DoD SkillBridge Success with Mike Smith

By Greencastle Consulting

DoD SkillBridge Success with Mike Smith

The Department of Defense SkillBridge program is an extremely valuable opportunity for transitioning service members to gain valuable civilian work experience through internships and specific industry training. At Greencastle Consulting, DOD SkillBridge fellowships are one of the many ways we work to attract top military talent while also serving the veteran community.  

The following is the story of Mike Smith, a 25-year veteran of the Army National Guard, and his experience with the DOD SkillBridge program at Greencastle Consulting.

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My name is Mike Smith. For 25 years, I served in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, primarily as an infantryman with a stint as a recruiter as well. Over the course of those 25 years, I spent 20 years as Active Guard and Reserve (AGR), so the Army was my 9 – 5 and all that I knew. I participated in peacekeeping operations, combat operations, and domestic support operations, retiring as a Sergeant First Class (E7)

The decision to get out was certainly a tough one. In 2020, I had an emergency splenectomy and that pretty much told me that I was not in fact, invincible. At the time I was recruiting, and the only logical thing I could think of after losing an organ was to go back to the infantry.

One year later the doctors found a massive hernia from the previous surgery. It was then that I decided to listen to my body, take a knee, and drink water. I had given up years, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, an organ, and my firstborn (he enlisted the year I retired). It was time — I was ready to retire.

The transition out of the military is a daunting one. After attending a Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class, one of my close friends commented, “I don’t think I’m ever going to retire. There’s too much to keep track of.” I felt this statement.

As I started to explore career opportunities for my post-military life, it became evident that replacing the bond I felt with my fellow service members would be the hardest thing to replicate in my civilian career. I realized I wanted to find a place where I could find a sense of commonality with my peers.

I had a good friend, and mentor of sorts, invite me down for a happy hour hosted by Greencastle. As soon as I walked in, I could tell there was something unique about this place. The military influence on Greencastle was evident. I knew that this was a place where I wouldn’t just work around my coworkers but with them. I knew that if I ever had a bad day, or if I needed to vent in only the way a salty NCO needs to vent, I could turn to anyone in the organization and vent to them, and more importantly they would get it. I left that happy hour after meeting some great people and having a renewed sense of energy and a certainty that this was what I wanted to do.

The application process was straightforward, and the recruiting team was amazing. They helped every step of the way and kept me up to date with everything I needed to know. The interview process, on the other hand, was nerve-racking for me — a feeling I’m sure most veterans can relate to. It was the first time in two decades that I had to interview to see if I was good enough for a job. Throughout the process, I spoke with several current employees to get their experiences on everything. In all honesty, I tried to find the bad in the company. I was expecting there to be some kind of catch. I’m happy to report there wasn’t, and a few weeks later I was on my path to a DoD SkillBridge Fellowship.

I packed up my camper and laid stake in Lancaster for the initial 2 months of my fellowship to immerse myself in the culture and learn as much as I could from the program and people. Greencastle’s hybrid environment gave me the flexibility to be in the office when I needed to and work from home if I didn’t. The onboarding process was, in my opinion, flawless. From the initial onboarding to the one-on-one with Joe Crandall, and lunch with the Senior Leadership Team — I truly didn’t feel like an intern, I felt like a full-time employee.

The first few weeks of my fellowship were spent in classes with the Stronghold Leadership team. I learned the basics of project management, change management, and process improvement. The team at Stronghold has developed a learning environment that uses strategies and processes from the military to explain essential consulting concepts. This was a huge key to my success in this period. I can distinctly recall my ‘a-ha’ moment realizing that the countless drill weekends I had participated in in the Army, were all projects with scope, deliverables, and project managers responsible for delivering them.

SkillBridge programs don’t include a guarantee of employment. I knew that despite being selected for a fellowship, I still had to earn a spot as a full-time employee. I half-jokingly promised some of the senior leadership team I would make them lose sleep if they decided to not keep me on. Luckily for me, Greencastle’s SkillBridge program is structured to help seamlessly get new employees spun up quickly and deliver value to clients.

By far the hardest part of the transition for me was having to reconfigure how the military had trained me to think and adjust that for the business world. The first few weeks certainly felt like a dump of information. Any possibility of feeling overwhelmed was quickly overridden by the genuine care I was shown by every member of the Greencastle team I interacted with. It felt like they were personally invested in my success every step of the way.

It can be a jarring experience to realize that outside of the military, not many people understood the job I had just finished doing. Perspective became my new best friend — realizing that not every problem was seemingly life or death made the change that much more enjoyable. The SkillBridge program at Greencastle helped me navigate my transition in a way that took my experiences from the military and combined them with client-ready skills and a network of veterans to support me every step of the way.

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Greencastle Consulting is the nation’s premier strategy execution firm. Our team specializes in strategy execution, operations consulting, and business analytics. Our clients rely on us to drive success on their most critical projects. We are 100% veteran-owned and entirely veteran-operated.

Whether you’re an active service member considering a transition to civilian work, or a veteran looking to join our team, we’re always looking to add talented individuals to our team. Check out our open positions and let’s connect!