Transition Coach Offers Tips for Returning Veterans, Their Families

Retiree casual Dr. Debora Humphreys, Leadership and Organization Development senior specialist, recently spoke at a lunchtime session titled “Support Our Heroes,” cosponsored by the Aerospace Military Veterans (AMV) and the Aerospace American-Indian and Alaskan-Native (AAIANC) Council.

The presentation was the fourth offering in the Aerospace Diversity Action Committee’s Professional Enrichment Series, which is a collaborative effort by all eight Aerospace affinity groups to fulfill the company’s commitment to providing employees with professional development opportunities that are career-enriching and that strengthen the corporation’s ability to adapt and innovate for greater mission success.

Employees, some of whom are veterans, active duty members, and family members of veterans listened as Humphreys discussed the importance of helping veterans transition back into civilian life after returning from service.

“Transition coaching is my passion,” Humphreys told attendees. She explained how she was driven to pursue this type of coaching after her firsthand experience with her own son’s transition from military service to civilian life. He served in the U.S. Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Ever since my son returned safely from Afghanistan and Iraq, I’ve wanted to use my training, my passion, and my heart to serve returning veterans,” said Humphreys.

In addition to her role as a leadership and organization development specialist, Humphreys is the principal of Waypoint Coaching & Consulting, which helps guide organizations and individuals, including returning veterans, through planned and unplanned changes. She assists returning veterans with assimilating back into society and helps them obtain basic resources such as housing, health care, and mental health evaluations. Humphreys is also available to support employers interested in hiring veterans to help assure a smooth transition.

According to Humphreys, there is an overwhelming need to support veterans as they make the transition to civilian life. According to a Washington Post article titled “After the Wars” published earlier this year, there are 2.6 million former military members in transition; more than half, 55 percent, feel disconnected from civilian life.

To assist these veterans, Humphreys provided attendees with such tips as showing an interest in the individual and their potential contributions, thanking veterans for their service, understanding the differences between military culture and Aerospace’s culture, and looking for links to a veteran’s background and program/assignment needs.

“The transition process,” she explained, “is a time of discovery” when veterans can benefit from examining their personal vision, take stock of transferable skills, and determine what they are most interested in today.

Humphreys said that it’s equally important for returning veterans to take time to let go of what does not fit in with their new beginning, explore the present, and find meaningful links to the past. This is all part of the process, she added.

She cautioned attendees that they may need to change their perception of veterans before approaching them and to understand that not “all veterans want or need help.” This was something Humphreys didn’t anticipate but had to recognize as part of her own learning process. When asked how to treat veterans on a daily basis, Humphreys simply suggested to “honor their service, be open to listening, and treat them like everyone else.”

Humphreys entertained questions from attendees throughout her presentation. When asked about finding local resources that civilians can reach out to and recommend to veterans making the transition, Humphreys offered a list of resources at both the local and national levels. Resources at Aerospace include the AMV affinity group and the Aerospace Inclusion and Equal Opportunity Office.

Some additional resources for veterans are:

  • Local Veterans Services Center: benefits services
  • Local Veterans Services Center: mental health services
  • American Jobs Centers (formerly called One-Stop): career services
  • VA health clinics: PTSD support (check out VA website)
  • National Veterans Foundation (L.A. hotline): 310-339-0679
  • Military Musters: virtual support for vets and families
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, ext.1
  • VA Coaching into Care (services for family and friends): 888-823-7458
—Chantel Carter