As we approach Veterans Day this year, the State Department celebrates and honors our nation’s military heroes, many of whom continue their service in foreign affairs careers. Through the Veterans Innovation Partnership (VIP) Fellowship program, 54 veterans have been on-boarded to the Department over the last five years. The VIP Fellowship provides veterans with a year-long appointment at the Department to prepare them for diplomacy and development careers and to continue advancing and defending American interests abroad.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the program is the fellowship it creates among each cohort. Having unique backgrounds in the U.S. military where camaraderie is a part of the job, it can be daunting to enter a new workforce, especially one as large as the State Department, without a network of support. Veterans bring a distinct, team-oriented work ethic, which is reflected in the State Department Ethos, a collaborative ideal set in place by another member of State’s veteran community, Secretary Pompeo. The VIP Fellowship looks to create a small community of veterans that not only have shared backgrounds in the military, but who are also starting new careers in foreign affairs and can bring their mission-focused mindset to the field of diplomacy.
Ben Poteete, a former paratrooper and platoons weapons expert in the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army, is a current VIP Fellow serving in the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism. Describing his experience so far, he commented, “at State, I was quickly welcomed by the veteran community and sought out opportunities to stay connected with fellow veterans. My knowledge of the State Department culture grew exponentially due to the ability to routinely collaborate, network, and share ideas with an educated cohort of veterans.” Ben also currently serves as the Vice-President of the Veterans@State Employee Affinity Group, saying he has “tried to emulate the idea-sharing and comradery of the VIP Fellowship” in this role as well.
Veterans of each branch of the military bring a unique set of experiences and traditions as well as a unique skillset. The VIP Fellowship has included members from every branch of the military, from enlisted and officer roles, who strive to repurpose their skills to advance foreign policy goals. Another Fellow of the 2019 Cohort, John Perez, a former Military Intelligence Analyst for the United States Army, said, “This fellowship is a saving grace. Sometimes veterans move into society but still remain in two different worlds. Here, we move forward as if in a joint command where the mentality of each branch converges into a cohort.”
The Department of State recently accepted applications for the sixth cohort, which will start in 2020. The Fellowship continues to provide veterans with an opportunity to develop their careers and utilize their skills in service to our nation while also building a unique community of which they can be a part. VIP Fellow Chip Darcy, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, describes his experience and that of his cohort as an amazing opportunity and said it “gives veterans the chance to feel out the vast opportunities that might benefit us here at State while ultimately bringing our skills and experiences to bare in support of the Department of State mission.” We are honored to continue supporting veterans after their military service and to provide them with opportunities to continue their service to the United States.
To learn more about the VIP Fellowship including how to apply, please visit VIPFellowship.org, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Christine Johnson serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State.