The Warrior Alliance has partnered with Augusta Technical College for Operation Double Eagle, which gives veterans the opportunity to earn credit hours toward a degree and work at Augusta (Ga.) Municipal Golf Course as an apprenticeship. Veterans receive free classroom education and are able to get Augusta Tech’s Golf Turf and Landscape Specialist certificate.
The Warrior Alliance is offering Operation Double Eagle, a nine-week skills development program that connects veterans and transitioning active-duty service members to a network of employers, the Augusta Chronicle reported. The 14-credit hour program teaches veterans about turfgrass, irrigation, pipe installation, pest management, pesticide application and multiple other skills about golf course management.
Operation Double Eagle began in 2020 and has already had 28 graduates, with 80% of them finding employment and 10% enrolling in technical college courses after completing the program, the Chronicle reported. Not only does it teach veterans new skills, but the program also offers a monthly stipend to complete the program and works with veterans—like David Bluthardt, who retired from the Navy after 27 years—to provide lodging for nine weeks if they are not from the area.
The Warrior Alliance has partnered with Augusta Technical College for veterans to earn credit hours toward a degree and work at Augusta Municipal Golf Course as an apprenticeship, the Chronicle reported. Veterans receive free classroom education and are able to get Augusta Tech’s Golf Turf and Landscape Specialist certificate.
Scott Johnson, President/CEO of The Warrior Alliance, a veteran organization based in Atlanta that helps veterans transition from military to civilian life, told the Chronicle he noticed a lot of veterans struggle with finding employment after they have retired from the military.
“As I was starting The Warrior Alliance, I began to see this challenge and barriers to employment that they had,” he said. “A lot of the things that you see, the different things they do in the military, apply very well to the skillsets not only in the golf industry but the industries that are around the golf industry.”
Johnson said the goal of Operation Double Eagle is to get them full-time employment, in the golf industry or not, the Chronicle reported. Before getting admitted to the program, veterans must commit to either taking a job once they graduate or continuing their education at Augusta Tech.
Shannon Bowling participated in the last class of 2020, graduating in December, the Chronicle reported. He was introduced to the program by a professor at Augusta Tech in the golf course management program. He now works in maintenance at Reynolds Lake Oconee Golf Course.
“What I learned was the basics of golf course maintenance, horticulture, irrigation and pest management. I took what I learned there to go on and get a job,” Bowling said. “This program has meant a lot because it got me into a field that I love.”
Bowling served in the Marine Corps from 1994 to 1998 and in the Army from 2000 to 2016 so he was familiar with what it was like to be out of the military for a couple of years and knew the difficulties of making the transition, the Chronicle reported.
Bluthardt said he hasn’t decided yet whether he wants to enter the workforce or continue his education after the nine weeks are over, the Chronicle reported. He is thinking about finding a part-time job and finishing his degree in golf course management.
Johnson said Augusta’s rich military history with Fort Gordon and the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, along with Augusta’s reputation as a golf city, made it the perfect place to have a program like this, the Chronicle reported. They just want to help any veteran, regardless of age or discharge status, get back into the workforce.
“When you combine all the resources you have here in Augusta and the location of veterans and the population, it makes sense to bring these two elements together,” he said.
Army Lt. Col. Ngan Kim retired on New Year’s Day after 22 years in the military out of Shaw Air Force base in South Carolina, the Chronicle reported. He owned a home in Augusta, so they decided to move back here. As soon as he heard about the program, he looked into it.
“It’s something that I was interested in, working with my hands, working on golf courses. It sounded very interesting,” Kim said. “I’ve learned a lot and actually really enjoyed the program. Really glad I applied for the program.”
Kim plans to continue his education and enroll in a degree program in horticulture or golf course management once he completes the nine weeks in September, the Chronicle reported. He encouraged veterans who might be struggling with the military transition to give Operation Double Eagle or another veteran program a chance.
“Apply for the program and these guys will go out of their way to get you into the program and get jobs afterwards. I would highly recommend anybody to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
As an avid golfer, Bluthardt said he now understands more about what goes into making sure golf courses are in good condition, the Chronicle reported.
“If golf isn’t your thing, that is OK, but you are learning a whole other skillset. I don’t care which program is being offered, just take advantage of it and really immerse yourself in it, that’s how you make connections, hopefully you find future employment that is going to better your life,” he said.