From Space Force to Tallahassee, SkillBridge Worked for this Vice Commander

Jason McCandless spent more than 20 years in the military, starting on the Minot Air Force Base with the 91st Missile Wing’s Minuteman III ICBMs and retiring as the Vice Commander of Space Delta 4 with the United States Space Force.

In between, he earned postgraduate degrees, managed multimillion dollar projects and served around the world. 

He figured that experience would easily transfer to the civilian world.

“My perspective was, ‘I have two master’s degrees, I’ve led large organizations … People are going to be so happy’” to interview him, he said.

“It’s not true. I thought it would be so much easier than it was.”

With support from Veterans Florida, Jason used the U.S. Department of Defense SkillBridge program and found a great fit in Tallahassee as the Assistant Deputy Secretary in the Division of Workforce Services at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, (DEO).

And earlier this month, Jason was promoted within DEO as the new Director of the Office of Economic Accountability and Transparency.

McCandless began preparing months before his late 2022 retirement after deciding to settle down after a career that took him and his family around the world. 

He said, “The biggest challenge is, ‘How do we translate what we do in the military,’’ to the civilian world, and in reverse, try to decipher job titles that weren’t used in the military.

“I didn’t know what a ‘program manager’ or ‘communications director’ meant,” he said. 

Jason said LinkedIn proved to be a helpful meeting place for veterans and separating servicemembers to share stories and support, joining dozens of online chats and conversations on how to make the transition to the civilian workforce.

Jason knew he and his family wanted to live in Florida to be close to family, but they weren’t sure where.

He saw the job on SkillBridge, clicked on the “Veterans Florida” link and was able to start the new job in Tallahassee with his family late last year.

“People support (SkillBridge) but not a lot of people understand it,” he said. “The Veterans Florida team is really passionate about helping veterans.”