By Mark Boslet
Donald Dixon is a co-founder of Trident Capital Cybersecurity, a managing director at the firm and a long-time booster of the United States Marine Corps.
So much so that when he noticed military veterans having a tough time finding civilian jobs after their tours of duty, he sprang to attention, convincing the U.S. Congress to pass legislation aimed at helping ex-military secure employment.
Not the typical mission for a venture capitalist.
Dixon served in the Navy from 1969 to 1972, finding himself as an engineering officer stationed on a destroyer during the Vietnam War.
His sons followed suit and joined the Marines. Peter Dixon served for eight years with tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Andrew Dixon spent four years with a tour in Afghanistan. Both are captains now in the reserves.
When asked what motivates him, the elder Dixon has a simple answer: “Patriotism.” But it is more than that. It was the ability to use technology to solve a social problem in the 21st century.
Dixon said he became aware of the jobs gap when son Peter had a difficult time locking down a post-duty position three years ago when he left the military.
“It wasn’t easy for him,” Dixon said. “He had a hard time getting a job.”
So he began looking at the issue with all the due diligence of a new investment, examining Department of Labor stats. His research uncovered that veterans are 50 percent more likely to be unemployed over time.
To Dixon’s surprise, the biggest problem veteran employment reps nationwide have is finding contact information on discharged vets. Part of the problem is form DD 214, the papers that military service members fill out upon departure. Vets don’t receive DD 214 until eight to 12 months after leaving the service. And the form doesn’t include a mobile phone number or an e-mail address. It includes space for a physical address, but many service members don’t know where they are living when they are discharged.
“It was obvious to me that what they needed on that DD 214 was the transitioning veteran’s mobile phone number and e-mail address,” he said. “That is the home address of the millennial.”
So Dixon called the officer at the Pentagon responsible for DD 214 to ask if the form could include a phone number and e-mail address. The answer was “no” since the change wasn’t required by law.
Dixon then put an Act of Congress on his to-do list.
Call it now a “done” list.
Working with former Rep. Mike Rogers from Michigan and Rep. Jeff Miller, Dixon helped create legislation authorizing a pilot program voluntarily capturing e-mail and mobile phone numbers attached to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.
He didn’t stop there. He helped create a jobs website for veterans, sponsored by Trident Capital.
Maybe now the path from active duty to active employment will be easier to follow.