by 2nd Lt. Darren Domingo
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
12/7/2015 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- For a service member planning on retiring or separating, the next step can sometimes be a scary ordeal.
There are those however, whose passions include helping their brothers
and sisters in arms make the transition from uniformed life to the
civilian sector a successful one.
Chief Master Sgt. Alexander Hall, 50th Network Operations Group
superintendent, and Chief Master Sgt. Charles Campbell, pioneered
VetSuccess, an initiative that assists veterans in the information
technology career field find meaningful jobs after separating from the
Air Force. Their work earned them the 2015 SANS "Difference Makers"
"Earning this award is a huge honor, wholly unexpected, and I'm really
excited to be recognized by such an illustrious group." said Hall. "But I
didn't get into this to win an award, I got into this because I'm
passionate about the talent and experience we gain from our military
service and I want Air Force veterans to be successful. If you've served
honorably for a significant part of your life, you deserve success on
the outside - VetSuccess is a small way to give back to those who've
made sacrifices serving in the uniform."
The SANS Institute provides information security training and security
certifications through classes and training forums throughout the U.S.
According to www.sans.org, "Since 2011, SANS has been celebrating those
'Difference Makers' whose innovation, skill and hard work have resulted
in real increases in information security."
The "Difference Makers" award recognizes people who've changed the realm
of cyber security-whether it's re-writing code, developing better
processes to manage security and programs or improving the IT workforce
the latter being where Hall and Campbell earned recognition for their
Before VetSuccess' current achievements, its roots could be traced back to an encounter at the White House.
Before arriving at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Hall's previous
assignment was a cyber support assistant career field manager at the
On a normal workday, Hall's supervisor asked him if he would speak at
the White House on behalf of veterans for the Joining Forces
Initiative-a movement that supports service members, veterans and their
families throughout their lives in the public and private sectors. Hall
shrugged his shoulders and responded, "Why not?"
It was shortly after that moment, Hall had the chance to speak with the
First Lady Michelle Obama and industry leaders about hiring veterans.
After the speaking engagement and a few months of networking, Hall met
Alan Paller, SANS Institute chief executive officer who offered an
opportunity to partner with SANS to offer future Air Force IT veterans a
smooth transition to the civilian workforce.
Thus, VetSuccess was born.
"The initial plan was that SANS would provide training to a small cohort
of veterans," said Hall. "SANS has various industry standard
certifications; they would provide 2-3 certification exams free of
charge, and would introduce folks who made it successfully through the
process to employers who hire people based on successfully completing
the SANS [certifications]. Mr. Paller proposed the idea; 'We've got
several certifications,' and asked, 'Can you get us some veterans?'"
Hall found Air Force IT personnel who were either separating or
retiring, had certain levels of education or experience and who would be
strong candidates. Finding approximately 600 people, he personally
emailed all of them.
"I said 'I know you're leaving the Air Force soon, are you interested in
giving this [program] a shot?'" said Hall. "[There's] no cost to you,
and if you're successful, you're going to get a job."
Eventually, the first pilot group to spearhead VetSuccess was
assembled-nine Airmen in total. All passed with flying colors. In fact,
one scored higher than the original writers of the SANS certification
"SANS hired that individual almost immediately," Hall laughed. "He did
so well. He was a staff sergeant with eight years of experience in the
The success of VetSuccess has only flourished to this day. During the
last training cohort, every successful participant was negotiating for
jobs making $70,000 to $120,000, just four months after leaving the
"I know that IT veterans have all the things that the industry wants,
what we're missing though, is the opportunity to put ourselves on
display," explained Hall. "That's what VetSuccess allows us to do-we go
through industry standards, to show ourselves off. Through this training
we have proven that we know everything that our civilian counterparts
know, and the IT industry is ready to hire us now."
Besides having the technical forte to be eligible for competitive IT
positions, Airmen bring something extra to the table-leadership.
"That leadership piece is what the industry is really hungry for," said
Hall. "We can train most anybody to be an IT professional, but who leads
IT professionals? In more cases than not, military members have those
Through Hall and Campbell's partnership with SANS, VetSuccess is expanding to have five more cohorts in the future.
Hall explained he was proud to have earned the "Difference Maker" award
with Campbell, yet grateful for the opportunity to help his fellow
For anyone who is separating from the military and has no idea what to
do next, Hall explained those are the people he loves to engage.
"I can give you five different things you can do tomorrow that can
change your professional life, if you're willing to invest the time,"
For more information on the VetSuccess program, or any of the Joining Forces initiatives, contact Hall.