Since the height of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), ‘Veteran transition’ has become a hot topic. With a record number of men and women entering service, deploying, and then returning to civilian life, many philanthropists have dedicated their lives to supporting these heroes. Each have a different approach. One, is all about the journey.
The Station Foundation has been around for more than 10 years. Founded by former 1/60th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) Pilot Kevin Stacey. Based out of Bozeman, MT, and with a focus on Special Operations veterans, ‘The Station’ prides itself on addressing some of the gaps experienced firsthand during out-processing. “When I left in 2012, there was very little actual programming that took a service member through a journey of self-awareness and reflection, going deeper than a job resume, a LinkedIn profile, or the elusive and misunderstood idea of “networking”,” says Stacey. “It was a whirlwind, and anyone going through this process can probably relate about the support received through military led initiatives. In my experience, they fell short in a massive way, and left many of us frustrated and confused.”
Founder & Veteran Kevin Stacey
Stacey, the son of a Marine, gravitated toward military service at an early age. “My Dad brought me to West Point when I was in middle school and I was hooked from the moment I walked onto hallowed grounds.” Stacey graduated in 2001 as an aviation officer, and served until 2012. He deployed 12 times overseas to included Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa, serving as an MH-6M “Little Bird’ pilot.
“Initially, transition intrigued me because of my own experiences. Also, the experiences of friends who seemed to struggle around the same ideas. I saw huge gaps that could be met with a little thought and intention. Especially in understanding transition as a particularly important and layered experience that extends well beyond retirement. For many of us, we are still experiencing transition often without the team around us. I wanted to explore how community is deeply important in the process. Especially in your home as a partner, parent, community member.”
Founding the Station occurred during a much-needed vacation to Montana. “A close friend of mine from the SEAL Community moved to Bozeman, MT, when he left the Navy. I knew I was in need of a ‘break’ as well,” says Stacey. “The day after command ended, I flew to Montana for two weeks. It was a chance for me to disconnect and live simply.” After that experience Stacey knew there was something magical about the escape. It offered an ability to reconnect, think clearly, and focus on what mattered the most. “The beautiful part about it was I was experiencing it all with a trusted friend from the community. He spoke my language and held a space that a real friend and warrior can do for others.”
Since its inception, The Station has launched multiple programs that help cultivate a ‘journey’ for SOF veterans. Specific to service members, spouses, and their children, Family Foundation workshops reconnect and re-open lines of communications through a variety of holistic, reflective activities. All taking place at the HQ in Montana with professional staff. Spouse Performance Programs focus on encouraging spouses to identify goals and value themselves as a priority. These two programs are a great example of the holistic approach of The Station. The transition does not just occur for the service member, but the whole family. The program ‘Restore’ is all about the reconnection with family. Extended absence strains relationships amongst the family. Restore helps the family, specifically the children, rediscover and strengthen ties in a natural teamwork situation.
There are also programs that specifically emphasize job placement. The ‘Transition Azimuth Check (TrAC)’ allow service members and their spouses connect with high-level executives in a mentoring workshop. Connections and insight then lead way to potential employment opportunities.
One of the longest programs that occur up in MT, ‘The Crossing’ is a 12-day wilderness and survival training experience. This class is only offered for adolescent Gold Star Children. The kids are paired with mentors, some who served with the deceased parent. This support along the journey builds enormous confidence.
There are also some new programs that Stacey is very excited about. “I am inspired about a program named ‘The Return.’ The Return is a 9-day Hero Journey for SOF Warriors, drawn from universal principles of the warrior archetype. It’s inspired by primitive and indigenous traditions used to initiate warriors and experience a sense of freedom from the burdens so many of us carry home from war.” For veterans, their identity as warrior isn’t just a job title, but part of their fabric and plays a role in how they navigate the world. “We should not expect a bunch of sheepdogs to sit nicely in a classroom staring at power point or listening to lectures.” The Return taps into this warrior mindset. Stacey is rolling out some small group cohorts here this year to dial in the curriculum.
We asked Stacey, “how do you measure success with your program?” The response was very indicative of the program, and of course his good-natured approachable demeanor. “We listen. Be wary of the person who has it all mapped out with clean lines and steps.” Stacey went on to say, “The Station is about relationships and community. We operate in small groups much like we do in SOF. We emphasize high quality over jamming out numbers.”
In addition to a formal, and technical feedback system from participants, Stacey laid out his list of: things I see that make me smile:
● Alumni returning as session facilitators to help our current classes
● Our alumni volunteering in Montana, especially in our Gold Star programming
● Our internal network helping one another find meaningful work or opportunities to grow
● Pop up virtual sessions that turn into amazing conversations of SOF Veterans and amazing mentors
● Mentors staying in close contact for YEARS after a program
● Living lives of meaning, purpose, and continued service in their community
For more information on The Station Foundation, head right HERE: