air controller, but as an intercept controller, in the dogfights. - Signal officer, an MP, as well as a military intelligence officer.
- If you do a one two at the civilian job market, and you start using those acronyms, they're going to look at you with a blank stare, like you're speaking a foreign language. So one of the biggest barriers is being able to articulate what they did in the military, without using that military verbiage. - There's transition programs in the Army, they send you to different classes. But it's really hard and difficult to take your military experience, translate it into a civilian experience, to get those corporate jobs, that we know we can all do. It's just being able to translate that experience across the different lines.
- I think it was tough, at that point. And I think that's why I was confused, I was lost. You know, you have those feelings, and you're really scared. - It seems like going from, like, the military, and the things they do, into corporate America, as an example, why would that cause any fear? Well, there's two main things. In the military, you seldom look for a job. You're assigned one. The other thing is, is that you seldom self-promote. You rather execute as a team.
And when you're getting out of the military, all of a sudden, that changes, and now you have to seek a job, you're not assigned one. And then, you have to put together a resume, that's all about how great I am, and all the things I did. And it sound so odd, and so obvious, but our service men and women, actually, that's not in their native language. They are all about what we did, how we contributed to this, how this group and my team accomplished that. And it's very, very seldom that you get the word "I" out of them. - They're used to sacrificing everything for the good of the squad, the platoon, the company, the battalion, the regiment.
It's all about us, it's not about me. And so during the interview process, (laughs) guess what, that's hard, because now, all of a sudden, that veteran has to sit there, and talk about him, himself or herself, and almost brag. And they're not used to doing that. - And now they're on their own. They've, in so many ways, lost their mission, and their purpose, they've lost their brothers and their sisters. And now they have to fend for themselves, seek a job, and then self-promote. And that's pretty darn scary.
- I remember the, you know, the days I just woke up, and I was like, crap. I'm going to be out of the Navy in, like, three months, and I don't have a job. - As soon as I retired, you know, I was a typical veteran. I was, I've got this, I'm going to be marketable, everybody's going to want to hire me. But I was unemployed for nine months. - When I started the process, I thought that there were going to be just tons of opportunities out there for me. And about two months into it, when you're not getting any responses, I started realizing that, you know, this is a lot more difficult than I had anticipated when I thought.
And it felt like I couldn't break through. - I worked at a car wash, just to make ends meet. I spent about three months living out of my jeep. - Really, at that point, I think that was the scariest part of my, you know, my whole life, I guess. Because now, I have people that are depending on me, I have my family. And I started applying for, I mean, every position I could find, it didn't matter, just to make sure I, you know, I had a job, and I had a paycheck coming in. - So the emotions were that, you feel when you're going through situations like that, it's like a roller coaster ride.
You know, you go from this having this team camaraderie, you have people that you can rely on, you have your battle buddies to your left and to your right, that if you're struggling, you can just lean on them, and they're going to help you take care of. When you transition out, it's trying to find your niche, and trying to find where you fit in. - I think people become overwhelmed very fast, whenever the reality sets in that, I don't know if I just made the right decision, you know, for getting out, because it's hard to sell yourself when people don't know what you're talking about. - You know, I would put out 100 resumes, I wouldn't get a single interview.
And then, when I would get an interview, then I would be too overbearing, or I'd be too motivated, or too confident. So it really, it hits you deep in the heart, just because you've given so much for your nation, then all of a sudden you come home, and you feel like you can't even get a civilian job. (military drums) - So in the United States right now, there's a little over 37,000 not-for-profit organizations dedicated to military causes.
One thing that's common in everyone that we've seen is that they're all trying to do something for the veterans. Job placement, resume writing, skill building, of some type. - There's so many veterans out there. If you took each veteran individually, and helped them get a job, okay, here. We're going to help you get a job, and we've got your resume ready good. Now let's move on to the next one, to the next one. We have thousands of veterans, that process doesn't scale. What scales is when you get people at the top of the organization that said, "This is what we're going to do." If we can get one executive to implement one of these policies, and interview more veterans, we are going to be able to get 10, 20, 100 veterans hired, with the same amount of effort in the traditional way, may have impacted only two or three.
- So we can start at the top, bring those top leaderships into Project RELO, so that they can collaborate together with some of the veterans that are going to be here. Together, they're going to be able to see, these are the type of leaders that I want in my organization. - So we can get businesses to want to pull veterans in, as opposed to feeling like they're getting something pushed upon them. - And what better way to do that than to bring the business community into an environment, which is the natural environment of our military veterans. They are in their element, and they have natural leadership that they just exude in this element.
- When you have an experiential kind of event, like Project RELO, where you go off, and you go off in the woods, and you do things, and you get that emotional bond with people, and you really see this stuff first hand, that's when that lesson gets rooted very deeply in your DNA. And that's when you get real lasting change, because it's not superficial, it's cultural, it's embedded deeply. - Because it's going to show these executives exactly what the veterans do, what these veterans have gone through. A lot of times the veterans are not going to be able to articulate what they did, but actually showing them what they did.
Now they're going to have kind of that visual representation, say, okay, wow. This is something that that veteran was having a hard time articulating to me, but now I'm being able to understand it. - Because you really only know leadership when you see it, and that's why leadership by example is so, so important. - You know, we couldn't do this, say, in a conference room, with easels, and whiteboards, and tell us about your experience. We have to actually experience it. And it is tremendously rewarding for the business folks that go on this.
And what the business executives really bring away from these trips is a sense of accomplishment, and they find themselves as followers. As a leader, one of the most difficult things to do is follow, and they find themselves not only the followers in this situation, but following these military veterans who are looking to get into the business community, but doing so in such a natural way that they don't even know they're doing it.
(applause) - At Project RELO, we create environments where there is a certain amount of adversity, both scripted and unscripted, where our participants have to work together, and have to rely on one another. And in that working together, and in that relying on one another, you will see, organically, people that will step up, and demonstrate great selflessness, great teamwork, and great leadership. It is in these environments where real leadership is demonstrated, and where you can really, then, assess that person and go, "This is the cast of people "we want to bring into our organization, "because they really can lead us." - I think it's easy to look at organizations like Project RELO and say, "This is a way of giving back, "doing right by our military veterans, "who give so much to us, and what do we do in return?" And I guess you can look at it that way.
But you can also look at it the way it actually is. It's just good business. - Business benefits from hiring these men and women that have been so meticulously trained, in the military, that when they bring those capabilities and that training, and they figure out how to use it to the greatest extent possible within their firms, business wins, and by the way, it benefits veterans, too. It's true, it's just simply true that the best organizations are comprised of the best people, but sometimes, the best people fail to connect with one another, because they have preconceived biases.
Because they simply don't understand each other. And so, by bringing you business executives here, and bringing just great examples of veteran leadership, talent, and character, it builds bridges of understanding, it creates a deep appreciation. And when those two things happen, people start working together. Very beginning of the first day, you're all sort of discombobulated. You don't even know who you're partnered with, or what vehicle you're supposed to be following, right.
And it's just kind of like herding cats. And then ask yourselves how you all performed today. Now each and every one of you, I know what we do here is a little unorthodox, and we do these outdoor, off-road curriculums. But how many of you didn't take some sense of pride by seeing the taillights in front of you, and the headlights behind you? To see an arm signal, and you to repeat it, and you knowing what that meant? From my perspective, since I got out of the military, I have sought to replicate that sense of brother and sisterhood that I had in the Marine Corps.
Because when I was in an organization that had that sense, I was part of an organization that could do anything. At Project RELO, we've already started to see the change in individuals that have participated. When an executive that has never really interfaced with a veteran comes out and says, "Holy cow, "I have to hire more people like that person," you know you've made a difference. - I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone in the business community say that they would hire this person, irrespective of the job.
And that's the highest compliment that you can pay someone. - Now these are real outcomes around real people. And these things happen, these outcomes happen, when you pair people up, and you build an understanding, and you create an appreciation. And that kind of environment makes you really understand and appreciate people at light speed. - And it's not just one time, and it's not just one person. It's several times, making that statement about several of the folks that have been on this trip. - Now, there's not a better job interview in the world, than a Project RELO trip.
(military drums) - So Project RELO is much more than just pairing executives and veterans. Of course, that's hugely important. But at the completion of each and every one of our missions, the collective group of executives commit to placing 100 veterans into the collective network. - And that can take several different forms. That can be something as easy as, you know, being part of your Linkedin network, where you can share networks.
It can be mentoring, asking for advice, up to and hopefully including placing in employment within their companies, or helping place them within their network. - Far be it from me to say, "You can't have access "to my network," okay, you can have instant access to my network, as far as I'm concerned. I want to get to know you, as an executive, so that when I hear of things, I can help you. - So we ask this as a commitment, and we actually refer to it as a pledge. If you're willing to come on one of these trips, you must also be willing to extend yourself beyond the trips, to a larger network of veterans.
- The challenge coin is something that is earned, it is not given, it is something that is accepted with commitment. It's not just freely pocketed, it means something. It's supposed to mean something. And in our case, this coin, this piece of metal, means something, character, virtue, esprit, and again, service. It's a reminder that we choose the direction that we go, and we choose the people that we are.
And in no small part, we're those people because of who we choose to associate with. I'm going to offer each and every one of you these coins. And if you accept this coin, what you're doing is, you're saying you believe in what we're doing here, as a mission, and that you are going to help promote what we're about. Perhaps if we brought more veterans into our organizations, then we could build better organizations, better businesses. - I think we've all been on one of these, a retreat of some kind, where you're doing the trust fall, and all these little funny things, you know, that you do.
And at the time, they're designed to really elevate your, your human experience, and we've all been there. And you leave on a bit of a high, and the next day, it's not quite as much, and the next day, it's not quite as much, and before you know it, you're back to the daily grind, and it's just something you've done in the past. We're planning on holding people accountable, contacting them, following up with them. And we're very much interested in results. - Our intent is to get as many as 5000 in the network by 2018.
So our growth aspirations, and our impact aspirations, are ambitious. - From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everybody that has been in service for this country. You know, we say that a lot, I see people in the airport, and I'll buy them a drink, or I'll, you know, pay for their dinner, or something like that. But it never really registered, at least in my mind, until I've got to know a few of you here, really what went into that. - I saw leadership here that is just not in corporate America, or it has gained from the military.
This trip definitely meant a lot to me, you know. I been searching for something like this for a very long time, and my life is way too easy, you know. I'm glad that you guys toughed me up just a little bit. - The minute that they start seeing these people as innovative, hard charging, hard working. We got to change their mindset, to see that, because that, that alone, is the thing that makes it hard for returning vets to get a job. - Everybody just top notch, I'd hire everybody that I met today, or I'd work beside them, or I'd work for them, or I'd find them a job.
- I didn't realize, also, the type of friendships that I've made here. - It never gets better than your first tour. That's the closest group you'll ever be to in your military, and to be in an environment like this, where I've made incredible relationships that are very comparable to that very first time, that very first tour, and in such a short time, and to just meet amazing people. I don't know if you told somebody else that you met somebody for three days, and you said, "I'd do anything for that person," if they'd believe you. I don't, they might not believe you.
They might say, "Yeah, whatever." But those of you that have been on this trip might say, "Yep, I get it." - Shake the hand of a hero. So. (applause) Unbelievable. So the point is, connections happen, right. Networks happen, it doesn't take that many. It's an exponential explosion, right. You get 10 good business guys talking to 10 guys, I hope there's 10 guys like this guy, I want to meet every one of them.
- This is my second trip, this works, folks, this works. Within a matter of weeks, I was contacted for multiple positions, people who said, "I think you'd be a great fit for my company, "I think you'd be a great fit, I want to mentor you, "I want to help you," it works. - I believe in the mission of Project RELO, but I so strongly believe that it's going to bring on success, and we're actually going to see demonstrable results sooner rather than later.
And that makes me so proud and happy, and thank you very much. (applause) (proud music) (solemn music)
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