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Fellowship helps veteran transition to civilian work
Philip Motto during his service in the U.S. Army

Fellowship helps veteran transition to civilian work

November 9, 2022 at 11:17am

After 20 years in the U.S. Army as a Green Beret, Philip Motto was ready to transition out of uniform. But even with an impressive 12 operational deployments and hundreds of hours of specialized training, he would still need more to move into the civilian workforce.

“I have a couple of different feelings about transitioning out, you know," he says. "Simultaneously you feel anxiety and excitement because you're worried about what's next."

What helped ease that anxiety was the U.S. Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program. Established in 2005, the Care Coalition, as it’s also known, is a way for Special Operations Forces (SOF) service members, like Motto, who are wounded, ill, or service injured to transition to a life outside of uniform. Motto had a college degree earned while serving, but some of the skills he picked up, like digital forensic analysis, weren’t reflected on his resume. The Care Coalition set him up for a fellowship at FIU's Global Forensic and Justice Center (GFJC) to get hands-on training and a network of potential employers.

“GFJC was an easy choice,” Motto explains. “They have a long-standing history with the Warrior Care Program, supporting many other fellowships.”

GFJC has been supporting the Department of Defense in forensic training since 2008. Kevin Lothridge, deputy director of GFJC, knew supporting the men and women only while in uniform wasn’t enough.

“We’re teaching them valuable skillset[s] not only to help protect our country, but that can be applied to private companies as they transition out of uniform,” explains Lothridge. “These fellowships give people like Philip a way to learn from our experts and apply their military-learned skills in a civilian approach.”

Motto was selected for the three-month fellowship in Largo, Florida more than 780 miles from where he was stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. The Care Coalition also assisted with getting him a place to stay so he could focus on the tasks at hand. During his fellowship, Motto did more than just observe courses. He worked on system administration and software compliance and created a local area network for computers and routers in the office.

“I was also able to connect with former SOF members who work at GFJC,” Motto says. “They showed me not only how to navigate different work-related projects, but also some things I can expect in the ‘civilian’ life.”

A big part of the Care Coalition fellowship is to bridge the service member from uniform to employment. Digital forensics skills, like what Motto was focused on, gave him a pick of several positions, eventually landing with Xator Corporation as a Devops System Engineer.

“Xator is extremely humbled and proud of our nation's Special Operations Heroes participating in the U.S. Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program,” says Craig Archer, an identity intelligence solutions architect at Xator Corporation. “The Care Coalition fellowship at GFJC provided the precise hands-on training and technical skills that Xator’s national security clients require. Phil Motto hit the ground running and is excelling. He is living proof that veterans, Florida International University and the U.S. Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program are value-added to the workforce, industry and our nation's interests.” 

“My greatest takeaway from [the military] was how to actually embrace other cultures and different points of views,” Mottos says.

He credits the fellowship as a pivotal pathway out of the military.

“I feel proud of everything I did,” says Motto reflecting on his career. As of November 1, he is retired from the military and happily getting to spend more time with his wife of 11 years and four kids.

By Michelle Chernicoff