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From the Marines to Southwest Airlines


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Since 2018, Southwest has partnered with the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy (MSSA)—a Microsoft run program that trains transitioning U.S. service members and veterans for careers in the technology industry—to find candidates to fill open job positions within our Technology Department. Thus far, we have hired five MSSA graduates into various technology roles. Here are a few of their stories:


Levi Strang
Technology Associate Analyst
United States Marine Corps

Levi.JPGIn 2015, I joined the United States Marine Corps as an Administrative Specialist. This is a broad title that could encompass many avenues of work, but I performed financial audits on service members, developed and maintained inspection readiness procedures, conducted benefit/dependent audits (to include adding a spouse or child to a service member’s personal electronic records), and mass amounts of reports/analytic tasks.


After 13 weeks of boot camp in California, I went to Marine Combat Training, where I learned the basics of being a rifleman. Next up: Administrative Specialist School at Camp Johnson, North Carolina. Finally, in 2016, I was off to my first duty station a world away in Iwakuni, Japan. I spent two years in Japan working hard, flying my wife out to see me when we could—about every six months. We loved it! From the food to the culture, Japan is by far one of my favorite places I have been so far. After Japan, I returned to North Carolina to finish out my contract at Camp Lejeune. As my service in the Marine Corps was coming to an end, I started to seek out new civilian career opportunities. This when I found MSSA.


As part of the MSSA program, graduates are guaranteed an interview at Microsoft or with one of their hiring partners, many of which are Fortune 500 companies. In the last three weeks of the program, a plethora of these companies gave virtual, FaceTime-style presentations to our class. But not Southwest Airlines. Southwest set themselves apart by joining us in person. The Team (who consisted of several veterans) that presented had their Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and Fun-LUVing Attitudes on full display and spoke of the Company’s family-friendly Culture. After two years away from my wife in Japan, this type of Culture immediately appealed to me.


I was fortunate to become part of the Southwest Family in May. During my transition from the Marines to civilian life, I have appreciated the advice and support that I have received from my mentor and other veterans who have walked this road. Their guidance has made a world of difference. I am so thankful to be here.


Christopher Fisher
Technology Associate Software Engineer
United States Marine Corps

Chris F 3_cropped.jpgI joined the Marine Corps in 2014 as an Infantry Rifleman, and carried a secondary job of Security. I went through boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina; Infantry Training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina; and Security Guard School in Chesapeake, Virginia. My first duty station was at King’s Bay (Georgia), where I spent two years maintaining strategic weapons security. I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and led, trained, and mentored teams ranging from 13 to 20 people. I made many great friends and found brotherhood and family in the Marine Corps.


My first expose to MSSA was from a sheet of paper hanging on the wall during the transition readiness program I took at Camp Lejeune. I had always been big on technology growing up … modding PC games, doing some basic coding in my middle school STEM program and building my desktop in high school—your typical science geek activities. Until I heard about MSSA, I didn’t have a plan for when my contract was up. Now, my future was full of possibilities and opportunities.


I joined the MSSA in August 2018 and my empty evenings and weekends were now filled with endless homework. The course was a lot of work, and on top of that, I wanted to learn about other related topics outside of the class. Within those 18 weeks, I developed a prototype of an MMORPG within Unity3D, developed three web applications in .NET, got familiar with all of the neat services within Azure, dabbled in the MEAN stack, developed some basic games in JavaScript, and got familiar with other languages such as Python, and Java. Needless to say, I had little free time but it all paid off.


To be honest, I was trying hard to make it in to Microsoft, but when Southwest came out to present to us, it showed me that there was a huge difference between the two companies. All of a sudden, Southwest felt like the perfect Company to transition into after the military. I joined the Southwest Family on February 18 and it has been an awesome experience ever since.


Aside from a Manager who is supportive and invests in me as a person and an Employee, the resources that Southwest offers veterans in the form of a tight-knit and cohesive collection of People who have been in my shoes is second to none.


Christopher Clute
Technology Associate Analyst
United States Marine Corps

Christopher Clute LUVLines Pic 1.pngI started my Marine Corps career as a Motor Transport Operator (Truck Driver), which entailed cleaning rusty chains, changing old tires, and transporting passengers, gear, and hazardous material from Point A to Point B. After about two years in that role, I moved into a Licensing (NCO) Manager position where I was in charge of training, testing, and awarding Marines with licenses on different military vehicles. 


As I neared the end of my contract in the Marines, my wife and I received the exciting news that we were expecting another baby. I decided I wanted to explore opportunities outside of the military—this is when I found MSSA.


During the final weeks of MSSA, I started looking at companies that would provide me with a sense of belonging, the ability to learn and grow, and that would align with my core values and beliefs. I’d looked at multiple companies and was starting to give up on my job search. That’s when Southwest Airlines came in and presented to my MSSA class. After the presentation was over, I was in complete shock—I’d found the place for me. I rushed to the Southwest careers site and immediately applied for the available position in the Technology Department. A few short weeks after my interview, I received the call I was waiting for—I got an offer to come to Southwest and be a part of this great Family.


On my very first day at Southwest, I was introduced to a great group of People (the original presenters at my class!) and invited to be a part of what we’re calling the Warrior Hire program. The Warrior Hire program is designed to recruit and help military personal make the daunting transition to the civilian world. This program has helped me overcome many obstacles former military members struggle with—where to get information on benefits, how to translate my military knowledge into civilian terms, and giving me a community where I can communicate with people who share my background. I am excited about my future at Southwest Airlines. 


This article originally ran in the fourth quarter 2019 issue of LUVLines, Southwest's Employee magazine. Interested in working at Southwest? Check out our career site