February 14th, 2015 08:34 EST
John Kerry Welcomes Vets to Fellowship Program
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
Veterans took the forefront as Secretary of State John F. Kerry welcomed the inaugural fellows of the Veterans Innovation Partnership today.
Speaking in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department, Kerry said the fellows will bring a unique way of looking at America`s foreign policy.
Air Force veteran Ben Shoaf, a member of the inaugural class, said the program is a chance for veterans to take what they have learned performing military service and apply it to international affairs. Shoaf, who holds a master`s degree in international affairs from George Washington University, is working in the Office of Global Partnerships for the next year.
Kerry said the idea for the partnership began in 2013. It is a unique public-private partnership that will take advantage of the expertise veterans can bring to international relations. Those chosen for the program have experience deployed in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. They all hold master`s degrees, and all want to continue their public service, the secretary said.
When the fellowship is finished, the participants may be offered positions with the department.
It was my time at war that made me such a big believer in the need to exhaust every option to resolve differences peacefully before we make the decision to ask young men and women to go into harm`s way, " Kerry said.
Veterans` Voices Need to be Heard
Veterans` voices need to be heard in order to promote America`s interests and values across the globe, he said.
When we wrestle with the challenge of building peace in Afghanistan, we benefit from the voice of the veteran who knows the cost of war, " Kerry said. When disaster strikes " we benefit from the voice of a veteran who has delivered life-saving aid in real time somewhere in the world. "
Program Benefits Veterans, State Department
This partnership is a benefit to both the veterans and to the State Department, the secretary said. The department will open the season to choose the next group of fellows next month.
We`re in this for the long haul, " Kerry said. The bottom line is pretty simple: all of us who put on a uniform and left our homes to serve this great country share a lifelong bond and we never forget the reason we do what we do. "
Air Force veteran Albert Espinoza is one of the fellows and was at American University when he heard of the program.
When the program was announced, I felt it was almost tailored to what I want to do, " he said in an interview. During my transition out of the Air Force, we go to counseling and they try to advise you on what`s out there. They dropped a brochure about the foreign service on me, and I thought, "Wow, there`s something outside of being in uniform where I can still serve my country?` That was my motivation. "
The fellows will receive exposure to many aspects of the State Department. There are opportunities for training and to work at many offices.
It`s encouraged to do rotations, " Shoaf said in the interview. And everyone wants to do them. "
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)
Photo Credit: Wikipedia