Mr. Chair, honourable members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, fellow witness, and guests, my name is David Fascinato, and today I will be sharing with you the story of my transition from the Canadian Forces into civilian life.
I joined the Canadian Forces army reserve in the summer of 2005, just down the street at the Governor General's Foot Guards in Ottawa. I was drawn to the military for a number of reasons, the most prominent being that I wanted to challenge myself and to do so in the service of others. At that time I was enrolled at the University of Ottawa, but I knew that something was missing from my life. When I joined the army, I came to understand the role I could play in helping others and to better the communities in which we served.
As I completed my initial training for the army, the war in Afghanistan was heating up. The narrative was shifting, as it became evident that we, as young soldiers, were being prepared to fight in a conflict overseas.
In 2009 I was selected to join the military's psychological operations capability, a unit charged with managing the perceptions and behaviours of select foreign audiences in support of military and political objectives—or, as I like to say, we were the folks who were tasked with building consensus and alignment with local stakeholders and mission partners to ensure the delivery of governance, development, and security programs.
I was deployed in 2010 for eight months to Kandahar province, Afghanistan, with Task Force 1-10, or the 1st Royal Canadian Regiment battle group. In reality, however, I ended up working more with our American allies from the 10th Mountain Division, U.S. Army.
I like to think of my time in Afghanistan with fondness, believe it or not, for it was and still is one of the most precious and inspiring experiences I will likely ever have. Working on the front line, I built and managed relationships with local leaders, along with representatives of other government agencies, to ensure that we had a meaningful and lasting impact. We did this in the face of stiff Taliban opposition, who sought to dismantle our efforts through lies, intimidation, and fear.
Despite their best attempts, I saw first-hand that hope and cooperation could triumph in the face of coercion and violence. I'm fiercely proud of our accomplishments. While there were bad days—it was a war—I count myself infinitely lucky that the good days generally eclipsed the bad days.
Thirty days after stepping off that plane ride home, I was back in classes at the University of Ottawa. The transition was shocking—not the least of which had to do with coming back to winter in Ottawa—because I had returned to a life that I had paused and left behind two years earlier, not really being certain if I was actually ever going to get the chance to press play again.
I finished my studies and moved to Toronto in the spring of 2012, where I began the task of finding a job that would, technically, leverage my skills and experiences from the military. This is where I came into contact with Treble Victor Group, commonly known as 3V, an organization that seeks to enable ex-military leaders to succeed in business, a task that is accomplished through a shared set of common values, a strong network, and a strong strategic vision. Within three months of building a professional network across multiple sectors and industries, I finally landed a job at a large public relations firm in downtown Toronto.
Herein lies the mistake I made during my transition, and it's taken me about a year and a half to figure it out. It isn't my skills or experiences that make me unique, although they of course certainly help; rather, it is the attributes and qualities I bring to any potential employer that distinguish me from many other candidates. Whether it's my approach to obstacles, my ability to solve complex problems, my flexibility to adapt to change, or my openness to continuous learning and professional growth, these qualities were honed over the course of my career in the military, to the point where they are mature and valuable aspects of who I am as a young Canadian entering today's competitive workforce.
I tried too hard to make my skills and experiences fit, whereas I should have accepted and appreciated that I have a precious set of soft skills that enable me to adapt, overcome, and succeed in the face of adversity.
After a year in public relations, I recently left and began working as an independent consultant providing advisory services to a number of clients in the greater Toronto area. I'm also currently interviewing with members of the big four consulting firms.
In addition to my work with Treble Victor Group, where I currently coordinate events and communications on their executive, in the last five months I've also become involved with Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada, or VETS Canada. This is a non-profit organization with charitable status that connects homeless and marginalized veterans with services and support. I'm a member of the Ontario executive helping to launch that organization's footprint into the province for this spring.
I'm also a member of the Veteran Transition Advisory Council, or VTAC, where I sit on the marketing group and work with members of corporate Canada to address the challenges surrounding veteran transition and hiring. In that role, I also work with members of Canada Company on the military employment transition portal, or MET portal.
Needless to say, there are many aspects of transition that interest me greatly.
One parting thought, though.... In the military, one of the first lessons we learn is to shape the environment to enable our success. Through my efforts with Treble Victor, the Veteran Transition Advisory Council, and VETS Canada, I am attempting to do just that on a number of complex planes.
The second lesson we learn is to collaborate. Therefore to succeed, it is not up to any one organization, one department, or one party; rather, it is up to all of us to work together to ensure this generation of veterans is adequately supported and enabled to achieve the success for which they yearn, whatever shape or form that takes.
I know that I will continue my work in veteran transition to shape the environment by collaborating as broadly as possible, aided by all those attributes and qualities that the military helped to foster within me.
We have a generation of young veterans who have made a lasting impact with their varied and distinguished service in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and I implore the members of the committee not to forget that many of these young men and women now stand poised to make outstanding contributions in communities across this great nation. This generation of young veterans needs your support. They need to be enabled to succeed, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the smart thing to do.
Thank you for your time, Mr. Chair, and honourable members. I look forward to any questions.