U.S. Army Veteran encourages leaders to embrace change
By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - "I want to inspire teams to do more, be more, and accomplish more."

Retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Derring echoed those words as he addressed the approximately 40 Transition Coordinators in attendance at this year's annual Warrior Care and Transition Sustainment Training and Recruitment Summit in Baltimore, Maryland.

This year's theme focused on change including the restructure and rebranding of the Warrior Care and Transition Program and the impact these changes will have on Soldiers as they transition. Derring is all too familiar with the process.

After serving 15 years in the military and deploying six times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Derring found himself looking toward his future and an inevitable transition to a career outside of the Army. He started taking business classes, interacting with business leaders and interviewing for several positions to gain entry into the business world.

"Nature has a great way of showing us how to transition with the butterfly," Derring told the crowd. "You are looking for a new identity. At some point, a caterpillar makes a decision to change or transform. Caterpillars lose the old, and get rid of things it no longer needs, because it has a new purpose. It then enhances what is good at, enhances the skills needed to serve its new purpose," he added.

In 2015, Derring found his new purpose as he began a career with the pharmaceutical giant, CVS Health as a store manager. He wanted more and he worked to achieve it. In November 2016, Derring began training to become a District Manager. Currently, he has achieved his goal as becoming a District Leader responsible for the financial operation of 11 stores.

"I attribute my success to my foundation of leadership that the military established in me at a very young age. I was fortunate enough to get some of the best, most elite leadership training that the world offers," Derring said. "Additionally, when I left the military I knew that I had to make a decision to transform and find my purpose. I have clarified my purpose into helping people be the best leaders that they can be. This purpose keeps me going every day."

Derring believes a successful transition is determined upon how a Soldier processes combat, losses, setbacks and leaving the military. "Instead of looking at leaving the military, retiring and starting over as a setback, Soldiers should look at it as an opportunity," Derring said.

Cedric Minor, Transition Coordinator with the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina witnessed Derring's transformation firsthand.

"Ricky Derring is continuing to excel after he transitioned from our
organization. I knew that once he reinvented himself for the civilian sector his leadership and commitment to excellence would shine. He is success personified," said Minor.

Nancy B. Adams, Chief, Career and Education Readiness Division with Warrior Care and Transition, along with Misty Barr, Transition Coordinator with the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky echoed this sentiment after hearing Derring's story during his address.

"Mr. Derring really hit a home run for me. His thoughtful remarks about how important "purpose" is in life can truly make the difference. Ricky illustrated well how knowing his purpose in life helped to shape his career decisions moving into the private sector. Most importantly, when he felt a company's work culture did not fit with his purpose he was not shy about moving on. Doing research on prospective employers paid off for him in a big way. His remarks were inspirational and spot on," said Adams.

"I felt inspired to hear his story and to see a fellow WTB Soldier be so successful in his career. You could hear the emotion in his voice when he talked about his struggles with letting go of his Army career and how it was something he loved so much," Barr said. "His words of encouragement for us as Transition Coordinators makes this job one of the most rewarding jobs I can think of with having the ability to serve those who gave so much; to see the impact he is having on other people is truly remarkable," she added.

As Derring continues to climb the corporate ladder, he frequently reaches back to help Soldiers. While at CVS, he helped to implement the Career Skills Program. The program is similar to the skills bridge program designed for transitioning Soldiers that provides them with knowledge in retail skills, assists them with resume writing and interviewing skills that lead to improved hiring.

"I made a promise to pay it forward and help as many Soldiers with my story and examples as possible. Just like Cedric Minor, I strive to do the extra," Derring said. "I always say the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is a little bit of extra. It starts with one. If we all help lift up that person next to us, who is struggling, or going through a difficult time, the world would be in a much better place."