Welcome to the Vets on T.A.P. website — it’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally here! If you’ve been with us since the beginning (June 2018), joined us sometime after that, or are just discovering us, we’re excited that you’ve found us here. With that, I’d like to take this first blog post to share how Vets on T.A.P. came to be.

In late 2016, while on active duty (Navy) in San Diego, CA, I learned that my career would soon be coming to an end due to medical reasons. I knew the time was coming since I was already over 21 years of service at that point, but I hadn’t quite decided when — now the decision was being made for me — what I still didn’t know at the time was exactly when I’d be asked to hang up the uniform for good. So, I immediately began preparing for transition without knowing my exact transition date yet.

I reached out to as many resources as possible, began my resume prep, attended the mandatory TGPS classes, went to a few additional transition seminars, etc. Everywhere I went and everyone I talked to ended up giving the same advice — network, network, network — and most people I talked to mentioned two resources: NAVNET Resources and Veterans Beer Club.
NAVNET (link: http://www.navnetresources.com/) offers a monthly Friday-morning networking breakfast and online job board, and it was a great way to get started and meet potential employers. Veterans Beer Club (link: https://www.theveteransbeerclub.com/) offers monthly evening networking opportunities at craft breweries in the greater San Diego area. Both are/were great options, but VBC resonated with me more because of the low-pressure, informal setting. 

As I attended both groups on a regular basis, I came to see the benefits of networking. It helped me to get more comfortable with building connections, learning about opportunities and industries I hadn’t considered, refining my resume and pitch, and helping others to connect. During this time, I found out my retirement date (October 2017), and my network helped me land a job and start working before I was officially retired!

The catch? The job was in Jacksonville, FL, which I was open to. So, we packed up and made our final move. When we got here, I began looking for networking opportunities within the veterans community. There wasn’t anything like what San Diego had to offer — there were lots of great resources and vet-friendly organizations, but nothing in the area of networking. But, I did have an ace-in-the-hole: Bruce Thompson.
Bruce is a USMC veteran who was my instructor at TGPS in San Diego when I was preparing for my transition — he taught the 3-day Department of Labor portion of the class. Bruce was engaging and helpful, and I added him to my network immediately. He referred me to another transition program, VetCTAP (link: https://www.vetctap.org/), which I attended in June-July 2017. He dropped in on the last class of my cohort, just as he was about to leave town for a move to Jacksonville, where he was transferring to his same job teaching TGPS, but in a new location. I didn’t know yet that I’d be moving to Jacksonville also, but as soon as I found out, I reached out to Bruce and he got me connected to the local veterans network.

When I noticed that there wasn’t an active networking group in Jacksonville, I reached out to Bruce and told him that I’d like to start something like VBC San Diego and asked if he’d help me get it going. He agreed and I began reaching out to the VBC San Diego leadership to inquire about starting a chapter. It took a few months and lots of poking and prodding on me from Bruce, but we finally got things going and debuted as Veterans Beer Club – Jacksonville on June 19, 2018 at Veterans United Craft Brewery. 

As it would happen, I got called out of town for a work trip on the night of our first event and Bruce ran it himself. We had 25-30 people and we considered that a success! The next month, Bruce couldn’t attend and I ran it — we grew to about 45 people that night! We realized that we were taking off quickly and by our 4th event (September 2018), we had close to 75 people and recognized a need to offer more than one monthly event.
As we grew, our mission grew and changed. After some talks with VBC San Diego leadership, we realized that our mission and paths had diverted because the local communities had different needs — Bruce and I made the decision then to leave the VBC family and re-establish as Vets on T.A.P. — this included establishing as a 501(c)3 and offering more types of events. As we established the non-profit and things were running well, Bruce stepped away from a leadership role to focus on his other efforts as a veteran influencer. He’s a true star in the community and his contributions to the group continue.

In January 2019, we offered our first Education event. A month later, we offered morning coffee networking events. Our 1-year anniversary in June 2019 saw more than 400 attendees! In October 2019, we offered our first hiring event with Micron Technology, who offered on-site interviews with offers within the week — one of those offers brought a single veteran mother out of homelessness! COVID-19 led us into establishing virtual events. As the time goes, we continue to adapt to the needs of our veterans and the environment around us.

I am very excited about where we started and where we’re going, but we can only succeed with the support and participation of our local veterans community, which is one of the best I’ve come across.

Thank you for stopping by, and I look forward to sharing updates with you on a regular basis.

Cheers, Will