SkillBridge Internship Launches Space Force Vet’s Career

Derrick Slatton’s career started from an unlikely beginning: a video game about space exploration.

It was 2015, Derrick was in high school, SpaceX was in the news, and his older brother introduced him to Kerbal Space Program, an online simulation exploring orbital mechanics. It was perfect timing for a student ready to explore and develop an interest in the details of space travel.

He said, “As a high schooler, I realized that my aspiration was to become an engineer, specifically in the space industry…This led me to consider the Air Force as the unique factor that could set me apart. The combination of leadership opportunities, discipline, engineering exposure, and the prospect of earning a master’s degree made it the clear and logical choice.”

After two years in the Air Force, he saw an opportunity to move to the newly-created Space Force and continue on his path to working in space travel and hoping to work on rockets.

He worked as a Weapons Systems Integration Engineer; a combination of systems engineering and program management.

His career took him to the National Space Intelligence Center in Dayton, Ohio where he brought an engineering perspective to space intelligence.

Near the end of his service, Derrick was preparing his next move. About 10 months from his separation date, he found out about the Veterans Florida SkillBridge Initiative, which allows separating servicemembers to intern with companies during their last months of service.

Derrick got in touch with Veterans Florida who helped line up his internship with ARES Corporation and worked with the employer on his training plan.

His internship was unique. Not only did he gain engineering experience, but he also had the opportunity to contribute to some foundational changes in the organization. At the end of his internship, Derrick accepted an offer to continue working with ARES.

The support provided by Veterans Florida made a huge difference in his transition. Derrick said, the frequent check-ins from the Veterans Florida Team, before, during, and after his internship were extremely helpful. “The hardest part about [the transition] is moving across the nation, without having the backbone or security of other service members around you,” but having Veterans Florida behind him helped immensely.

Derrick gives the following advice to employers looking to hire veterans. “The job wins over their minds but you have to win over their hearts by making sure they feel like they fit at the new company.” He successfully experienced the transition from military to civilian workforce, and there can definitely be a culture shock without support.

Veterans Florida supports not only vets in their civilian career and training, but also helps employers recognize the incredible skills and experience veterans can bring to their business. For more information on all the services we provide at no charge, visit