The famous quote, “The Marines have landed and have the situation well in hand" was popularized by the late nineteenth-century journalist Richard Harding Davis, and today it is how Axel Davila’s arrival at U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could be best described. Davila, who recently retired from the U.S. Marine Corps as a Master Gunnery Sergeant, reached out to the CBP national Veterans Employment Program Manager, Jeffrey Jack during his last active-duty assignment in Washington, D.C. The two discussed the DoD SkillBridge program, an opportunity for service-members to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships, or internships during their last 180, 120, or 90 days of military service prior to release from Active Duty.
Following their meeting, Jack facilitated Davila’s consideration for an Investigative Program Specialist (GS-14) internship and within days of connecting with Jack, leaders from the CBP Operations Support Planning, Analysis, and Requirements Evaluation (PARE) Directorate reached out to Davila to set up an interview. “Shortly after the interview I received correspondence from Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Angel M. Santa-Ana advising me that my background, experience, and qualifications would be an excellent fit for the team,” he recalled, “I was extremely grateful for the opportunity and looked forward to working with them.”
Davila soon found himself interning as an Investigative Program Specialist at CBP headquarters in Washington, D.C. From the very start Santa-Ana, team members, and PARE’s Integrated Program Division (IPD) leadership welcomed him as a member of the CBP family. He said, “I expected a steep learning curve given CBP’s vast mission and responsibilities, however, my concerns were quickly alleviated, as I leveraged team members’ knowledge and experience in addressing assigned tasks.” Through the training and interactions with his new team, and his knowledge, experience and understanding of Agile project management principles, Davila was able to work on several ad hoc tasking requirements. He also coordinated projects that required facilitation across subcomponents and external organizations for successful completion.
While the tasks and support requests required of the IPD were often challenging, Davila found the professionalism and dedication of his leadership and team members inspiring. “Throughout my time as a SkillBridge intern, Mr. Santa-Ana and my colleagues valued my input and opinion on various topics. I also learned a great deal about CBP’s mission, culture and what the many dedicated professionals who work for this organization bring to the table,” said Davila.
Reflecting on the experience, Santa-Ana recalls, “We were fortunate enough to partner with the CBP Veterans Employment Program Manager (Jeff Jack) and the DoD SkillBridge internship program. Through this program, we hosted Davila’s internship, where we were able to assess his skills and abilities firsthand. We found that his education, experiences, and knowledge of interagency and international relations, as well as his depth of real-world exposure to problem solving made him uniquely qualified to work with IPD in building relationships across our security partners. IPD is actively involved in working with DoD, Department of State, Department of Justice, and Health and Human Services, along with foreign business stakeholders.”
Santa-Ana explained that Davila’s responsibilities and experiences working abroad made him an immediate asset to CBP and his team’s mission needs. The team was able to capitalize on the “non-competitive” aspect of the SkillBridge process by hiring Davila outside of the “competitive” USAJOBS.gov process, as a Management and Program Analyst due to his 30% or More Disabled Veteran preference. Had they not utilized the SkillBridge program, hiring through USAJOBS.gov could have taken months, if not years to hire and years more to foster a new hire that would equal Davila’s intelligence, experience, and project management skills. Santa-Ana said, “I recommend all CBP hiring managers agency-wide consider connecting with Jeff Jack to discuss utilizing this truly game-changing program for their hiring needs.”
Davila echoes these thoughts and strongly recommends other SkillBridge eligible service-members reach out to Jack to discuss opportunities available to them. He stated, “My time as a DoD SkillBridge intern was invaluable; it enabled me to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and expertise I acquired during my Marine Corps career to CBP hiring managers, which affected my non-competitive hire. I was in charge of how successful my transition to a civilian career went due the work I put into this incredible experience, a testament to CBP’s now national partnership with DoD’s SkillBridge internship program.”
Davila emphasized, “Having the chance to prove myself by clearly demonstrating my mastery in assigned tasks involved in this position on a routine basis gave me the ability to become my ‘resume in action’ for the position I eventually landed outside of USAJOBS.gov. Additionally, it provided me an opportunity to serve in different capacity with an organization comprised of dedicated professionals very much akin to the Marine Corps.” Through the assistance of Jack and the SkillBridge program, Davila will continue his career as a CBP employee and with his experience as a Marine the “situation is well in hand” indeed.
Please email Jeffrey Jack, CBP’s National Veterans Employment Program Manager (VEPM), at email@example.com for more information on how to participate in the DoD SkillBridge internship program within CBP.