The Difference A Year Makes

This time last July I was a new Fellow in cohort four of the Dog Tag Fellowship Program. I entered the program as an active duty Army spouse with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a successful teaching and event planning career in performing arts. My husband and I had moved five times in five short years- and we were carrying the weight of constant change and transition. Last year we made the tough decision to separate from active duty and put down roots in this new city we’d come to love. We were both ready for a career change and wanted to pursue new passions. But as everyone who’s experienced the veteran transition knows, these pursuits are much easier said than done.

Making a career change for myself in addition to our transition from active duty was daunting and a bit overwhelming. After months of trying on my own to make a career jump outside of the performing arts, my efforts were going nowhere. I was starting to question my path and knew I needed guidance. Last spring, I learned about the Dog Tag Fellowship Program through a Hiring our Heroes networking event. For me, the opportunity to study with Georgetown University and gain hands-on experience in new fields was too good to pass by. So, I took a chance on myself- applied to the program, and was accepted.

As those familiar with the program may know, it is comprised of three main segments: business rotations, learning labs, and classes through Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. In the business rotations Fellows learn hands-on from Dog Tag staff members and take on projects that complement and enrich the varying scopes of work within the organization. Through the learning labs Fellows hear from dozens of different entrepreneurs, career coaches, and other veterans and veteran advocates. We were exposed to a large range of topics and the opportunity to network and learn from others and their successes was invaluable. The curated classes through Georgetown University were truly top level. It was energizing to be challenged in the classroom again and to learn more from leading professors in their fields. The program also has holistic support components, volunteer opportunities, and self-reflection through its “finding your voice” class. Fellows can fully immerse themselves alongside fellow spouses, caregivers, and veterans. My experiences through the five and half months of the program were inspiring and gave me the confidence I needed to persist on my path forward. I also can’t go without mentioning the friendships that I forged with my “fellow Fellows” along the way. We still meet up from time to time- and our humorous group messages and continuing support for one another is authentic and appreciated, especially now that we no longer see one another every day.

Prior to coming to Dog Tag, I questioned: “could I do this?” and “where do I fit?” Thanks to this program I know now that I have the tools, resources, and network to achieve my dreams. This fellowship and my experiences helped me lay out a better-defined path to success for myself and prepared me for the day when opportunity came knocking.

It is hard to wrap my mind around how much has transpired and changed in a year. Thanks to the connections I made during my fellowship, I am proud to say that I landed a fantastic job. I am the new Director of Membership and Communications for OSEHRA- a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating innovation in open source healthcare IT. I direct our event planning, membership development, marketing, and communications. I have already advanced within the organization and I feel truly blessed to go to work every day to a job I love. Our military journey has evolved as well, and continuing to transition and shift with his new status as a Veteran. We are still exploring and defining where we fit in the “civilian world” and I know there will be many more twists and turns along the way, but we’re ready for the new adventure that awaits.

 

I am grateful that Dog Tag helped me relaunch my career in a whole new direction. (If you had told me that I would be working in the healthcare IT industry back then I wouldn’t have believed you!) To anyone considering the Fellowship Program I encourage you to reach out to an Alumni or Staff member for more information. Completing this program for myself was one of the best decisions I’ve made. To other spouses or veterans currently in transition, I offer the following parting advice:

1. Be patient with yourself. It’s normal to feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster during such an intense time of transition. The old rollercoaster comparison may be a little cliché, but it’s very true. You will have confident days, days where you will question yourself and your path, and days when you wonder if you are even in control of your own path. You will have highs and lows, and sometimes it will be difficult to perceive the distance you’ve traveled. Through it all, remember what you’ve already accomplished and overcome throughout your military career/experience. Lean on it, and “lean in,” to continue overcoming new obstacles and challenges.

2. No path will be perfect. There is no set or best way to transition out of active duty. No matter which professional path you choose to pursue there will be concessions, and that’s okay. Define what is most important to you and pick the concessions you can live with. Stand firm in knowing what is best for you.

3. Don’t forget to nurture what feeds your soul. Dance, cooking, yoga, art, golf, photography – whatever you do, do something that brings you joy and good energy. In a time of big changes it is helpful to have something that grounds you and brings you to your best self.

4. The best memories of your Military career don’t fade when your time in uniform does. I am so thankful for the adventures we experienced and the lifelong friends we gained during our time in the Army. Looking back, I am grateful we made the most of each duty station and that we can carry the best parts and lessons from our active duty life forward. I will always hold these memories in my heart.

 

Megan Murray is the spouse of an Army Veteran, and the Granddaughter of Marine Corps and Navy Veterans. She loves ballet and yoga, working with children, event planning, and college football. She and her husband Ben reside in Alexandria, VA with their cat and dog. Connect with Megan here on LinkedIn.

What I've Learned and What I Look Forward To

My name is Rachael Harris and I am a US Navy veteran. I was a culinary specialist, left the Navy in 2009 and have been cooking in the DC civilian world for 8 years.

Since starting my journey at Dog Tag, my eyes have been opened to so many new experiences. I am learning personal and professional skills to apply to my daily life.

My favorite part of the program is the holistic segment, where we are taught mindfulness and meditation and how to be present; being present is one of the most important things that they are teaching us. I anticipate being able to put the skills that I have learned to use while either operating my own business, or working for someone else. The mindfulness and holistic segment will also be helpful in aiding me to focus on my own wellness. The Dog Tag program is truly life changing and it is awe inspiring to see how many lives have been touched by this program. There are many studies that touch on the subject of mindfulness and how it helps veterans with service-connected disabilities. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treatment/overview/mindful-ptsd.asp

The VA also runs programs geared towards reintegration via mindfulness.

I am looking forward to being a homeowner, using the skills that I learned while at Dog Tag, and exploring entrepreneurship. I don’t think that I would have even known where to begin or how to handle my journey as a new home owner if I hadn’t found this program. I am also excited to continue my wellness journey and see how I blossom as I continue to work things out and stay mindful. There is truly no other program like Dog Tag that pushes its fellows to be the best that they can, to grow, and to blossom into productive citizens. I am grateful for Dog Tag as it has not only touched my life in an exponential way, but also has helped so many others.

Upon graduation, Rachael Harris started her own Veteran-owned small business, Vic’s Homegrown, a new and unique food pop-up. Being a locally owned business, Vic’s Homegrown strives to use as many local and sustainable ingredients as possible. Many of their recipes have been passed down through generations and remain unchanged in order to bring you the most stellar food experience around (like the biscuits pictured above).

Follow Rachael’s company Instagram and Twitter @vicseats to keep up with her pop-ups around the DMV!

Kick Down Doors and Take Names

I am an Army combat veteran from Fairfax and Alexandria, Virginia. I found out about Dog Tag Inc. from Wounded Warrior Project.

My time at Dog Tag Inc. has been inspirational.

I have been motivated by my fellow peers and individuals that I have encountered while at the program to go to law school. I am currently pursuing my Masters in Information Technology at Marymount University. After graduation in August, I plan on going to law school to focus on Intellectual Property Law.

I plan on bridging my Masters in Information Technology with a JD in Law to kick down doors and take names in Intellectual Property Law. I want to bridge both areas of study and pursue a career in Information Law.

I am currently preparing for the LSAT. I will be taking the exam in June, if all goes well I will attain a good score to attend some of the law schools I have selected out in the DMV area. Georgetown, American, and Howard are some of the schools I have picked out in the area.

I have grown exponentially through the Dog Tag Inc. program.

I suggest all veterans and veteran affiliated members should apply for the Dog Tag Inc. fellowship program. I am motivated to be part of the Dog Tag program; from presentations from alumni to Deloitte’s learning lab on business chemistry.

The holistic practice of yoga and mindfulness has been transformational. Classes such as entrepreneurship with Georgetown lectures have been eye-opening. I have been very impressed with all that has been presented and brought to the program so far. I am extremely impressed with the alumni that have come to speak with us and shared their past experiences with going through the program.

I am eager to see what the next couple months have to offer. I am thrilled to witness my growth as a person and a professional through the program. I hope to leave the program with strong connections, a better IT job, equipped with tools and resources to work towards future goals and to be a law student. 

Nnana Obioha currently resides in Arlington, VA. Following graduation, Nnana began working full time as an IT Specialist with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and is currently applying to law schools. Connect with Nnana via LinkedIn.

An Amazing Adventure: From Chocolate Chip Cookies To Georgetown University

The Dog Tag fellows program is an amazing adventure. The pillars of the program are interwoven and support multiple learning mechanisms. The academic pillar through Georgetown University provides the technical and theoretical learning in the major disciplines of business. The major areas discussed are Management, Finance, Accounting, Communications, Business Policy, Entrepreneur and Marketing. I enjoyed the classes on entrepreneurism and finance.

The rotation pillar supports the fellow by providing practical experience from working with the different directors and managers in Dog Tag Bakery. The fellows work on challenges faced by the directors and managers they encounter as they perform their various tasks. They are able to apply the theory learned in the morning with the practicality of the rotations, thus learning many different ways small business overcome those challenges.

The directors gain creative and fresh perspectives on their challenges as the fellows seek solutions paths to improve Dog Tag Bakery operations. At the end of each rotation each small team presents their recommendations to the Directors and peers. Some of the challenges approached by this cohort had many levels, allowing multiple teams to work through all aspects of the solution.

The real treat of the Dog Tag Fellowship is the learning lab pillar. This is the most inspiring and influential part of the program.  The guest speakers who grace the fellows are professionals who come and share their story. Through many different aspects of business success, growth, and taking risks. The breadth and depth of speakers who come to share their story is amazing. Some of the speakers share knowledge about critical skills to make us more effective during our interactions in the business world. This network of presenters offers a plethora of network contacts who want to assist us in moving forward after our service and finding success on the next chapter of a Fellow’s life.

My adventure in the Dog Tag program started with two chocolate chip cookies and a discussion with Meghan during a hiring fair in DC. I had recently transitioned from the US Army and was in a bit of a haze trying to figure out what I wanted to do and where I could do it. I am a military spouse and veteran of fourteen years. Through that conversation, I decided to apply, Meghan’s description of the program intrigued me. The program sounded rewarding and rigorous compared to what I had experienced through the Army’s transition program. I had very little understanding of the trail I would venture down.

There were many who came to talk with us about a myriad of topics. The topics ranged from stories of perseverance, survival, finding success, how to Network, and other professional soft skills. The speaker that inspired me is Wendy Moomaw. The way she broke down her person. She put it in the context of how it woven into her work, motivation and dedication to achieve success. Her drive is evident in how she describes the many facets of her professional journey and her future goals. Her humble approach and comfortable discussion was very inspiring. The work she does coaching and mentoring other professionals to improve their leadership skills and professional persona.

The Dog Tag fellowship program is an amazing adventure. The pillars of the program are interwoven and support multiple learning mechanisms. How each fellow chooses to unwrap the gift of a learning lab is their own to choose, each fits what they learned into their life journey.


Michael Gephart is an Army veteran and Army spouse, currently residing in Vienna, VA with his wife and 3 boys. Connect with Michael via LinkedIn.

The Perfect 10: Vince Loran's Graduation Remarks

Members of Cohort Five nominated Vince Loran to serve as their class’s graduation speaker on June 1, 2017. An Air Force veteran, Vince lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife Ana. Connect with Vince via LinkedIn. Please find his remarks from the ceremony below. Join us in congratulating all of the Dog Tag graduates!

Thank you! Dog Tag Inc. Staff, Board Members, Alumni, Georgetown University Professors and administration, learning lab partners, distinguished guest, family and friends; Welcome and Thank you.  

I am truly honored to be speaking on behalf of the fellows of Cohort 5.  

To the Fellows of Cohort 5 we did it!!! Here’s a celebratory round of applause! I call us the Perfect 10! Cohort 6 have big shoes to fill.  Congrats to each and every one of you on this prestigious accomplishment. We embarked into this program on January 10th, 2017, that’s why we’re the winter class, as individuals and became a Team, a family, part of a wonderful community. Throughout our 5 month journey we laughed, we cried, we fought, we bonded, and embraced each other. A truly remarkable experience not only giving us the opportunity to be better suited for employment, entrepreneurship or to seek higher education. It gave us something far greater that: It gave us an opportunity to Accept and Believe who we are the way we are.  We searched from within we meditated, reflected… boy did we reflect! “What are you doing”, experience finding your voice and Bo “AKA” Charles, said it best last night and I quote, “My future is much brighter, my dreams are back!  My dreams shifted and changed a little now I dream of having 6 kids a large family.” I believe Bo is creating a children’s version of a Dog Tag Inc. Fellowship program. Watch out! We all shared the same sentiment of the importance of valuing Family- our immediate family, the Dog Tag Family and the military family.  Bo also mentioned in his speech that he plans on taking everything he learned and go into the community of San Antonio, Texas and make a difference. This is what this program does (Pause) It transforms and empowers, it is truly a Rite of Passage.

Here we are on June 1st, and the first of each month I post a quote and challenge on Facebook which I call the monthly Q&C’s and today being that it is June 1st I added the following Quote-Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua J. Marine. We all have overcame several challenges throughout our journey and I hope they were as meaningful to you as they were for me.  

Cohort 5- Let me share with you our class superlatives which are an exaggerated or hyperbolical expression of praise: Not terrible!

Most likely to show 5 videos of her cats in one hour- Rachael

Most likely to organize the classroom or your Life- Leslie

Most likely to Parachute through the Skylight and give a presentation on the Value Proposition Model- Mike

Most likely to turn a 5 min speech to a 30 min lecture- Victor

Most likely to get interviewed by 60 Minutes and every major news network- Cassaundra

Most likely to recite every VA Health Benefit and regulations- Aundrea

Most likely to be very active on social media with a huge following especially on Twitter or should I say Tweeter- Laura

Most likely to come to class in Jeans or gym attire or best Dressed- Nnana

And lastly,

Most likely to snap pictures any place anytime or bust out salsa dancing-Vince

To Racheal, to Victor, to Cassaundra, to Nnana, to Laura, to Mike, to Leslie and to Bo, I leave you with two words:

The first is one word Build:

Build yourself, examine and observe your mental and emotional state and processes. Introspectively build your inner strength and your inner self to allow yourselves to be a brighter beacon of light not only for yourself, but for others.

Secondly, build your professional relationships these are those connections that pays huge dividends for each of us personally and professionally. Go to those networking events and have a purpose. I’m proud to say Leslie is a perfect example of how she build herself and now is a professional networking ambassador, Great Job Leslie! Building these relationships because they will add value when you need to share an idea, a constructive feedback or get some, a shoulder to lean on or someone to vent to.

Lastly, Build your community involves lending a hand and more importantly, lending your Heart! Just look around the room. They invested in us, in the Dog Tag Fellowship program and in the Dog Tag cohort in some way, shape or form. They have taken the time to help us, groom us, support us, educate us, gives us praises and recalibrate us and of course, a swift kick once in awhile so we can be right on point. They did this all in the name of building this wonderful community because they care. They got our SIX- They got our back.  One person comes to mind when I mention building a community at Dog Tag. Fellows…Any guesses?  Kyle Burns. You embodied and personified building a community with your heart for us that is why I called you, Mama Bear. You looked out for each and every one of us each day and every hour, through the good and the hard times.  Nothing but love for you Mama Bear and we thank you for that! Build a community with your Heart!

The final word I leave you with Is PASSION, and I want to break this out. It’s a powerful or compelling emotion or feeling I want each of you to continue your journey with that.

Let me break this down for you-

The P of passion, stands for personally committed to achieving your purpose, your goals with persistency and always staying positive!

The A Stands for Appreciation- Appreciation of all walks of life, people with different abilities and different personalities. To appreciate each other starts with being an active listener. That’s why we have to WAIT!-acronym “Why Am I Talking?” We have two of these (points to ears) and one of these (points to mouth) so we should be listening more and talking less. Listen with empathy without judgements. It will truly be appreciated!

The S’s of Passion stand for Service before Self the second Air Force core Value of the year folks that I must add-putting others first.  The impact of serving others is like dropping a pebble in the water seeing the endless ripples it creates! We have seen that in Bo (AKA Charles) going down to San Antonio, TX after this beautiful experience and all of us will also reap those benefits, and you will see those creative ripples. Service before Self.

The I stands for Integrity- which we have learned and embodied from our time in the military, which are part of our core values and our warrior ethos. Integrity, doing the right thing, being honest, have strong moral principles.

The O stands for openness-being open to listen to others, open to admitting when you need help and open to accept the help. The letter O is in the form of a circle because it is a cycle that is constantly evolving and is a representation of the circle of your life!

The last letter in word Passion I want each and every one of you, all 9 of you, to continue to remember and repeat the letter N, because nobody, nothing will stand in your way! Thank you very much! ©

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

Hi! My name is Charles "Bo" Carolus.  I served on Active Duty for 10 years as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy. I deployed twice, my most recent deployment being in 2011 with the Marines in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Yup, the MARINES!

We conducted combat operations near the southern border of Afghanistan, right next to Pakistan.  Some of us suffered from injuries and unfortunately, not all of us returned from deployment alive.  I returned alive and with all my limbs, but not exactly whole.

The years following my return has been like one four-year-long medical appointment. 

While in Afghanistan, I suffered traumatic brain injuries and experienced very horrific events while deployed. In 2013, the doctors put me through very rigorous treatments and therapy plans.  I really felt like my medical record was labeled “broken.”  I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and just wanted to magically disappear every day. I knew that I was going to be separated from the Navy and had no clue what I would do or could do next.

Some of you may look at me and say “Wow! What a healthy and good-looking young man!”  Believe me, I say the same thing every day when I look myself in the mirror (Badum Psss!). Then... it’s time for me to take my seven medications.  

I was known for being an outstanding Hospital Corpsman or medic for those that are unfamiliar with Navy terminology. Not to brag, but saving lives and kicking butt was pretty much my middle name. I was the 2013 2nd Marine Division Sailor of the Year and inducted into the Military Times Hall of Valor.

Before becoming a Dog Tag Inc. Fellow, I was like a broken soul still searching for a reason to enjoy the day. I can't remember how long I was depressed in this way, but it was entirely too long.

Thankfully, I met Dog Tag, Inc.!  

I felt lucky to find this fellowship program before my medical retirement.  Even though I was stressed out about leaving the military, Dog Tag, Inc. has made my military transition much smoother.

This fellowship program has given me a sense of self-worth and inner peace again that I lost in Afghanistan. Today, I feel healthier and excited about my future again! Even if this program is only five months, it's five months of something meaningful and I have been transformed personally and professionally.

I've learned how to communicate my value by learning critical business administration lessons through classes provided by Georgetown University professors. I’ve learned how to write a resume and practice job interview techniques from true professionals such as of Deloitte, Leader Fit, and other excellent speakers.

The list can goes on and on, but what I've learned during the fellowship program will always stay with me! I know I still have so much to learn, but I am embracing the future now with a fresh pair of eyes!  I feel prepared for any challenge! 

In this exact moment, I realized that I am living in my new reality! My doctors have stamped this term my “new normal.” I just like to call it “Lost in Translation.”

The main quality that others have noticed in me is my increased confidence.  I feel peaceful and practice meditation every day, which is new for me!  All of these changes are completely unexpected.  I want to thank everyone present in my transformation process and for those who support Dog Tag, Inc.’s cause. This fellowship program has changed my life forever!

Charles "Bo" Carolus lives with his wife, Yolangel, in Silver Spring, Maryland with their dog Bella.  Bo enjoys playing guitar and boxing in his spare time.  Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Learning Labs & Golden Nuggets

Learning Labs & Golden Nuggets

by Cassaundra Martinez

I came into the Dog Tag Fellowship program as a military spouse with five years of service in the Army and masters in Industrial Organizational Psychology.  The program has three pillars: Georgetown classes, live business rotations, and the learning labs.  I couldn’t say one pillar is more important than the other.  However, for me, the learning labs seem to have a greater impact on my "now." While in the learning labs, we discover all sorts of topics, from how to fund your business to learning our unique business chemistry or how to start a franchise.

All of the professionals who come to speak during the learning labs drop on us one to two “golden nuggets.” These golden nuggets come in different forms, but they are significant and they cause a change in perspective, almost immediately.

I had one of those moments when Fred Wellman, CEO of ScoutComms, came and spoke to us about his business and his experience.  Fred tells this crazy story about how he got fired on the doorstep of Cracker Barrel one afternoon. And after he had exhausted all of his resources in a short amount of time, he realized that he needed to create a business for himself in order to continue to feed his family.

Fred’s professional success has been incredible since that day six years ago.  His passion was palpable and inspiring. And in my head, I’m thinking - what am I waiting for?!

That afternoon, I went home logged on, registered my business name, and purchased my first website. We were three months deep into the program - I knew it what my skills were, I knew my values, and I knew how to use them…

Now I'm learning to do what it takes to grow my business, establish good relationships and build out my network.  I've got the tools I needed to succeed, now it's just about how and when to use them.  See! “Golden Nuggets!”

You can connect with me on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Check out my new business page GwellaConsulting, which helps small businesses start up their human resources and human capital strategy.

Cassaundra Martinez is an Army veteran and Army spouse of eight years. She resides in Virginia with her husband and six children Ariana, Ella, Noemi, Calais, Elise and son Tobias. She enjoys inspiring others to discover their strengths and translating those to a meaningful career. She is an active advocate for military spouse empowerment and employment and was named 2017 Armed Forces Insurance Army Spouse of the Year.  She graduates from the Dog Tag Fellowship in June 2017.

Dog Tag Fellowship Changed My Life

Dog Tag Fellowship Changed My Life

by Leslie Caleb

The Winter 2017 DogTag Inc. (DTI) Fellowship Program at Dog Tag Bakery started on January 12. Full of excitement, I made my way toward Washington, D.C. on a winter morning walking toward an unexplored professional and educational journey.

The first few days began with group assessments and I soon realized this program could be transformative and an incredible experience. The program introduction revealed the unique milestones of the work-study program that each fellow would achieve during the five months with a cumulation in sight: graduation.

Almost four months into the program, I can safely say this program is an absolute life changer.  A set of holistic routines is integrated as part of the growth development plan - among other things, yoga, mindfulness, and journaling. Seasoned Georgetown professors introduce MBA comparable academic lessons twice a week in our classroom situated above the aromas of the bakery. Another essential part of the fellowship are Learning Labs, entrepreneurs’ testimonials and lectures from DTI partners speeches become conversational presentations. The third and last module of the curriculum is called Rotations.  In this segment, we translate the acquired skills into practice for example baking brownies, writing grant proposals, in finance translating numbers into meaningful data to make strategic decisions and creating a catering menu.  

DTI Fellowship is different than other programs because it creates and empowers those who have served and their families from diverse background to become a strong community and offers them the opportunity to reach fulfilling careers beyond the horizon of ordinary employment.  In this unique program, you identify your values and use those values to make successful decisions about your personal and professional life.  Dog Tag Fellowship changed my life.

You can connect with me via my Facebook or LinkedIn.  Check out more of my blog posts at Serendipity Life Stories.

Leslie Caleb is a five-year Army spouse who enjoys writing about her unorthodox life, restoring old furniture, and exploring new cultures.  She graduates from the DTI program June 2017.