Sometimes the transition from military service to civilian life happens gradually over time. In other cases, it happens in an instant. Neither path is necessarily easy, but maintaining a sense of purpose is key to successfully finding a new path in life.
Alex Ortiz is a 1L law student at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico School of Law, a 2022 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellow, and a 2022 SVA Student Veteran of the year finalist. Before starting his legal studies, he served as a wheel vehicle mechanic while on deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division.
In this interview, Alex speaks with host Mary Kate Soliva about:
• Being medically discharged from the U.S. Army and suddenly needing to discover a new path and a new purpose
• Why he thinks is can be such a challenge connecting Veterans with the programs and services that exist to support them
• How life and military service are experienced differently from a U.S. territory like Puerto Rico
Welcome to Veteran Voices. A podcast is dedicated to giving a voice to those that have served in the United States Armed Forces on this series jointly presented by Supply Chain now and vets to industry. We sit down with a wide variety of veterans and veteran advocates to gain their insights, perspective, and stories from serving. We talk with many individuals about their challenging transition from active duty to the private sector, and we discuss some of the most vital issues facing veterans today. Join us for this episode of Veteran Voices.
Mary Kate Soliva (00:47):
Hello everyone. This is Mary Kate Soliva, the host of Veteran Voices. Super excited about our episode today and I hope you are coming back. If you are not a returning Veteran Voices fan, welcome to our episodes and our show where I interview veterans who are serving beyond the uniform and Veteran Voices is part of the supply chain now family. You can check out the Supply Chain Now podcast, wherever you get your podcast from. And we are a proud partnership with the military Women’s Collective and military women’s collective.org. And founded by my dear sister and navy veteran Marina Nik, you can check them out on what they’re doing to support, uh, women veterans all over. And also we are a proud partnership with the Guam Human Rights Initiative, an our organization near and dear to my heart, where they address human rights issues impacting Guam and the region. You can find out more about firstname.lastname@example.org. So without further ado, I am super excited to introduce our guest today and he is an Army veteran, but he’s also proudly here representing the Student Veterans of America. And for those of you who don’t know about the Student Veterans of America, you’re in for a treat because they do such incredible work nationwide for student veterans, but also the advocacy work on The Hill, which is why I’m so proud to have Alex Ortiz here in the show. Alex, thank you so much for joining us today.
Alex Ortiz (02:19):
Thank you for having me.
Mary Kate Soliva (02:22):
And I was like, how could I forget also that you were also the V F W Post Commander of Post 1 1 1 0 3 in Puerto Rico. So shout out woo woo to the territories <laugh>. So I love that. Right? And being my family, being from Guam, yours being from Puerto Rico, just shout out there with the, the US territories and probably serving. So I wanted to see Alex, if, if you could kick us off with some motivation, pump us up. You’re welcome to sing if you feel like it, but I just think it’s a great way to get the show rolling.
Alex Ortiz (02:53):
Yeah, definitely. So the one of my favorite motivational quotes is from George Burr and Adams and it’s, there’s no such thing as a self-made man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deeded for us or spoken one word of encouragement to us has entered into our makeup. And that, and especially in the veteran spaces, it’s beyond the the truth because we don’t know everybody. But as we start creating this network and start helping others and advocating for other veterans, we start creating this network that eventually helps us get to where we’re currently at.
Mary Kate Soliva (03:29):
I love that. And you are definitely, I mean, that’s how I got to know who you are. And I’ve been like a super fan of yours just watching you from a distance in LinkedIn. We’ve never met in person, but we definitely have been walking around in the same, same room, same circles. And so the advocacy work that you’re doing is, is second to none. And I really admire that, which is why I would love to, to highlight the fact that you are from Puerto Rico and that’s actually where you’re at right now, right?
Alex Ortiz (03:59):
Currently, yes. And like we were talking offline, so if we do cut off, we’re, we’ve been having power issues and that’s just, oh my goodness. Something we deal with on, on a daily basis here in Puerto Rico is just one more thing that that gets added to it. But yes, I’m currently in Puerto Rico. I was two years ago, I was in Rhode Island and decided to come to law school here in Puerto Rico because we learn and we learn law and Spanish and English. So it’s, if I ever want to practice in Puerto Rico, it’s just gonna become easier to get barred in Puerto Rico. And also I could get barred in the States.
Mary Kate Soliva (04:32):
No, that’s fantastic. And again, and just highlighting the fact of your veteran piece as well, that you are an Army veteran. I wanted to take our listeners back ’cause I think your experience just as a whole is so unique and one that’s worth telling. So would you mind sharing a bit about where you grew up? And especially so many folks don’t hear anything about the territories, but even from even Guam or Puerto Rico, if you could share about your upbringing a little bit with us.
Alex Ortiz (05:00):
Definitely. So I’ll start, a lot of people, you often tell me when I tell ’em I’m from Puerto Rico, oh, but you don’t have that thick Hispanic accent <laugh> to speak in English. And I’m like, yeah, that’s because I was born in Brooklyn and I attended like kindergarten and first grade in Brooklyn. But then we ended up moving here to Puerto Rico and after that I started watching M T V just to catch up. So I grew up on WA and watching M T V watching music videos, that’s how I perfected kind of like my English. Um, so it was after that my mom started every three or four years. She would take me one year to to study in New York in Brooklyn. And then I would come back until sixth grade and after sixth grade. So we decided to settle in beta Puerto Rico.
Alex Ortiz (05:43):
Um, it’s about 25 minutes from San Juan, north north part of the island. Um, and it was a difficult upbringing. Um, my dad, he was a Navy vet, but from the Peruvian Navy and he was an older gentleman. And my mom being a little younger, she ended up taking care of, of me by herself until my dad passed away in 2008. But it was a complicated childhood because having old school parents and being on the island, I wasn’t exposed to much. Like I rarely left my city where I grew up. So, and that’s common. We didn’t, my mom didn’t drive, so we used public transportation, which on the island is something that’s a little bit desirable because we don’t, unless metro metropolitan area, like there’s no real good public transportation that’s reliable. I went to school within the area, so a radius was maybe 15, 20 miles and that’s where I grew up. The first fast food chain that I ever went to that was like a restaurant that I thought it was a big deal was Olive Garden <laugh>. And I laughed at what
Mary Kate Soliva (06:45):
<laugh> no, the unlimited breadsticks with,
Alex Ortiz (06:49):
Yeah, definitely. And I tried that when I was first stationed at Fort Carson in 2007, 2000. You were
Mary Kate Soliva (06:55):
Hooked. You were hooked ever since.
Alex Ortiz (06:57):
Mary Kate Soliva (06:59):
No, I love that you said that with the fast food. ’cause I actually, uh, I was recently introduced to somebody from the uk well he came over to the States for the first time and I asked him like, what do you wanna do? And he is, I wanna go through all the, the fast food drive through. I wanna <laugh> like really that’s what you wanna do. You can do anything like in the us. And then, uh, that’s what he, that’s what he wanted, definitely tidbit, you know. And, and as far as like where you grew up with your dad being Navy, did you, was that a heavy military influence in your upbringing? I know it can be a mix. Sometimes the household’s no military influence, but sometimes there is.
Alex Ortiz (07:37):
So my dad was really strict and, but that was about it. He did his mandatory service because it was the Peruvian Navy and then he ended up, uh, doing the same work in the Brooklyn Navy yard. Um, but outside of the military as a civilian. So he was a machinist and he had been a machinist for almost 65 years. He was a machinist until three years before he passed away. So my dad had a lot of knowledge and experience and that hard work, dedication. It, it was that, that discipline to work. That’s one of the things that I mostly admired about him. But besides that, it was, it was a little rough upbringing. We had like a lot of the territories are usually encountered with natural disasters. So yeah, I’ve had my fair share of hurricanes, my fair share of earthquakes. And then every time they’re the financial depressions, those affect the territories a lot more too because there’s other things that are involved like the Jones Act. Absolutely. And it just makes it a lot worse. So being able to join the military and see there’s something more out there than just, you know, being here in the territory, more opportunities and being able to share those opportunities with family members and tell ’em, hey, like you should join the military because if you don’t see Puerto Rico as being like, like a stable place to be, then come join the military, then you can come back and everything you learn apply here and which is what a lot of us are doing.
Mary Kate Soliva (09:04):
Did you find that, as far as, do you remember that moment of you deciding that you wanted to join the Army? And I also have to ask why the army?
Alex Ortiz (09:13):
Right. So it as coming up, I, in my high school year, I was not the best student. I was having a lot of issues. It’s something I’m not proud of, proud about, but having a lot of, when there’s not a lot of opportunities, you tend to deviate from what, what you should be doing. And although I never got in in trouble with the law, I was like a little rebel. So I was like, you know what, I’m just gonna go to school, focus on gonna school. I became an automotive tech and when I graduated I realized that I didn’t have enough, I wasn’t making enough money. And I was like, this is not for, for me. We’re getting paid, we’re getting paid 4 75 an hour. And this was back in 2004. And I was like, 4 75 an hour is way below the minimum wage in the states.
Alex Ortiz (10:00):
This, I can’t do this. Like I can’t survive on this. Like I need a car, I need to more move out of my parents’ house. And I knew English. And so I decided, let me go talk to a recruiter and see. And then I got cold feet. When I got to the office the first time I was like, no, I’m not gonna do this <laugh>. So I go home, that was a Saturday. I go home and this was in 2005. So it was the height almost of, of the war in Iraq in Afghanistan. And I see this all be all you can be commercial. I was like, okay, that got me motivated. So I’ll go Monday and Monday between my lunchtime I went and took a quick ASVAB and they’re like, you have the highest score that we’ve seen in this area. It’s mainly because I spoke English. ’cause they all in Puerto Rico, not a lot of, not a lot of people. There’s new generation of, of I think after the millennials, like a lot of more people know English. Um, but back then that wasn’t the case and I was able to score a good asba. I had a good ASBA score. So they were excited about that. So I decided I’m just gonna join. I, I saw that commercial and that got me motivated to that. It was like uphill from there.
Mary Kate Soliva (11:12):
I know that’s, I had another guest Shirley buys in her episode, she talks about seeing a billboard with the advertisement. And so to just know that it is effective, that it’s working, that messaging there and, and getting us pumped up to uh, join the service. Of course I’m a little biased on being an army veteran, so can’t knock you there on that one. You chose the, the right branch there. Uh, well I have to ask, uh, as far as the ASVAB score, since you scored so high, what were your job options? I remember from once you wanna be a, you wanna be a cook, you wanna be a driver mechanic, <laugh>.
Alex Ortiz (11:48):
So I had all
Mary Kate Soliva (11:49):
Those options that
Alex Ortiz (11:50):
<laugh> definitely I had all those options. I also had, being a helicopter mechanic, I had intelligence 25 uniform. I also had a lot of the it stuff that I kind of regret not taking because now it has blown up.
Mary Kate Soliva (12:05):
Oh, you see it now, right? <laugh>? Yep.
Alex Ortiz (12:06):
Everywhere. I definitely see it now they’re like, oh, you could be a a 25 uniform. And I was like, ah, do I really wanna work with satellites and all that? I dunno. And now I see the value of being in, in signal, but I, I decided to be a mechanic. I just, I thought, you know, like this is, the Air Force didn’t really offer me to be like a wheel mechanic. I didn’t really want because I didn’t, I wasn’t sure about the military. My dad had been in the Peruvian Navy, but it was nothing like the, the, the armed forces here. Right. And I didn’t have that guidance. I didn’t have somebody tell me it’s gonna be all right. So I was going in blind. I had no idea what the military was. And I was like, well, at least I, I’ll know how to turn wrenches.
Alex Ortiz (12:47):
At least I I’ll be able to because I just went to school for this. And to me that was the best option I did because everything I learned in school, in the civilian world, I applied it in the military and I was, I love that. It was just, I sky my, my, my leadership. They saw the potential, they saw that I, I worked hard that I could actually fix vehicles. So <laugh>, it was great. Like I went to school to the wheel vehicle mechanic school and they were impressed, like, how do you know all this? And I was like, you know, I did this before. So they always taught me. And while I was there and they were like, since you know the basics, here’s the extras that you should know before you go to your unit so you could be successful. So even after I, I was joining, even after I, I decided to, um, be the mechanic. I had people since school mentoring me to become a better soldier for the unit.
Mary Kate Soliva (13:44):
I think that’s fantastic. And it’s interesting how that works where you walk into the room, I, I’ve heard numerous stories of, they wanted to go Air Force, but the Air force door was closed ’cause they were on lunch break or something. So they went across the hall. Just how those split second like moments end up really diverging, like really impacting somebody. I know when I walked in, I, I was actually interested in being a, a mechanic as well, like on helicopters or something. And literally the guy right in front of me took the last spot to do that. So it was kind of just like how that works, right, <laugh>, you’re like, okay, I guess I’ll go do this other job and learn what that is. And there’s even jobs that we’ve never heard of before. But you, I love the point about, like you said, about taking in what your mentor said, taking in what you learned in school as well to apply that. ’cause I think it’s such a missed opportunity that not all service members do that to be well-rounded or, or take seeking out that sort of mentorship and advice. So I’d love to take this opportunity if you wanted to shout out any names, uh, of any mentors that sort of took you under their wing, uh, during your, your time in service in the early days.
Alex Ortiz (14:51):
Man, that’s, it’s there, there’s a lot. There’s, and, and going back to my quote, we’re not self-made. There’s always people pouring into us. But I had, uh, Sergeant first Class Jacobs, um, sergeant First Class Moore, chief Weekly, chief Guthrie, chief Ballard. Now he was my squad leader at the time and now he, he became an warrant officer. So there, there was a lot of people that, that really put in the work and the effort to make sure that I was guided through the right path. Sometimes we do have leaders that are not the best that they could be. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s not. But even if we take those bad experiences to make ourselves better, to become better leaders, uh, I always had that mindset, that positive mindset to, to look even at the bad things and, and try to process ’em on either how not to do them or make sure to I can identify to help others correct those issues.
Mary Kate Soliva (15:48):
Absolutely. And and I knew, just as you were saying that, I was already having my own flashbacks and reflection too of some of the leaders that have been hard on me. But I was able to learn so much from them as well. You could, like anyone, even if you’re not military, any of our listeners, you probably relate to a teacher or a coach who was really hard on you. But just some of the anecdotes and lessons learned there. So getting into with your, how many years did you end up serving in the Army?
Alex Ortiz (16:15):
So it was about, uh, six and a couple months, I think over like six or seven, six years to seven months, almost seven. I was medically retired because being a mechanic was, it was a little rough on my body, so
Mary Kate Soliva (16:29):
No way. What do you mean <laugh>? <laugh>
Alex Ortiz (16:33):
Especially down in the combat zone, sometimes you have to, did you
Mary Kate Soliva (16:36):
Ever end up in the cold? Like I just, I don’t, when I see mechanics and there’s 10 feet of snow outside, I’m like, how can you do that? Well, especially the garages don’t keep the temp that well.
Alex Ortiz (16:46):
Yeah, I see. I was fortunate because I, although I got stationed at Fort Drum in New York,
Mary Kate Soliva (16:52):
Alex Ortiz (16:54):
<laugh>. Yeah. So I was at Carson and then I went from bad to worse. Oh
Mary Kate Soliva (16:58):
Alex Ortiz (16:59):
But it was a little challenging. But, uh, since I was in aviation, I was a little bit more, I would say catered. We had heated bays and that we could fix the vehicles, but we still had to shovel a couple feet of snow to clear the way out for the vehicles, make sure they were maintained, make sure they were weatherproofed, um,
Mary Kate Soliva (17:16):
Heated garage. You you say thank you taxpayers,
Alex Ortiz (17:20):
<laugh> definitely they aviation too, because they have a little bit more money. That’s so we used to have, and it was, I, I think it was the perfect place for me to grow too, because we were a lot less NCOs and a lot more officers. You had a lot of rotary warrant officers that there were pilots and we had a lot of, so it was a time of empowerment, I would say, and take this time to learn, take take this time to develop yourself as a leader, but also learn your job and become proficient at it. And we did that really well. Like my unit and the guys that I deployed with, we left Iraq in 2000, I think it was 2009, with orders to go to Afghanistan to deploy at the end of 2010. Like our equipment got back and we were unpacking it, cleaning it, repacking it, and shipping it out. Like that was our dwell time, I think was like 11 months and like 20, 22 days. It was crazy. Our unit was proficient and I think it boiled down to the leadership that we had. It was great. It was a great experience
Mary Kate Soliva (18:22):
Now and I love that. And and you highlighted too about, um, Fort Drum, which I’ve heard is lovingly the black hole of the army, um, and then going to Carson. Um, but I love that you actually got to go to other military installations as well because some folks, like, especially in my, my job in the Army, they tend to stay at Fort Liberty down in Ville, North Carolina. And that’s, they’re there for like 16 years. So you got that aspect. Did you have a, a family at that point? Were you also moving them around as well?
Alex Ortiz (18:53):
So I was dual military at one point in my life and it was a little challenging, but I had to reenlist so we wouldn’t get separated and those sacrifices sometimes go unheard. I didn’t want to stay at Fort Drum. That was the only time that the fence dropped. And I was able, H R C was like, Hey, you have all these other options like Italy. But she was going to school to be a, become a a 92 Yankee supply specialist. And, and I had to reenlist. So that was rough because that <laugh> Yeah. Having to reenlist the state of Drummond that needs of the Army is versus being able to go to Italy or go to Germany. Our, our m o s was really flexible. We were able to go to a lot of places. I think at one point even Japan opened up, there was a lot of positioning openings for ranger battalions. So there were a lot of exci exciting positions that were opening up. But I had to reenlist to go back into the dark hole <laugh>
Mary Kate Soliva (19:50):
In the name of love.
Alex Ortiz (19:52):
Mary Kate Soliva (19:54):
No, but I, I, I asked that piece because you’re absolutely right that we don’t, it’s, it’s not the brighter side of service, the sacrifice that our families make and our, our loved ones make. So, you know, behind our, our career, our successful career in the military are these incredible mentors, like the ones you mentioned, but also, uh, the love and support of our family at home. And so even dual military can be especially difficult and challenging. So I appreciate you sharing that, just how you were able to, to navigate and make that decision together, that even though it wasn’t an exotic location for Drummond New York, that you chose to do that for the, the sake of, of your family. So just talk it to me about, I know you mentioned about the med getting med boarded with regards to your transition. Um, how did you feel ready to transition? How, how did that look for you
Alex Ortiz (20:47):
For Yeah, so that was, it was interesting because I was getting me board in, in 2012 and the army and I, I think my adv advocacy journey started with me because I knew I had issues and my doctors were like, you don’t have nothing here. Here’s some, um, Motrin or Tylenol. Like we talk, take a knee and drink water. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that’s what we always hear. That’s the ongoing joke forever. And sometimes you believe it, you’re like, okay, I’m just sore from just running six miles. I’m sore from being, having to move this transmission for this vehicle. I, but I can’t take a break ’cause I don’t have any leave. So at one point I believed the whole thing, but it was getting continuously worse. So the reality is that at that point they wouldn’t send me to get MRIs. It wasn’t needed. I just needed to suck it up.
Alex Ortiz (21:35):
And I was like, it’s not right until after a run, like my whole back, I could have moved my legs, it was really bad. And come to find out that I had seven herniated discs and the doctor was like, about, you’re about to become handicapped, like, what’s going on? So I took those MRIs from the emergency room. They told me you should be on bed rest for two weeks. So I took all those recommendations and my wife at the time, she helped me get to sick call and be like, Hey doc, look, this is what’s going on. He is, oh wow. So I know he felt bad and I don’t know if that was a decis decisive moment in his career too as a medical doctor in the military, but he saw the gravity of it. So he apologized and he made sure that I was taken care of from there on.
Alex Ortiz (22:23):
And I got a, a temporary profile until we went through the process and they did all the analysis they had to do. They sent me to Syracuse Hospital to make sure that if there was any type of rehabilitation that I can take, and they were like, like, you’re done. If you keep doing this, you’re gonna have to do a spinal fusion. We’re potentially gonna have to fuse your whole spine all the way up to your cervical. So I was like, I don’t want that. What are my options? And they’re like, we can med board you. And I was like, I don’t know what that is, but let’s go that route. And they were, he was like, well, you get, if you’re approved, you’ll get medically retired. And I was like, I need to get better because all I’ve known my whole life is work with my hands and be a mechanic.
Alex Ortiz (23:05):
And I never thought about continuing my education or doing anything else beyond that. So everything I knew and that I had become professional to that point completely came to a halt. What am I supposed to do now? And, and during that time, tap wasn’t what it is today and tap still has a a little bit further to go, but it was definitely not to, to tell you more, I started tap about a year before I was gonna get med boarded and I feel like everything was pencil whipped. Just check this, here’s how to write a resume, you know? And, and
Mary Kate Soliva (23:41):
For our listeners it’s the transition Transition Assistance program. Yes. Right?
Alex Ortiz (23:47):
Mary Kate Soliva (23:47):
To tap, to help you, uh, transition, you just brought up like such an important piece and I, I was like, gosh, I should just like pause and just absorb everything that you just said the last few minutes because that is such a critical part of the transition piece is the fact that you mentioned that’s all you knew how to do. Like work with your hands, be a mechanic, that was your knowledge. And now without your own choice or not much of a choice, they’re like, now you gotta get out. And you’re like, what am I gonna do? And so it it’s like where does the responsibility fall? We just say, Saara, good luck. Have a good life. Or what’s the responsibility of the military? Who, who beat you down <laugh>, so to speak, you know, and put your body through all of that. So I know it’s like you said, it’s improved so much compared to when you transitioned, but where did you end up seeking that? Did you have to go through veteran service organizations? Like we know there’s so many now. Did you know about them? Did they help you at that time? How, how did that go at that moment?
Alex Ortiz (24:45):
So I feel like I was in, I think at the peak of people getting out, ’cause President Obama at the time had said like, we’re withdrawing everybody from Afghanistan. I was the second to last unit aviation unit to leave Afghanistan. And so we, it was a little difficult like I mentioned before, and, and I kind of wanna highlight this too, because that’s all I knew and I had become proficient at it. And now I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. I’m starting to feel depressed. I’m starting to feel that I don’t have a purpose because any applause or any good job you did great today was because I was a good mechanic and being able to being, having that taken away from me and while also putting a, a, a chronic disability that I now have that I could barely move. The pain is so much.
Alex Ortiz (25:37):
I don’t know how to deal with this. I can’t run anymore. I used to consume a lot of calories and now I can’t because I don’t burn them. But now I’m also gaining weight. So it, it’s just like this whole stage of just starting to go downhill. And at that point in, in, in my career, and I, I feel like in the military in general, people are starting to get out because they can’t handle more deployments. All these constant deployments are just putting toes on your body. So I feel like d o d in, in, in a hole talking to other people that got out during time wasn’t ready to transition military service members out of the military. It’s hard. There, there was nothing in place. The va I feel like wasn’t, wasn’t ready for the influx also of us having all these disability and all these issues.
Alex Ortiz (26:28):
Like for me to get physical therapy was a nightmare. And I left New York, uh, for a drum and then I moved to, to Phoenix and then that’s when the whole Phoenix VA fiasco like popped up. Um, so they were pumping and I could say this, you know, um, because I used to take a lot of morphine for my pain. Yeah. And that was the, the issue for my problem. Like here’s painkillers at and at a and a point was great because it would take the temporary problem and and eliminate it, but my body was still, my back was still getting worse. And having that issue where I, you’re taking the pay away, sure, I could do more things now. I could walk to school. I don’t have to have a cane, I don’t have to, I could do physical therapy again because the pain’s out there, but when the pills were off, the pain came like 10 x and now I have to pop another pill.
Alex Ortiz (27:25):
And, and I feel like that was one of the, the problems that the Phoenix VA had and being there and, and having President Obama come down because people were dying at the Phoenix va, but the transition from the active boot and all this influx of service members just flooding va, I think the two organizations weren’t ready to handle either leaving the military and accepting all these new veterans that were coming into to the VA system. So I, I feel that, and in some points, I did have some great doctors at the VA in Phoenix, but uh, the, the VA and d o D could have done a better job of transitions. And I believe that those are lessons learned as part of our advocacy is to highlight these issues so they don’t happen again. And we put laws in place for them not to happen.
Alex Ortiz (28:14):
But I wanted to highlight that because it was a rough time for us to transition. I had a couple friends that were through the same issue and now are having, they’re still having economic issues and, and they haven’t taken advantage of the services that, that they didn’t know they had. And like you asked before, I didn’t have a V SS O that was there part in the transition assistance program. Like there are now where you have all these tables where all these great employers and you have hiring our heroes, you have all these other organizations that are just because they learned from the mistakes they made with us. And we didn’t have any of that stuff. And a lot of my guys are still lost. A lot of them are still writing recommendations. And there’s nothing wrong with becoming a blue collar worker. But when you tell me I want to study, but I don’t know where to start, then I know there’s still a problem in the system.
Alex Ortiz (29:05):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative> because yeah, you’re taking care of the ones coming out now. But what happens to the ones that came that, you know, that are coming out from 2012 to now? For example, these guys, if they, their GI bill’s expiring and they didn’t know about making life decisions because they thought they had percent benefits and their GI bill expired because they had their del eliminating date. Those are all things that a lot of service members still don’t know about. And sometimes just sending a letter. Sure. The VA says, the law says you have to notify these service members with letters, but who reads these letters? Like really? If we’re honest, yeah, they’re, they’re meeting the law and it’s up to the service member to read the letter. But the reality is that we could potentially take some of that money and, and do a, a small campaign on either social media or investigate what’s the best way to disseminate this information.
Mary Kate Soliva (30:00):
No, I, you, you very well said. And the thing that I also caught in on what you were saying was the different eras of veterans as well. We have a dear family friend of ours, he’s a Vietnam veteran, but he wasn’t diagnosed with P T S D, excuse me, until 2016 Vietnam era. And so not knowing one that he, he had access to those things, but just even how, like where to start, what, what’s available for me? Because there’s a lot of veteran service organizations out there that offer the, these nonprofits that offer great support, but they won’t help the other eras. It’ll just be post nine 11 veteran. And, and I actually, ’cause I came across a a, I met a Cold War veteran. She was like, I need help with employment, I need help with this, that, and the other, and my resume.
Mary Kate Soliva (30:48):
And I sent her to a couple organizations and she called me back. I was like, right, they won’t help me ’cause I’m Cold War. I’m not a post nine 11. And so it was like where their funding is at. And so we don’t categories like just veteran, but we’re, they’re putting us in different like classifications so to speak. And then the va it’s unfortunately of why we’ve lost so many that killed themselves right in the VA parking lot that have just been out on the hill, knock beating on the door, demanding different things that the policy changes. But there’s folks like you Alex, that are really being such a, an incredible mouthpiece and advocate. And I, I just wanna know if you could share with our listeners, anyone who may be transitioning, what’s your advice for them? Because you said it, it’s, it’s a lot, it can be overwhelming. You’re balancing medical appointments, physical therapy, as well as your transition. You just, we just think about, okay, I’m just focused on transition, but you were focused on all the other pieces. How do I learn a new job skill? How do I get, I gotta get my body back where it needs to be? What what’s your advice to those who are in transition right now?
Alex Ortiz (31:52):
I would say searching online is the best tool that you can get there. Now you have all these social media groups. There’s social media groups for chapter 31, educational benefits, chapter 33, disability of Veterans on Facebook. You have all this plethora of knowledge. Obviously you have to filter it out, but it’s doing your own research. We do have help. You can go talk to A V S O, either American Legion, V F W, any d a B, any other of these organizations. They’re gonna sit down with you and help you at least establish your claim if you need benefits from the va. But it goes beyond that. There’s so much help out there that we really don’t know about. And I would like to highlight this quickly because for example, Puerto Rico’s been through national create national natural disasters like Hurricane Maria and Congress said, look, if the G SS A has surplus equipment like office supplies, desks, books, paper, whatever, they have extra veteran small owned businesses that reside there in Puerto Rico that go through a natural disaster.
Alex Ortiz (33:02):
They can get all this surplus for free through the S B A. And as I’m doing research, doing advocacy in Puerto Rico, I find this, I’m like, nobody’s talking about this. So why don’t the the small business that that we do have, how come they don’t know this information? So a lot of laws get created and a lot of advocacy happens, but the information doesn’t go out there. So if you’re not looking for the inform, we can’t depend on holding the SBOs accountable to help us because they’re service organizations, they’re volunteers most of the time. Yeah. At at the level that we get help where they’re volunteers, obviously we have our our national advocates that and national leaders that are out there. But every, in every town in every city that we have VSOs, they’re all volunteers. So we can’t expect for them to give us all the tools.
Alex Ortiz (33:52):
We also have to go out there and find them and get ’em ourselves. It the same way we search a recipe for, uh, a home cooked meal that we want to do on, on any search engine, we could do the same thing or what benefits are there for 90%, uh, disabled veterans or 60% disabled veterans and learn those things. What is vocational rehabilitation and what is the GI bill? And I have a little funny anecdote because when I transitioned from from Rhode Island to Puerto Rico to come to law school, I had to, I became aware of the retroactive induction and none of my counselors here in Puerto Rico had done it, a retroactive induction. So I had to read the chapter 31 manual for the M 28 C and kind of say, no, this is my right. This is what I’m entitled for. And here’s in the regulation, can you please look it up and talk to your supervisor to see if that helps. And these people, sometimes we get mad at them, but we have to realize also one counselor is taking care of 130 students throughout a semester. So these numbers, we don’t have a one-to-one dedicated person that’s gonna help us. And
Mary Kate Soliva (35:00):
Everybody’s so different, right? Like what everybody’s needs are, whether they have like a elderly parent at home, like the caregiver or someone with special needs or the inju like you said, injured. There’s a, beyond just veteran, there’s like the other aspect of that. Or is their spouse, does their spouse need employment and certifications? Maybe they’ve been unemployed for taking care of the kids for years. And so there’s resources available for them and the certifications. I, I wanna, you’re such an incredible advocate, not just for the V F W and with the benefits available, but also as a student veteran. And you talked about having to learn, learn that new skill besides being a mechanic. So could you, could you talk to us a little bit about student Veterans of America and, and what sort of led you to that path?
Alex Ortiz (35:48):
So it’s funny because in 2014 I was going to Grand Canyon University in Arizona and there was a student Veterans of America chapter there. Um, but I didn’t really want to get too involved with, I didn’t want to know nothing about the military. I had a sour taste about the military and the whole transition and the va and I was like, I don’t want nothing to do with that. And I think that was the biggest mistake that I could’ve made because the support was there from the beginning. And then I fast forward to the pandemic. I didn’t finish my degree. I had one class left and the pandemic happens. We end up moving back to Rhode Island from Puerto Rico and I decide, okay, I wanna go back to school. And when I come back to school, like you said earlier, I had reached out to a school and they said they never answered, but Rhode Island College answered immediately.
Alex Ortiz (36:35):
And I was like, well, I’m going with you guys ’cause I need to get enrolled for this semester, so I’ll finish my accounting degree with you guys. And that was the biggest blessing that could ever happen. Sometimes we think that door closes, but doors and windows are opening everywhere for us. We just have to figure out how to get in. And I met Lisa EVAs over there and she was such a great asset because she said, you look like you have potential, but you want to start up the Student Veterans of America chapter. And I’m like, well, I heard about it and I’ll participated in it, so sure, why not? Let’s, let’s go all in, let’s and start a chapter. And we started and we ended up having from I believe 15 to 20, uh, student veterans interested. Um, we started the chapter with Rocky because it was in the middle of the pandemic. We still couldn’t meet. It had to be virtual, but we would be able to hang out in the military resource center. You
Mary Kate Soliva (37:27):
Created that community though, Alex, like at a time in, in our lifetime. That was such a, an important aspect that we were longing for, right. Was that human connection. Definitely. And we didn’t realize how much we missed it until everything shut down and we had to distance from ourselves. But you created that sense of community.
Alex Ortiz (37:46):
It was, and it was a little challenging because also getting people, as some of us missed that human connection, there was others that really loved just being remote, I just want to be home. And it was a challenging time to get students, but as the rules were relaxing a little bit, it became more evident. But I was transitioning out of that position. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, however, the student veteran of America, I attended the first night icon that was virtual. I attended the regional summit that was virtual. I attended the Leadership Institute, I attended that virtual too for the first time. And then I was nominated for a student veteran of the year for way Katherine. And it was Martinez,
Mary Kate Soliva (38:28):
Katherine Martinez from our other Veteran Voices episode. Could you go, just in case this is the first episode for listeners, could you do a just a quick intro to what SS v A is?
Alex Ortiz (38:38):
So SS v a is, I believe, the best <laugh> organization for student veterans. That that’s out there because they just help you navigate, uh, everything that has to do with your time as a student veteran. I, I think being able to identify who you are and what you are and what your strengths are and how you can build that community is, it’s one of the best things that S B A can do, right? Because it has so many, it, like me highlighting something would be doing injustice to everything else that they also do <laugh>. But you know, they put you in in places where you never thought you could be. And they’ll, the connections that you make, um, from the c e o from LY down, everybody’s there to help you connect with whatever you want to do. If you want to be in the space industry, if you want to be in, in biotech or it, or even if you’re a mechanic for a aeronautical mechanic or a car mechanic, there’s a s v a chapters everywhere. And when you get to meet all these great people, all these great leaders, there’s no rank structure in terms of like, you don’t have all, or either NCOs or captains. Like it doesn’t matter. Like in in our chapter we have company commander, we have a major, we have a lieutenant colonel. And the same like, we’re just
Mary Kate Soliva (39:57):
<crosstalk>. We have the same level, right? And different years of experience. And you recognized about being recognized about being a nominated for student veteran of the year. But there’s also the chapters that I remember when Georgetown was recognized as well and we just hit the, that anniversary, the, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and how Georgetown and the s v a chapters that were getting together and gathering, putting together care packages for all those that were coming over into the states and this new country where they don’t maybe don’t know anybody have limited resources. And the chapters like gathered together just in incredible about how it’s just the ideas, right? So it’s like you, you think it, you dream it, you got, you can make it happen. And that’s why he loves that. You mentioned the level of playing field. ’cause one of the values when I is an SS v A as well <laugh>, when I, in my chapter when I, and I didn’t know anything about it when I first joined, and especially with so many of the student veterans being virtual, it was challenging.
Mary Kate Soliva (40:53):
Um, but yeah, I I love that you highlighted that. There’s just so much more than what we’re seeing right now in this episode. So really encourage the listeners to really look into SS V A and if it does, if there doesn’t exist one in your school that you can be that one like Alex to start it. I did want to spend, I know we’re closing in on our hour here Alex, but I really wanted to get into as well the advocacy work that you’re doing. Like I had Catherine another episode talking about SS v a, but the work that you’re doing, I feel is quite different than what other folks are doing out there. And uh, just wanted to give you this platform to talk about some of the initiatives that you’re working on. ’cause ’cause maybe somebody out there that’s listening may wanna reach out and to support what you’re doing.
Alex Ortiz (41:38):
Definitely. So I’ll go quickly a little bit back. I did the S V A V F W legislative fellowship and that spawned something that I never thought I’d be in a space in, which is, like you mentioned advocacy. That was one of the great things that, that I was part of while I was at the S V A. And while I was trying to choose a law school, uh, I, I had options in Boston and Massachusetts and North Carolina. Wow. But Puerto Rico was also an option. And I was like, well we already have a house in Puerto Rico. The economy’s not doing that great, everything’s expensive, let’s just go back home. And I kind of regretted that decision the first semester I was here, but I was also doing advocacy. So I was like, there’s a couple injustices here in Puerto Rico, like why is that?
Alex Ortiz (42:22):
Let me see what are the state local laws that affect this? Because now I have all this background knowledge that I gained through the S V A B F W legislator Fellowship and it was like opening a door in a dark room and I just have a little candle. I’m walking there like when you’re playing video games and you start unlocking different parts of the map and it kind of feels that way. And I’m, I had just have a little candle ’cause it’s just me. And I started seeing all these laws, but they can’t be enforced because we have the fiscal, um, management of fiscal financial management oversight board. And I know I just butchered that name, but it’s long. That sounds right
Mary Kate Soliva (43:02):
To me, obviously
Alex Ortiz (43:05):
Something and it, but what they’re doing is they’re trying to keep Puerto Rico going bankrupt. And for those that don’t know, Puerto Rico is a US territory, but it is an unincorporated US territory because the Supreme Court said it is not because Congress said it is. So a lot of the constitution only applies to Puerto Rico where congress says it does. And that has be, you know, it has become an issue because just because veterans are entitled to a benefit in the states, unless it’s implicitly added, the territories are added, we’re not included. And that comes with a, a plethora of other issues. Like for example, how is Puerto Rico considered a state for some things and not for another? And one of those examples is the overseas housing allowance. So if you’re active duty in Puerto Rico, it could be a g r, you get a stipend for you, you get your housing allowance, but if you don’t use it all, you have to give it back.
Alex Ortiz (44:05):
Like the, those things. How is that fair when the national, that also the national average is like 22, 20 $300 and Puerto Rico’s $1,900 and here things are 30% more expensive. Like I mentioned before the Jones Act, I start seeing all these injustices, I’m like, okay, it is just me. How can I build the network to help me? And the only way I found to do that was just reaching out on LinkedIn, start writing about it. And I started writing about these issues and I didn’t think it was gonna get the traction that I did. I met you, I met, I’ve met a whole bunch of other VSOs and highly engaged individuals that are willing to help. And now we’re building this team. So we cannot just address the issues of Puerto Rico, but also the territories because we’re all in the same boat. And, and it’s sad.
Alex Ortiz (44:59):
And one thing that I I would like to highlight is that in Puerto Rico, we’re projected to lose 80% of our veterans by in the next, by 2037. So the next 17 to 18 years we’re gonna lose almost 60,000 veterans. And mostly it’s gonna be because either old age or they’re gonna pass away or they’re just gonna move out because there’s better benefits in the states. So the VA invest in Puerto Rico about $2.1 billion a year in indirectly. And that’s to take care of 83,000 veterans that we have here. And I, I think the, the state government should start doing something about it to mitigate the risk of losing all these veterans. ’cause we’re gonna lose hospitals, we’re gonna lose benefits to be able to purchase houses that veterans have a big spending power here in Puerto Rico. So it, it’s not just gonna affect veterans, but it’s gonna affect 3.5 million people living on the island.
Mary Kate Soliva (45:55):
Wow. No, Alex, just, this is such a great call to action there because I, I find it too often there’s this data and the information is just buried and it’s just, it’s there, but it’s not being amplified in the media and the attention span of folks these days, they wanna get behind something and they wanna get behind a cause. Um, that’s why I’m, I’m really just encouraging folks to get and stand behind you, stand alongside with you on what you’re doing because you are doing the hard, tedious work that a lot of folks are not doing, which is doing your research. Um, it, it is just easy to reshare and forward information. We see those, the headline hooks about, oh, they gave funding. Um, we had Typhoon mooring and Guam earlier this year and it took over a month for folks to get their power back on.
Mary Kate Soliva (46:44):
And it was, I remember one headline, it was saying like how they gave them X amount of money, but then if you look at like the tiny print, it was only for military families. It wasn’t for the general public. So it’s like you look at the finer details, you’re doing your research, like what you added about Supreme Court versus what Congress is doing that incredible. And so what is that call to action of how folks can get involved? Because as you mentioned, I end up getting a plethora of this huge network of people that are like Mary Kate, what more can I do? What, what can we do? And so asking you Alex, yeah,
Alex Ortiz (47:18):
<laugh>, uh, the biggest thing is for us at unincorporated territories is we don’t have representation in Congress. Um, and this is a big deal. We have one representative, we have no representation in the Senate. We have zero votes outside of the committees. Um, my congresswoman, she takes care of 3.5 million people, which no other representative in the states has that amount of constituents under their responsibility. She has to take care of all of us plus the veterans, plus everybody else that needs her. And that’s, she doesn’t have the, the first, the help that she needs in terms of being able to advocate for all of us. Like you said, the hard work is doing the research and I bring the research to her and then she’s able to take this message up and she does because like, okay, I’m making her job a little easier by bringing her the information.
Alex Ortiz (48:15):
But if people in the states and anybody that’s listening, you can talk to your representatives, your senators and say, Hey, could you take a look at Puerto Rico and the veterans or just the general population in general because they’re the ones that can, they’re the ones that we have to convince. Like, I have to go and advocate not to my representative ’cause she can’t vote. I have to somebody from the state or somebody from the state of California or somebody from the state of Texas. And they’re like, well who are you? Why should I be interested in helping you? And well, I’m like, I don’t have anybody else. And you’re the one that votes. Congress is the one that votes if we get to determine if we wanna be independent or become a state, right? So I have to come to you. Nobody’s paying for that.
Alex Ortiz (49:02):
I don’t service organizations that are, if you see any of the full markup committees, there’s nobody talking about the territories. Like, and, and Sally, that is the truth. There’s a lot of issues, there’s a lot of laws pertaining veterans, for example, pertaining us that full markup hearings. I listen to them all the time and I’m like, well that affects Puerto Rico, how come we’re not having a voice here? Well, I know for sure that, uh, affects Guam. Like why is nobody talking about us? And I think it’s because we’re not letting ourselves be heard. And if we let our C heard and, uh, a lot of the, the Big nine VSOs take a little bit more interest in, in giving us a hand, I think like we can solve these issues and at least we don’t want more things. We just want what everybody gets in the mainland.
Alex Ortiz (49:49):
If we could get the equal treatment, we talk about equality and equity. If we could bring that to the territories, I can guarantee you. Another quick fact is that Puerto Rico has deployed the National Guard over 18,000 times. That’s more than 23 states since 2001. And we, we’ve given more bodies to the military since, since 1954. I, I could go back more, but I’ll use 1954 to military college. We have over 350,000 veterans out there. And in Puerto Rico we only have 83. And they’re the old generation, like the draft generation, everybody else is in the states. If you’re out there and you’re listening and you, you want to help just talk to your representatives and your senators and tell ’em, Hey, take a look at Puerto Rico. You guys get involved with Puerto Rico and talk to their representative because we really need the help.
Mary Kate Soliva (50:38):
Gosh, yes. That’s yes and yes, uh, getting the, the help, like you say, we’re not asking for more and I’m throwing we, ’cause just throwing Guam in there as well. And as you mentioned about how we have served, uh, I think the article came out earlier this year in New York Times about Guam being the, the forgotten part of forgotten Americans. We, we are Americans and, and I know it’s varies like with regards to the territories, like you said, whether it’s unincorporated, not all the territories are the same either. And we have different, different needs, but we are often clumped into that. So just doing your homework, doing your due diligence, but knowing that you have a voice, and I’m seeing this like our listeners, that you have a voice that you can also be an ally even if you’re not from the territories, that you can also do a reach back, invite folks like Alex to, to come speak and educate at your conference on your panel.
Mary Kate Soliva (51:37):
Because like you said, there’s that fine print. And I straight up had an agent tell me one time when I was talking about, you know, the human rights and about the lack of laws on this, that and the other. And he was like, it’s because you don’t have a, a voting seat in Congress. Like that’s, at the end of the day, that’s what it is because they’re, when it comes to budget, these things take cost money. And so getting the, that equal treatment I had in an aunt in Guam when she lost her beloved husband who was a Navy veteran, those benefits like immediately turned off for her. Even though she’s the surviving spouse and they and the surviving widow. And they don’t tell you like in the fine print that it’s now they have to wait to examine to what was the cause of his death as as the veteran.
Mary Kate Soliva (52:16):
And so in that time, that’s causing strain on the surviving spouse on the family because they were so used to having that income, that benefit coming in and now was shut off. And so it takes so much longer to get the support that they need because they’re so out of sight, out of mind. They can’t just take a drive down to, to DC and go knock on their congressman’s door. So as, as easy as is and the fact that you, Alex said you’re enlisted, you’re a mechanic, and now you are directly handing documentation to your government leaders like mic drop. I mean, it just goes to show rank aside, title aside, Alex, you’re making it happen. You’re doing it, and incredibly proud of you. And it’s been a pleasure knowing you and just seeing what you’re doing. How can people, like, I just, I, that was such a great ending for your message there, but I know you have so much more to say. Do you have, as we wrap up, sort of final, final thoughts there on, on how folks can get involved, how they can reach you, things that they can do now?
Alex Ortiz (53:21):
I think the, the best place is LinkedIn because we don’t have like a structured organization. This is just like me and a couple of other VSOs locally doing the, the legwork. But you could reach me through LinkedIn, um, um, Alex Ortiz, Rosa, you’ll see a picture looks like me. It has a little orange background, so I made it easier to identify. Um, but definitely, um, it’s something that, and I don’t know if you guys have the capability of, of putting, but if you can, um, you can
Mary Kate Soliva (53:48):
Put, yeah, we can add it
Alex Ortiz (53:49):
On, on the video, that’d be great. Just reach out and say, Hey, ask me how I can help. And I, I’ll, trust me, there’s hundreds of ways that people can help indirectly. It doesn’t take a lot of time. Sometimes I’ll, I could even pre-write the email so you could send to your representative. I’m willing to go that extra step because we need any help we can get at this point.
Mary Kate Soliva (54:10):
And do you see that, is there any low hanging fruit that you see, Alex, that is an immediate call to action, maybe to any sort of leaders that are maybe listening to this episode? Like what’s the, is there any easy wins right now? And maybe easy is not the right word, but low hanging fruit. I know you said projecting that there’s some things that are gonna take years and years of discussion and to make happen, but is there anything that you’re as, Hey, why aren’t we doing this already since yesterday? Yeah,
Alex Ortiz (54:37):
Definitely. I think that the o h A portion of, for our local reservists that they get activated, O h a hasn’t changed in seven years now. It’s been a specific set, but throughout this whole inflation process, throughout these high interest rates, the service members are having to give up the quality of life that they would have outside the military to be able to accommodate to the, the below average income that they’re getting for the overseas housing allowance. And not only that, we also have 6,000 veterans. That Department of Veteran Affairs has said, okay, we’re gonna pay your b a H rate at the o h A level ’cause you’re overseas. How are we overseas? We’re literally in Puerto Rico <laugh>. I think that could be something that could easily be fixed. And there’s the, you don’t even need legislation for that. Just the e l d doing its part and then VA putting out a rule, they have the capability to do it. Those two things would help close to 10,000, uh, service members and veterans, student veterans. And that’s something they could do without legislation that could easily be done with a couple signatures. So I, I would start there.
Mary Kate Soliva (55:45):
Fantastic. All right, so the Secretary McDonough and who else is there? <laugh>? Um, but that’s, thank you so much, uh, Alex, uh, for taking the time today and encourage all our listeners to connect with Alex on LinkedIn. We’ll be sure to share his contact information so you can reach out. But join, because there’s a lot of exciting things. Alex is a super connector and wealth of knowledge and appreciate your time Alex. So with that, we’re gonna wrap up our episode. Again, you can get Veteran Voices podcasts, wherever you get your podcasts from. We’re part of, probably part of the supply chain now, family and supply chain now podcast as well as our proud partners. Shout out to Military Women’s Collective at military women’s collective.org and the Guam Human Rights email@example.com. So with that, this is Mary Kate Saliva, your host, and, uh, we hope to see you back here next time. Do good and be the change that’s needed. Thanks.
Alex Ortiz has a diverse background in law, accounting, business, and the military. A native of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico, he is currently a 1L law student at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico School of Law, a 2022 VFW-SVA Legislative Fellow, and a 2022 SVA Student Veteran of the year finalist. Before starting his legal studies, Alex served as a wheel vehicle mechanic who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division. As a dedicated public servant, Alex’s passion for service extends beyond his military service, and he is committed to positively impacting society and the community. He is a natural leader, team player, and problem solver committed to helping others reach their full potential. Furthermore, Alex is currently working on two pieces of legislation in Puerto Rico aimed at eliminating the taxation of veterans’ retirement income and incentivizing veteran entrepreneurship on the island, demonstrating his dedication to the veteran community and his commitment to making a difference. He is a true leader, driven by a sense of purpose and a desire to impact the world positively. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.
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Alex is pursuing a Marketing degree and a Certificate in Legal Studies at the University of Georgia. As a dual citizen of both the US and UK; Alex has studied abroad at University College London and is passionate about travel and international business. Through her coursework at the Terry College of Business, Alex has gained valuable skills in digital marketing, analytics, and professional selling. She joined Supply Chain Now as a Sales Support Intern where she assists the team by prospecting and qualifying new business partners.
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Director of Communications and Executive Producer
Donna Krache is a former CNN executive producer who has won several awards in journalism and communication, including three Peabodys. She has 30 years’ experience in broadcast and digital journalism. She led the first production team at CNN to convert its show to a digital platform. She has authored many articles for CNN and other media outlets. She taught digital journalism at Georgia State University and Arizona State University. Krache holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is a serious sports fan who loves the Braves. She is president of the Dave Krache Foundation. Named in honor of her late husband, this non-profit pays fees for kids who want to play sports but whose parents are facing economic challenges.
Vicki has a long history of rising to challenges and keeping things up and running. First, she supported her family’s multi-million dollar business as controller for 12 years, beginning at the age of 17. Then, she worked as an office manager and controller for a wholesale food broker. But her biggest feat? Serving as the chief executive officer of her household, while her entrepreneur husband travelled the world extensively. She fed, nurtured, chaperoned, and chauffeured three daughters all while running a newsletter publishing business and remaining active in her community as a Stephen’s Minister, Sunday school teacher, school volunteer, licensed realtor and POA Board president (a title she holds to this day). A force to be reckoned with in the office, you might think twice before you meet Vicki on the tennis court! When she’s not keeping the books balanced at Supply Chain Now or playing tennis matches, you can find Vicki spending time with her husband Greg, her 4 fur babies, gardening, cleaning (yes, she loves to clean!) and learning new things.
Ben Harris is the Director of Supply Chain Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ben comes to the Metro Atlanta Chamber after serving as Senior Manager, Market Development for Manhattan Associates. There, Ben was responsible for developing Manhattan’s sales pipeline and overall Americas supply chain marketing strategy. Ben oversaw market positioning, messaging and campaign execution to build awareness and drive new pipeline growth. Prior to joining Manhattan, Ben spent four years with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics where he played a key role in establishing the Center as a go-to industry resource for information, support, partnership building, and investment development. Additionally, he became a key SME for all logistics and supply chain-focused projects. Ben began his career at Page International, Inc. where he drove continuous improvement in complex global supply chain operations for a wide variety of businesses and Fortune 500 companies. An APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), Ben holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) and bachelor’s degree in International Business (BBA) from the Terry College at the University of Georgia.
Host, The Freight Insider
Prior to joining TeamOne Logistics, Page Siplon served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the State’s leading consulting resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness. For over a decade, he directly assisted hundreds of companies to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities related to the movement of freight. During this time, Siplon was also appointed to concurrently serve the State of Georgia as Director of the larger Centers of Innovation Program, in which he provided executive leadership and vision for all six strategic industry-focused Centers. As a frequently requested keynote speaker, Siplon is called upon to address a range of audiences on unique aspects of technology, workforce, and logistics. This often includes topics of global and domestic logistics trends, supply chain visibility, collaboration, and strategic planning. He has also been quoted as an industry expert in publications such as Forbes, Journal of Commerce, Fortune, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, American Express, DC Velocity, Area Development Magazine, Site Selection Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Modern Material Handling, and is frequently a live special guest on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Radio Show. Siplon is an active industry participant, recognized by DC Velocity Magazine as a “2012 Logistics Rainmaker” which annually identifies the top-ten logistics professionals in the Nation; and named a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Executive Magazine in 2014. Siplon was also selected by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He also serves various industry leadership roles at both the State and Federal level. Governor Nathan Deal nominated Siplon to represent Georgia on a National Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee, where he was appointed to a two-year term by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was then appointed to serve as its vice-chairman. At the State level, he was selected by then-Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as lead consultant on the Commission for New Georgia’s Freight and Logistics Task Force. In this effort, Siplon led a Private Sector Advisory Committee with invited executives from a range of private sector stakeholders including UPS, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Siplon honorably served a combined 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. During this time, he led the integration of encryption techniques and deployed cryptographic devices for tactically secure voice and data platforms in critical ground-to-air communication systems. This service included support for all branches of the Department of Defense, multiple federal security agencies, and aiding NASA with multiple Space Shuttle launches. Originally from New York, Siplon received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on digital signal processing from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned an associate’s degree in advanced electronic systems from the Air Force College and completed multiple military leadership academies in both the Marines and Air Force. Siplon currently lives in Cumming, Georgia (north of Atlanta), with his wife Jan, and two children Thomas (19) and Lily (15).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.
Sales and Marketing Coordinator
Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.
Host, Supply Chain Now
The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.
He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.
A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics. He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.
She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.
An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.
A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.
A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning. He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.
Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.
Social Media Manager
My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.
Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.
Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.
Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.
Business Development Manager
Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.
Vice President, Production
Amanda is a production and marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Amanda currently manages, produces, and develops modern digital content for Supply Chain Now and their clients. Amanda has previously served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah, and founded and managed her own successful digital marketing firm, Magnolia Marketing Group. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now production team, you can find Amanda in the kitchen, reading, listening to podcasts, or enjoying time with family.
Constantine Limberakis is a thought leader in the area of procurement and supply management. He has over 20 years of international experience, playing strategic roles in a wide spectrum of organizations related to analyst advisory, consulting, product marketing, product development, and market research. Throughout his career, he's been passionate about engaging global business leaders and the broader analyst and technology community with strategic content, speaking engagements, podcasts, research, webinars, and industry articles.Constantine holds a BA in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA in Finance & Marketing / Masters in Public & International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.
Host, Veteran Voices
Mary Kate Soliva is a veteran of the US Army and cofounder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.
Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español
Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.
He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.
Host of Digital Transformers
Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog. He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community. Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix and IBM. Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane University, O’Reilly Media, LinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight. Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems Engineering, Carrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.
Director of Sales
Tyler Ward serves as Supply Chain Now's Director of Sales. Born and raised in Mid-Atlantic, Tyler is a proud graduate of Shippensburg University where he earned his degree in Communications. After college, he made his way to the beautiful state of Oregon, where he now lives with his wife and daughter.
With over a decade of experience in sales, Tyler has a proven track record of exceeding targets and leading high-performing teams. He credits his success to his ability to communicate effectively with customers and team members alike, as well as his strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.
When he's not closing deals, you can find Tyler on the links or cheering on his favorite football and basketball teams. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing pick-up basketball, and traveling back to Ocean City, Maryland, his favorite place!
Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring
Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.
Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.
Principal & CMO, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain Now and TECHquila Sunrise
When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.
Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.
Founder, CEO, & Host
As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.
From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.