For those serving our country through an active military career, life after service can be an unfamiliar and stark adjustment period.

To make the transition less daunting, military personnel have the opportunity to engage in programs that support officers who have the desire to pursue an MBA at places like the Eli Broad College of Business.

U.S. Navy Capt. Justin Debord (MBA ’05), who retired from military service this year after 25 years in the Navy. Photo courtesy Justin Debord

U.S. Navy Capt. Justin Debord (MBA ’05), who retired from military service this year after 25 years in the Navy. Photo courtesy Justin Debord

This unique opportunity not only allows officers to get a world-class, cutting-edge education to take back to help the military, but it also sets up those who participate in the program for entering civilian life and a post-military career.

For recently-retired U.S. Navy Capt. Justin Debord (MBA ’05), using this program to pursue his MBA at the Broad College was an easy choice.

During his military career, Debord was selected by the Navy to pursue an MBA at any one of the top 25 business schools of his choice. After investigating several schools, Debord visited the Broad College due to its immaculate reputation for supply chain management.

“I absolutely fell in love with the campus, the curriculum, and especially the staff that I met during the visit. Combined, they made my choice very easy,” said Debord.

During Debord’s time at the Broad College, there were a successive string of Navy officers that spanned four graduating classes, which Debord said was a “true testament to the Broad College and the value it places on military members, both active duty and veterans.”

The overarching experience the Broad College provides to its students gave Debord the business analytical analysis tools that enabled him to grow into an improved military operational planner.

“I found myself over the years using examples and lessons learned from classroom discussions in my day-to-day military work,” said Debord. “I even used Dr. (Glenn) Omura’s case study analysis methodology to analyze humanitarian work we were planning for the Pacific region.”

Additionally, exercises from the program such as mock interviews, resume help, and industry guidance proved beneficial to Debord, as it set a solid foundation for his transition from military service years later.

Debord notes his time spent learning with Broad College was much more than a “traditional educational experience.” The opportunity to learn about the commercial experiences of his fellow classmates was something he would not have been exposed to with a more traditional military post-graduate education.

U.S. Navy Capt. Justin Debord (MBA '05), who retired from military service this year after 25 years in the Navy. Photo courtesy Justin Debord

U.S. Navy Capt. Justin Debord (MBA ’05), who retired from military service this year after 25 years in the Navy. Photo courtesy Justin Debord

Beyond this, the invaluable friendships his family made during this period of schooling were irreplaceable as well.

In his time at the Broad College, Debord’s operations and logistics background came in handy. He was elected vice president of community events for the Broad MBA Association. He helped lead the Broad College team in the MBA Food Fight, a national competition to benefit the hungry. Through his dedication to the program, Debord was awarded the Community Service Award at the end of his second year.

“I have always had a sense of purpose in my military career, and it fostered a different avenue for helping the community,” said Debord.

Debord retired from the military earlier this year, after 25 years of service. He notes the transition after decades in military logistics is fraught with the proverbial unknown. However, the skills and opportunities Debord picked up through obtaining his MBA at the Broad College enabled him to make a smooth transition into civilian life.

Attending the Broad College provided him with exposure to life outside of the military, allowing him to learn pivotal abilities such as how to market himself, expand his skill sets, and improve his leadership style.

“Uniformity, consensus, and process are things that really make the United States military the best in the world, and while critique and discussion are certainly valued, the backgrounds and experiences of the Broad College MBA student are far-reaching and atypical. It exposed me to different perspectives and critical thinking tools I just didn’t have before my enrollment,” said Debord.

Debord has recently begun a new chapter in his life as CEO of the Abilities Connection, a company that provides employment, training, and care for people with disabilities. The company also manufactures things like cargo nets for the Air Force, so Debord’s military procurement and contracting expertise was a natural fit.

Passing the torch to the next generation, Debord’s advice for those who stand in shoes similar to his own, considering pursuing additional education while active military is as follows:

  • “Be proud of the experiences you have obtained in the military. Whether it is logistics, aviation specialist, or as a tank commander, you bring a different perspective that is so valuable in the educational environment.”
  • “You will be better for the sharing of ideas and thoughts from the commercial world and your fellow students will be better from the background and experiences you bring to the table.”