News | July 30, 2021

Veterans Employment Program addresses transition between military, civilian, virtual life

By Kristin Molinaro DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs

The Defense Logistics Agency Land and Maritime collaborated with the Defense Finance and Accounting Service – Columbus in July to produce a virtual panel discussion as part of the Office of Equal Employment and Diversity’s Veterans Employment Program observance.

DLA Land and Maritime associate Adrienne McGeachy, Sgt. Maj. Craig Pickett of DFAS-Indianapolis and Bill Costello with JP Morgan Chase were the featured panelists for a July 21 discussion on Veterans in a Virtual Environment moderated by William Palmatary. 

All are military veterans with a diverse portfolio of mission assignments, duty stations and responsibilities.

Palmatary’s questions to the panel participants touched on the unique experiences of veterans in relation to the health pandemic including transitioning from military to civilian life virtually, translating military skills to a virtual environment and how to adapt to working from home. 

The moderator asked each panelist about the difficulty of replicating military camaraderie while transitioning to the civilian workforce and invited them to comment on the effect a virtual environment has on building and maintaining relationships. 

“Those things built on the battlefields, training areas or in offices are absolutely invaluable and it’s lost, or at least tremendously reduced in this virtual environment,” said Pickett, who serves as the senior enlisted advisor in support of the DFAS Personnel Force Innovation Program where he supports DFAS and all of DOD with reimbursable military labor support. “It’s hard to relate when you’re in this vacuum and not physically connected – even on my team. Early on we tried to stay connected and making calls, but now we’re kind of in a battle rhythm and we’re in our own world so we don’t reach out to each other as often as we did early on. It’s great for production and mission but when it comes to camaraderie, we’re at a loss because we’re not having those shared experiences.”

Panelists also addressed ways their organization worked to ease transition stress during the COVID pandemic. 

“We’re really working to make sure associates feel like they’re part of the team,” said McGeachy, who retired from the Air Force in 2008 and now works as a Process Owner Representative for DLA’s J-341 Order Management. “It was stressful for our supervisors transitioning to that extended workplace where employees were working from home all the time. How were they going to manage their people? How were they going to manage the work and meet the needs? I think coming out on the other side, everyone learned a lot from it.”

Commenting on stress, Costello added, “Depression is real. We saw it increase across the country and it impacted uniformed personnel, non-uniformed personnel and our youth alike.”

“So, what we tried to do with my leadership team was try to keep the routines and have accountability,” said Costello, who retired after three decades of service in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard and is now the Vice President of Consumer and Community Banking at JP Morgan Chase. “We tried to plan like the pandemic would be over sooner rather than later but obviously we had a plan for virtual activities in an effort to build morale.”
Costello said his organization worked to bring in outside speakers for virtual events, address post-traumatic stress disorder, hosted yoga sessions via Zoom, encouraged battle buddy checks and even planned virtual happy hours.

“It was unorthodox for me but it worked and now we’re all headed back into the office and we’re all just grateful that we’re going to be seeing each other in person soon,” Costello finished.  

At the end of the program, the moderator opened the floor up to questions from the virtual audience tuning in that touched on pandemic safety precautions and staying fit. 
Palmatary concluded the event thanking the participants for sharing their experiences and knowledge as well as the chairs of the respective DLA Land and Maritime and DFAS-Columbus Veterans Employment Program committees.