COLUMBUS (WCMH) — When it comes to planes, Don Caluya is very familiar with all the ins and outs.
He served three years in the Air Force, based in Germany, as an aeromed technician, flying to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, picking up Wounded Warriors. But when he decided to leave active duty for college, he entered a new world.
“I’m not necessarily waking up at 5:30. I can wake up at 7 or 8 and have a perfectly good day still,” said Caluya.
Caluya enrolled at Ohio State and in one of his first briefings with fellow veterans, he learned of a mentorship program — called The Overwatch Partnership.
“I’ve been with Overwatch for about a year, or a year in august. And they’ve taught me basically the basic principles of success,” said Caluya.
Overwatch was the brainchild of three former veterans who had the same struggles Don has transitioning from active duty to civilian life. Eric Gentzel is one of the co-founders.
“I went to grad school and I was figuring out what I wanted to do and I was pretty lost,” said Gentzel. “I had never done a resume. I had never been interviewed before. I didn’t know how to apply for jobs. I was moving from the south to Ohio and I was pretty clueless so it was a tough transition.”
Gentzel served 4 years in the Army, including a 14-month deployment in Iraq. He left active duty in 2009 and is now a consultant. But the thought of how hard it was to jump back into civilian life was not lost on he and his two friends.
“So we said the three things that I’ve had the biggest impact on our career has been having a mentor, having a network, and having the access to talent acquisition people that can help you get a job and so we said let’s create a model that we can give access to a transitioning veteran those three thins,” said Gentzel.
And they went to work, finding partners to help them help veterans. they reached out to Ohio State, who has more than 2,000 veterans on main campus alone.
“Iinitially it’s been fantastic. We’ve had a lot of students signed up for it,” said Mike Carrell from Ohio State Veteran Services department. “They’ve had a lot of good experiences. We’ve had several students get internships, good jobs.”
Since being founded in January, the organization has 40 mentees, with 10 of them landing a job this year, and others nabbing internships at places like Big Lots, Nationwide, AEP, and Cardinal Health.
“Veterans really bring an incredible amount of experience as far as being a team leader, solving things and innovative ways and that’s the kind of talent we think not only cardinal but other organizations in the Columbus area can benefit from,” said Clifford Rich from Cardinal Health, a military veteran himself.
“It’s very neat to get people going back to school to get their degree full-time now and helping them figure out what they want to do and some of them they have a degree but they don’t necessarily know what they want to do and that’s were mentorship helps a lot,” said Gentzel.
“Having a mentor is important because it’s not about what you know but who you know,” said Caluya, “and sometimes when you put a foot in the door with somebody that’s been in your shoes that gave me the railway to success.
For more information, head to overwatchpartnership.org