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News | Aug. 11, 2023

Foundation gives military veterans the opportunity to go from uniforms to zebra stripes

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs Office

During the week, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jason Morlan is a weapons systems program officer for the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye, C-2 Greyhound and P-8 Poseidon aircraft within Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s Customer Operations Directorate’s Navy Customer Facing Division.

During college football and basketball seasons, you will most likely find Morlan spending his weekends, calling fouls, double dribbles, unnecessary roughness and a host of other infractions athletes commit on the ballfield and hardwood.

The 19-year Navy veteran, with chiseled good looks and standing at well over six-feet tall, says he has always been involved in sports, from competing as a three-sport athlete growing up in Coldwater, Kansas, to playing flag football throughout much of his Navy career.

Morlan says his focus changed to sports officiating after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees in 2018.

“After that, I decided to move from playing to officiating and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.”

While doing his research on how to break into the profession, he came across Battlefields to Ballfields. Founded in 2017 by longtime college and professional football official Mike Pereira, B2B affords military veterans an opportunity to integrate back into their communities through sports officiating.

The program provides scholarship assistance to servicemembers who aspire to officiate football, men's and women's basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, track and field and other sports. The foundation has awarded nearly 800 scholarships and has members in 38 states.

On the foundation’s webpage, Pereira stated he’s made many calls during his officiating career, but founding B2B was the best one of them all.

“As we all know, the world has changed a lot since I came up with the idea for B2B in 2016.  What hasn’t changed is the need for our servicemen and women, all of whom have worked so hard to keep us safe, to have a meaningful second career once they leave whatever branch of service they’ve been in.”

The need for qualified sports officials in all sports, at all levels, is great. According to an article published in the New York Times in 2022, there is a severe shortage of sports officials. This shortfall has persisted for years, as rowdy parents, coaches and players have created a toxic environment that has driven referees away and hampered the recruitment of new ones, especially at the youth sports level. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation.

Morlan started his career officiating youth football and soccer in 2019 while attending the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey California. He eventually gave up soccer and started officiating at the college football level in Sept. 2022, and college basketball two months later.

“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been a great experience because not only do I get to stay close to the games I love, it’s also great for developing communication skills,” Morlan said.

He also has a message for those who have served or are still serving and who are contemplating following in his and many others footsteps.

“You can stay active in the sports you love while giving back to the community.”

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a sports official, go to the following websites:

Become an Official

Battlefields to Ballfields.