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Training Veterans to Return to Civilian Life

BY ERIC REINHARDT ereinhardt@cnybj.com SYRACUSE — The nonprofit Clear Path for Veterans is working with the local franchise of Dale Carnegie Training on what it calls a “reverse boot camp” to help veterans transition to civilian life after their service. Clear Path for Veterans helps veterans, military members and their families, providing programs and services that rely one of three methods: self-empowerment, peer-to-peer support, and community involvement. The nonprofit operates at 1223 Salt Springs Road in Chittenango. “It’s an eight-week course to get you back in the mindset of being a civilian … it’s not specific to any one industry. It’s just specific to veterans re-entering life,” says Earl Fontenot, director of programs and services at Clear Path for Veterans. It’s the Dale Carnegie course that the company offers publicly, which Clear Path is using for its reverse boot camp. “They go through so much training to become a soldier and then afterward, there’s not a whole lot of training to exit that life and so this is what they found to be the solution to that,” Leslie English, president of Dale Carnegie Training of CNY, says in explaining the course concept. Dale Carnegie Training of CNY is the d/b/a name of English’s company, L.J. English and Associates. CNYBJ spoke with both English and Fontenot on Nov. 6. The partnership Clear Path launched a partnership with Dale Carnegie Training in early 2015. “It was Leslie who had the idea to expand her training to veterans that we serve as Clear Path and we started with employees of Clear Path because most of us are veterans,” says Fontenot. When English learned that Clear Path was working to help veterans transition back into civilian life, she recalled how her brother, Robert Pendock, Jr., enrolled in the Dale Carnegie course, which “really helped him in a lot of ways.” Pendock was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp., having served in Operation Desert Storm, says English. “So I wanted to reach out and maybe help some other veterans that are going through the same things that he [went through], she added. Clear Path is recommending the training, which is free of charge thanks to sponsorships, to veterans, including those who spent time at Fort Drum and in the 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard Base at Hancock Field, says Fontenot. Fontenot and his Clear Path colleagues participated in a Dale Carnegie Training public class at Mohawk Global Logistics and United Radio in DeWitt. “Both companies allow us to use their training spaces for public classes,” says English. “[Clear Path] came through in the public class to try it out and see if it was something that would be of value.” Fontenot completed the course in May, he says. “I’ve seen a huge change in not only my professional but my personal life... everything from interacting with my kids to how I interact with everybody at work. Dale Carnegie Training also recently taught the course at Clear Path headquarters in Chittenango, and the class was “filled with vets,” says English. The course is an eight-week program, three-and-a-half hours per week in an evening class. It focuses on “five drivers,” says English. The drivers include building self-confidence; communications skills, both verbal and listening; people skills; leadership; and stress management, she adds. Those enrolled conduct an individual assessment during the initial session. They then apply the “tools and the techniques and the principals” the course provides to “real life situations to practice.” “It motivates them to keep going,” says English. English looked at documents indicating how the veterans taking the course rate themselves. “They all saw tremendous growth in stress management,” she added. “And the other area was people skills.” So far, 18 veterans have completed the course, says English. About Fontenot Fontenot served four years in the U.S. Army between 2002 and 2006. The Colorado native was stationed at Fort Drum when he joined the Army. He was a college freshman at the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He eventually left college and joined the U.S. Army, ending up at Fort Drum. He served two, year-long tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. After returning to Denver, Fontenot and his wife decided to move back to the area and settled in Liverpool. Fontenot joined Clear Path in December 2012, about a year after the organization launched in September 2011. Fontenot enrolled at Syracuse University this fall to finish a bachelor’s degree that he started at Metropolitan State University of Denver in the early 2000s. He’s pursuing a bachelor’s degree in professional studies and creative leadership, he says.
 

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