Training fingers on a keyboard instead of a trigger

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Scary. That's the one word that U.S. service members repeatedly use to describe, not walking into a combat situation, but making the transition out of the military and into the civilian workforce.

Chief Warrant Officer Tara Overfield said, "It's scary to come off of active duty where that's all you've ever known. You've had a lot of structure to your life."

Overfield joined the Army at age 18 right after graduating high school in Puyallup. She chose the watercraft field so she'd always be around the water and feel like home where ever she was stationed or deployed.

Her career in the Army and Reserves took her across the country and overseas, but now she's ready to become a civilian. But how will she earn a living?

Overfield said, "It's really scary to look out at the market and see how many openings are for how many people are trying to get employment."

Staff Sgt. Adam Critterbart finds himself in a similar situation. A sniper and communications expert in Special Forces, when Critterbart learned he was going to be a father, he stuck with his team for one final deployment, but decided it was time to make that transition.

Critterbart said, "I'm doing well in the military so leaving is kind of risky because, where are you going to transition into? The typical process of going into law enforcement, contracting and things of that nature are out there, but that really kind of defeats the purpose of what I was trying to do which is to be able to be home with the family every night. "

Fortunately, for Critterbart, Overfield and 22 other service members in transition, there is a company recruiting them for their expertise. Perhaps you've heard of it. The company's called Microsoft.

Though some there have joked a bit that they're looking for "steely-eyed killers," team leaders at Microsoft are looking for the intangible skills that they're just not finding in the civilian population.

Microsoft Veteran Recruiter Joe Wallace said, "Such as leadership, discipline, folks that have sort of a mission-oriented focus on their work environment."

So - instead of settling, they're recruiting the people who already have those assets.

Microsoft designed the Software and Systems Academy and is now running its inaugural program at JBLM. There was room for just 24 pupils. Each had to interview for a spot in the class.

The biggest help in all of this is that their command allows them to report to class every day, instead of regular duty.

Overfield said, "I think there were a number of us who really didn't know anything and just hit the ground running and just tried to learn as much as we could as we went."

They spend ten hours a day together in class and then head home where they study even more.

Overfield said, "We've gone from basically not knowing how to do anything to creating programs."

The academy lasts 16 weeks and when they graduate, they are guaranteed a job interview.

Critterbart said, "You know I'll work the three jobs if I have to, in order to provide for the family, but I prefer not to and this program makes me feel like I won't have to do that."

And Critterbart and Overfield both say they're working hard to succeed not only for themselves for those who will follow.

"It's really like a once in a lifetime thing," Critterbart said.
Overfield said, "We're helping making make the way for this program and improve it so that others behind us will have a good experience."

Microsoft is also looking for success to fill its vacancies not just with good people, but great leaders.

Wallace said, "We're hoping to hire as many as we can and we're going to expand this program across the nation and other different States."

JBLM says some 8,000 service members will transition off base, to civilian life every year over the next three years. About 40% will stay in the Puget Sound Region.