Morris Brent, Maryville director of staff education, has joined the pool of mentors as Maryville ambassador for the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Veterans Back to Work Boot Camp. The program began Sept. 8.
The Veterans Boot Camp, which the Des Plaines Chamber started in 2017 with the support of Rivers Casino, will provide 10 weeks of comprehensive career development programming, using proven job-seeking tools adapted to the needs, experiences and skills of veterans, according to the chamber’s website.
Veterans will be able to connect with mentors, local businesses and leaders. The program will cover career preparation and exploration; provide practical, hands-on assistance with job hunting, resumes and interviewing; address emotional and physical health; and give veterans the motivation and tools they need to succeed.
Brent, a decorated Navy veteran himself, looks forward to being part of the boot camp.
“I have a passion for helping vets,” he said. “I’ve been in their shoes and know how difficult it is to transition out.”
He said it is very important for him to serve the veterans as a life or career coach.
“It means a lot to me to be able to help them align their goals with their skills for their next chapter, whether it is finding a job or becoming an entrepreneur,” Brent added.
“Every veteran is not the same. Factors such as how long someone served, what his/her job specialty was, if they served during war and/or peacetime and others are all components that make each veteran’s transition uniquely different.”
He said that part of the transition is to understand where the veterans are coming from before they walk into an employer’s office.
“You have to know yourself and be clear on exactly what you’re bringing to a prospective employer — not just on paper as a candidate, and then be ready to transition from the person you used to be to the person you want to become,” he said.
Brent is a Chicago native and combat veteran who served in the U.S. Navy for 12 years. A decorated cryptologist, he soared through the ranks and received four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, three consecutive Sailor of the Quarter selections and Sailor of the Year award. He served on two warships at sea in two wars and a tour in Okinawa, Japan.
Given his impressive performance record, in addition to his accomplishments as a surface warfare and master training specialist, Brent was cited as one of the Navy’s “best of the best.”
For his final tour, he was selected to return to Illinois to become a navy drill instructor at the Great Lakes Navy Recruit Training Command. Considered among the elite, Brent received a medal for training more than 800 recruits from all over the country.
Brent said that serving as a boot camp mentor aligns with his professional goals.
“When the call came to be a mentor, it took some time for me to think through the invitation because mentoring is a serious responsibility,” he said. “There’s no expiration on it — you have that assignment for life. There is no chance to bail out.”
He said that he would be more purposeful about helping transform the person from their current self to their best self. “And hopefully if they do that, the job part will work itself out.”
Before joining Maryville in 2015, Brent worked as a learning technologist in the nonprofit, corporate and academic fields after his honorable exit from the military in 2001. He is a proud Southern Illinois University alumnus and dedicates his spare time to community projects and social causes.
“I love my job at Maryville,” he said. “I always tell people how blessed I am to walk in my ministry every day through my work. Service to humanity is my passion, and I always want to do things that are purposeful.”
This year’s boot camp will follow a hybrid format. Veterans will have the opportunity to attend the chamber’s networking events like the annual golf outing, in-person networking breakfasts and Zoom Leadership and Social Impact meetings to practice their elevator pitches and networking skills.
Veterans completing the program will attend a special graduation ceremony scheduled in November.