A path to post-service careers

Retired Lt. Col. Joe Barnard joins this week’s episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast, discussing his military career and transition after service.

Barnard served in both the Army and Air Force, starting with the 82nd Airborne in the mid-80s. Later, he served as a para rescuer and combat rescue officer in the Air Force from 1988 through 2016.

“I was dyslexic as a kid but I wasn’t scared to jump off anything,” he said, while discussing his military service. “Para rescue is one of those jobs where you get to do all that cool stuff.”

After his service Barnard embarked on a yoga-focused vacation retreat with his wife.

“I don’t think the transition is easy for anybody,” he said. “You lose your tribe. It was a long and eventful career with all the stuff we were doing in combat rescue.”

Afterward, he still wanted to find meaningful work — and did. He eventually came across an opportunity where he could apply his military skills such as leadership and organization. The job was executive director of a residential treatment center for troubled teenage boys.

“The beauty of being in the military as long as I was that I got to mentor and groom people, and help them out,” he said.

Barnard offers suggestions for those transitioning:

• About two to three years before your anticipated separation, start networking.

• Use LinkedIn. “Get a LinkedIn page, build it and always keep evolving it.”

• Focus on your target. Determine what profession you want to pursue and in what geographical area you want to live. Then focus on companies in those areas.

Recently, he became the chief operating officer of the Independence Fund, a nonprofit organization that serves the warfighter community by providing innovative programs and services for those suffering from physical injuries and mental-health issues. Their focus is a support role for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual independence of servicemembers, combat veterans, their caregivers, families and others.

“It’s amazing what we do as far as casework, caregiver retreats and chairs for paralyzed veterans.”

This episode is among more than 140 that are all available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Stitcher or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available for viewing at the Legion’s YouTube channel.