During his career with the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps, Darren Hale traveled far and wide to oversee construction projects and base operations on naval bases stationed in Bahrain, Spain, Italy, Romania, Southwest Asia, Hawaii and many other regions around the world.
When the U.S. Navy offered to pay for his master’s program at The University of Texas at Austin, the Kansas City native seized the opportunity to take his engineering education and expertise to the next level. Years later, Hale set down roots with his family in Austin and began a fulfilling career in facilities services at his alma mater.
We caught up with Hale, who serves as director of facilities services, to learn more about his journey and what plans he has in store for the Military/Veteran Faculty & Staff Association (MVFSA), a newly established university resource group that aims to uplift and support active military, veterans and their families.
What are some unique attributes active military and veterans bring to the university community?
I would say some of the most unique attributes include resilience and the desire to serve a mission that is greater than themselves. When we sign up to serve, we give up a lot of our freedoms. We must make sacrifices for the good of the cause, which is protecting our nation’s freedom. We must learn how to make friends and overcome adversity as we move around. One thing you’re going to learn quickly in the military is to be flexible while adapting to change. When you sign on for four to five years, you must make the best out of any situation and be a good team player.
It’s not surprising we have so many vets at UT, a school with a mission to change the world. It’s a great opportunity to support ground-breaking research, and to support our students who are about to go out and change the world.
What challenges did you face while adjusting back into civilian life, and how will the MVFSA help others navigate this transition?
The hardest part for me—and for many others—is making connections like we had in the service. In civilian life, you have colleagues and a separate group of friends. They don’t overlap like they do in the military. People really miss the fellowship and bonding like what they had in the military, and that’s why I’m such a big fan of this group. We have this common bond and can help people transition. These connections and relationships will help people have a tighter tie to the university, which helps with retention.
What are some of the benefits the MVFSA has to offer?
The MVFSA will give members an opportunity to connect with likeminded people across the university. This is a great opportunity to learn more about benefits and resources, to make new friends, to develop professionally, and to navigate this big university.
What future goals do you have in mind for this group?
In the future, we hope to get to a place where we can serve the community and provide opportunities for members to give back. Another plan is to eventually create a sponsor program that pairs a new member with a sponsor who can help them transition in their life at UT and in Austin. This idea comes from the military’s onboarding program, which assigns someone with a sponsor who can help them transition at their new work station.
What does Veterans Day mean to you?
Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on all the people who served before me, and it’s a time to just appreciate the sacrifices they have made to serve their country, and to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. The ones who came before us gave us the freedoms we have now. This is a time to thank them for making the United States one of the best countries in the world and the best place to live. Military families also make great sacrifices by living without their family members for long periods of time. They are an underappreciated group, so it’s important to be thankful for them as well during this time of reflection.
More about the Military/Veteran Faculty & Staff Association
Established in Fall 2022, the Military/Veteran Faculty and Staff Association is a University Resource Group that facilitates the inclusion of veterans, military members and their families into the university community in order to enhance recruitment, retention, networking, camaraderie and professional development in collaboration with other organizations. Visit the MVFSA website to learn more.