MILTON, Ga. – Milton resident Brian Stann has had several careers in his short 37 years, but his abiding interest is heading up Hire Heroes USA, a nonprofit that prepares exiting veterans for life – and work – back in the civilian world.
Stann was tapped by Alpharetta businessman John Bardis to lead his nonprofit organization because of his unique qualifications and communication skills.
Stann knows how to engage veterans as they transition because he had to do it himself. And Stann knows how to connect with employers and show them the advantages of hiring veterans.
Stann’s own resume shows he is an Annapolis grad, having played football for the Naval Academy. As a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps he also attended the Marine Corps Martial Arts Center for Excellence in Quantico, Virginia, before commanding an infantry platoon serving in Afghanistan in 2005. There he earned a Silver Star for action against insurgents.
Insurgents surrounded his platoon during Operation Matador in mountainous territory. Ambushed, his unit came under heavy attack for six days and held their position until relieved.
Stann left the Marine Corps in 2008 to pursue a martial arts fighting career, winning several championships.
But his true calling came when Alpharetta Businessman John Bardis tapped him to be the president and CEO of the nonprofit organization Bardis founded, Hire Heroes USA.
The goal is helping veterans re-entering the civilian job market to transition smoothly using the skills they learned in service.
“As I was making my decision to leave the service, I met John and he brought me down to work for his company, MedAssets. Being a kid from Scranton [Pennsylvania], I had never seen a place that looked so new,” Stann said.
“I had been working there several months when John came to me and asked if I would help with this organization he was starting called Hire Heroes USA. It was just an idea then.”
Bardis wanted to help veterans transition into good jobs upon leaving the military. He recognized how hard it is for men and women to leave the highly structured military life and jump into the relative chaos of the civilian world.
So Jan. 1, 2009, Stann took the reins of the organization.
“I began by talking to employment experts, talking to veterans and to employers to find out why these people aren’t getting hired,” Stann said.
He found perhaps the biggest obstacle was service men and women’s inability to verbalize their value to a prospective employer.
Coupled with that was the realization that many personnel exiting the military really didn’t know what they wanted to do.
“When you are leaving the military, you don’t have a lot of time to figure out a transition strategy,” he said. “You go from a very structured and ordered environment to one which seems to have no structure at all – or at least a structure they can understand. “Wherever they go, the culture they enter will be very different from the one they have left.”
Hire Heroes sits down with vets to find out from them what they would like to do, find out what skills they have to make them successful and even find the best geographic area to find those kinds of jobs.
Hire Heroes begins with the basics, i.e., writing a “phenomenal” resume that spells out their skills and abilities in a way company recruiters will understand.
“This is the largest return of combat veterans to society since World War II,” Stann said. “And most of these people coming out of the military have never interviewed for a job – ever.”
“Coupled with the downsizing of America’s military, the need for assistance in finding the best civilian careers for our veterans and spouses is huge,” he said. “These men and women are professionals with the skills and character to be an asset on any team.”
What makes Hire Heroes so successful is its use of one-on-one job coaches.
From the time they walked into a recruiter’s office, service men and women were the client. They were sold on what careers the military could provide and what it would pay.
The role is reversed in civilian life. Now they have to show their worth to the organization.
“It is a personalized service to each individual who signs up with us,” Stann said.
Their numbers have been phenomenal. Their success rate is over 50 percent employment with an average annual salary of $50,000.
“And that’s not just cherry-picking officers,” Stann added. “Eighty percent are enlisted personnel.”
Last year Hire Heroes helped 15,000 ex-military and their spouses. But Stann says there are another 300,000 unemployed veterans who need help.