IRVINE – Rio Caras calls himself a middleman between civilians and boot camp. The 32-year-old Orange resident spends his days running a Carson-based Navy recruiting station, talking to young men and women, presenting them with an option to enter the military and work within the structure it provides.
But Caras took a step in the opposite direction and toward his August military retirement when he graduated recently from Reboot Workshop, a 15-day course aimed at helping active-duty, retired and discharged soldiers adjust to life outside the armed forces.
For the past three weeks, he and 11 other Orange County military veterans commuted to Brandman University to attend seven-hour-a, day sessions of the voluntary program.
Reboot aims to supplement the military’s Transition Assistance Program, and similarly includes lessons providing practical advice, such as how veterans can apply for military benefits, balance their finances and find a new job. But Reboot differs in that much of the course addresses psychological barriers by teaching soldiers how to manage self-image and reevaluate thought patterns ingrained from years of living within military culture.
“The mindset in the military community is that you focus on today,” said Willard Ramseur, a 60-year-old Garden Grove resident and retired Air Force master sergeant, who graduated Friday. “You focus on the mission, and you do the job before you because it’s your duty. And that changes the way a person thinks.”
“Now in the civilian community, you do the job that you want to do, because you choose it now,” Ramseur continued. “It’s time to switch gears and think differently.”
Billed as a “reverse boot camp,” the course is the core program of National Veterans Transition Services Inc. (NVTSI), a San Diego-based nonprofit organization founded in 2010 by retired two-star Adm. Ronne Fromanand and 26-year Navy veteran Maurice Wilson.
“In (military) boot camp, your environment shapes you, so you change from the outside in,” Wilson said.
“(Reboot’s) cognitive restructuring is when you’re changing from the inside out, and you’re determining who you are and how you feel.”
The program is funded entirely through charitable donations (including from the Orange County
Community Foundation), and Reboot is available free of charge to members of all five military branches.
The workshop has been presented in six locations- five in Southern California and one in Virginia Beach, Va. Friday marked the conclusion of Reboot’s 46th class.
Friday’s graduates had a wide range of post-military ambitions. Some planned to go to college, one to law enforcement, one to private security. One man was working for a video production company, and another was in the process of launching his own barbecue catering company.
Ramseur, who entered the military nearly four decades ago, wants to pursue graphics art education, picking up on work he did years back.
Caras said he is in the admissions process at Vanguard University of Southern California, where he hopes to major in business and minor in psychology. His wife of two years, who is also a Navy veteran, plans on opening her own theater company, and he would like to be able to help her with the finances.
Caras hasn’t been to school in nine years, not since he decided during nursing school nine years ago that he wanted something different. Since then, he traveled into the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean as a nuclear engineer aboard a Navy aircraft carrier. Now, he says his priorities have changed and he’s ready to rejoin civilian life.
“I had some pretty concrete goals,” Caras said of his military career. “I was able to accomplish those. Now I’m just moving on to the next thing.”
By JORDAN GRAHAM / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER