Veteran Cultural Competence Training
Seeking to close the veteran-civilian divide
Transitioning from a life on the front lines to a life sitting at a desk is a challenge for many veterans returning from service. What makes this transition even harder is the difference in civilian and veteran experiences, creating a divide that makes it difficult for these two groups to relate in professional settings. Through his research, former Lieutenant Colonel for the US Army (Infantry), Joe Geraci, has found that suicide rates among veterans are highest in times of transition. Dedicated to addressing veteran mental health and suicide rates, Joe believes bridging the gap between civilians and veterans is an crucial first step. Joe, now a clinical psychologist and New York state-certified mental health counselor, has partnered with Columbia University’s Resilience Center for Veterans and Families to co-found and direct the center’s Veteran Cultural Competence training program. The Veteran Cultural Competence program brings together veterans, business professionals, public leaders, and educators to create a dialogue around the veteran experience to find common ground and create professional and personal relationships to help veterans better assimilate into civilian life.
The Veteran Cultural Competence program is a day-long immersive experience in which attendees gain a new perspective on what it is like to be a veteran and the emotions they may experience in day-to-day life. Through round-table discussion topics such as “Knowledge and Understanding of Military Worldview” and “Military Culture and Awareness of Our Own Personal Beliefs/Attitudes,” participants gain knowledge of military customs, norms, and ideals, allowing them to compare and contrast these beliefs with their own. During “Operation Restore Hope,” participants are thrown into a more immersive experience by breaking out into teams and rescuing a hostage from a hostile situation. During this exercise, participants get a small taste of the emotions and experiences veterans have gone through on the front lines. Throughout the day, veterans lead discussions and tell personal anecdotes to connect with the participants and create a sense of community among veterans and civilians. To end the day, there is a dramatic reading of excerpts from Greek Tragedies by actors from the Theater of War.
Companies that have previously attended the Veteran Cultural Competence program include Bloomberg LP, Mount Sinai Health System, Avant Gardner and the David Lynch Foundation. The effects of this program have been far-reaching, allowing those working with veterans to develop the tools to find common understanding with their veteran counterparts. This immersive and unforgettable program mixes intellect, emotion, adrenaline and reflection in order to give a glimpse into the veteran experience and subsequent mindset when interacting with those in the civilian world. Participating in this program creates the empathy needed to bridge the gap between civilians and veterans so that we can all work together to acknowledge and appreciate the service of veterans and aid them in their journey post-service.
This training is intended for anyone who currently provides services to, or employs Veterans or their families. This includes medical or mental health professionals, business leaders, HR executives, administrators, and University faculty and staff. For information on how you or your company can participate in a Veteran Cultural Competence program near you, please see our calendar of dates and locations. Feel free to reach out with any questions to the TASC Team at VHABRXTASCTrainings@va.gov.