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In February 2011, 24 active-duty Marines on medical hold at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center

In February 2011, 24 active-duty Marines on medical hold at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., graduated from Wounded Marine Careers Foundation media training. Professor James Egan (standing, left), Kevin Lombard (back row) and Judith Paixao (center, left) made the training possible.

The Wounded Marine Careers Foundation:

Checking In

Story by Allan T. Duffin • Photos courtesy of Wounded Marine Careers Foundation

F our years ago a dedicated husband- and-wife team kicked around the innovative idea of helping wounded

warriors transition into civilian careers in media. Kevin “Kev” Lombard and Judith Paixao founded the Wounded Marine Careers Foundation to train veterans for the filmmaking process from scripting to cinematography to editing. For Lombard and Paixao it was the toughest assignment of their lives. They were determined to keep the organization a nonprofit entity, host as many classes for as many students as they could and fund the annual operating budget via donations and government grants. Leatherneck first visited with Lombard and Paixao in February 2008 as they launched their film school at the Stu Segall




Studio in San Diego. The studio lot also hosts tactical training for the military. At the end of the 10-week inaugural class, the 19 graduates had their union cards and more than 140 job leads to get a start in the film industry. In January 2009, Lombard and Paixao kicked off their second class, extending it to 14 weeks for nine students—one active- duty and eight medically retired military personnel. The foundation’s emphasis on job training and placement paid off. Upon graduating, one of the students joined the U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego as audiovisual director, and another worked as an assistant cameraman on the ABC- TV series “Desperate Housewives.” Other members of the class of 2009 are working in various capacities in the film and television industries. Former Army Staff Sergeant Richard Gooding is a video editor for Phoenix-based TriWest

Healthcare Alliance, which administers the TRICARE program in 21 states. One young Marine, an amputee, started his own photography studio. Another graduate is a freelance camera operator for TV reality shows. Since graduating its second class in San Diego, the foundation has hit the road, offering its classes at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. The Wounded Warrior Battalion-West, headquartered at Camp Pendleton, which oversees the barracks that houses those who are recovering from injuries, invited Lombard and Paixao to teach their film program on base, making everything more convenient for the wounded Marines on medical hold. Lombard and Paixao are continuing their fundraising efforts and admit that gathering the money to keep the foundation

going in the current economy is a tough but reachable goal. The recent four-week classes at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, for example, were funded through an earmark grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Times of Challenge, Times of Change Over the past three years, the foun- dation’s curriculum has shifted from a studio-based offering inside a stationary schoolhouse to a mobile, deployable program that adjusts its focus to the students’ needs and personal interests. “After we graduated our first class,” explained Paixao, “Kev and I realized that the mission was much bigger than we thought it would be. It wasn’t enough to train the wounded warriors and send them out into the civilian world with new, professional skills. These young wounded Marines literally didn’t know how to exist in the civilian workplace.” Despite all of their teaching and encouragement, Paixao and Lombard concluded that they had accomplished only “half or even a third of what [they] needed to do.” “We realized that we had to teach our Marines how to survive in the civilian work environment,” continued Paixao. So she and Lombard began advertising the foundation’s services as a media production company. “We started taking jobs,” said Paixao. “We told the men, ‘The foundation will get jobs, we’ll hire you, and then we’ll go out and work together.’ Instead of just teaching them how to fish, we stay with them until they’re comfortable out on their own.” That outreach resulted in multiple in- quiries and contracts hiring the foundation to produce media content. “A lot of projects came to us from the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps Association and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation,” explained

Cpl Kevin McCall, a Marine combat cameraman, graduated from the WMCF training and now is going to school in Southern California to become a teacher specializing in photography.

California to become a teacher specializing in photography. Paixao, “along with a number of defense contracts.”

Paixao, “along with a number of defense contracts.” These opportunities, she added, allow the foundation to fulfill its goals of giv- ing its students “real work, on-the-job training experience and professional pay. It’s a win-win. Our clients are hiring battle-tested video production fire teams who deliver to the highest creative and professional standards.” Lombard and Paixao have hired crew- members not only from their students at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, but also from their classes that were held in San Diego. “We now have some 25 or so ‘sons’ of various ages,” quipped Lombard. The Wounded Marine Careers Founda- tion benefits greatly from a staff who works and teaches in the film industry.

“I developed our curriculum with the

assistance of two professors at USC,” said Lombard. “One is a three-time Academy Award winner.” The program also features

a USC professor of screenwriting and a

member of Apple Inc.’s own editing staff from Cupertino, Calif. The foundation’s students use Apple’s editing software, Final Cut Pro, to put their projects together. The class helps students explore various careers within the media industry— directing, camera operation, editing, scriptwriting, photography and the like— so that the students can see which area interests them the most. “A lot of times [the students] come to us a little bit lost and not sure what they want to do,” said Lombard. “They don’t know what their future will be.” The school, continued Lombard, “allows them to focus on something positive and provides a great confidence and morale builder. The wounded Marines learn new skills. They can use still photography and cinematography and their writing to create and see a story all the way through to the end and provide for their families in the process.” Sergeant Cameron B. “Brad” Pulliam,

a combat engineer, was considering his career options when he heard about the foundation’s training course. “I had no clue what I was getting myself into,” said Pulliam. “I had never written a story before, used a video camera aside from

From the left, Kevin Lombard, Cpl Kealoha Kuikahi and Sgt Brad Pulliam prepare for Kuikahi’s solo coverage at the Warrior Games held in May at Colorado Springs, Colo.

at the Warrior Games held in May at Colorado Springs, Colo. AUGUST 2011 LEATHERNECK 37




making home videos, or edited video footage and tried to tell a story through visual images. Kev and Judith took us under their wings and taught us all of the basics.” Lombard and Paixao now spend most of their time on the road rather than at the home office. To teach at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, the couple had to transport cameras, computers and other equipment to the classrooms on base. “Marines are expeditionary, and we need to be also,” said Paixao. “We need to be able to move around, to go where the Marines are. “A lot of Marines have stepped up and helped us,” Paixao continued. A Marine family donated a Chevy Suburban, solv­ ing the foundation’s problem of how to deploy its classroom gear. “When we got the truck two years ago,” said Paixao, “it had 87,000 miles on it. It’s now up to 160,000 miles.” This shift in approach also has altered how the foundation hires its teaching staff. The two San Diego classes featured instructors from Hollywood, New York, North Carolina and Florida. The new, leaner version of the program hires most of its staff locally. Instructors from Los Angeles and San Diego, for example, taught classes at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms. Lombard is careful to employ instructors who are not full­time academics, prefer­ ring to bring in professionals who actually work in the industry. Having a constant connection to the industry is important, said Lombard, because those professionals can be more effective in preparing the Marines for a career in the industry. Additionally, former students are re­ turning to the foundation as instructors:

One recent graduate is taking a follow­

as instructors: One recent graduate is taking a follow­ Above: Cpl Nate Peck was a machine-gunner

Above: Cpl Nate Peck was a machine-gunner and had never worked with a computer prior to the Wounded Warriors Careers in Media class he took in February. He has written a commercial for, helping Marines and their wives deal with everyday stressors.

Below: From the left, Sgt Andy Chung, Cpl Kealoha Kuikahi and Cpl Nate Peck work on an editing proj- ect in the Wounded Warrior Battalion-West, Camp Pendleton, Calif., classroom.

Warrior Battalion-West, Camp Pendleton, Calif., classroom. 38 LEATHERNECK AUGUST 2011 on certification course in the



on certification course in the Apple editing software Final Cut Pro; once he has completed that program he’ll return to the foundation and teach Final Cut to inbound students. “That’s a huge goal of ours,” said Paixao. “We want to raise a Marine up from the ranks who has never considered this profession and have him come onto the team to mentor his fellow wounded Marines.”

Keeping Up With the Internet By keeping the curriculum flexible, Lombard and Paixao are better able to help students before and after graduation. “The Marines themselves give us the parameters of what they want to learn,” said Paixao. “Some simply want to learn

how to put together videos that allow them

to tell their own story.” Other students, she

said, want to set up websites for businesses that they’ll open once they’re medically retired. “When we first started out,” explained Paixao, “websites like YouTube and Facebook weren’t nearly as prevalent as they are now.” The ability to reach

a large audience at the tap of a key has

proved useful to many small businesses. One student, noted Paixao, talked about

launching a hunting business in Alaska, while another student wanted to become

a professional archer. Both would use

social networking and develop their own websites. “That wasn’t in the wounded warrior mindset when we started things four years ago,” said Paixao. “One hundred percent of what we film now is put on websites,” said Lombard. “We have seen the media industry tran­ sition to the Web.” Because the foundation now receives contracts to produce media

content, the students are able to participate in real­world projects as they learn their trade at the school. “Almost anybody who has a website now wants video,” said Lombard. “I saw

a great need for people to provide this

service and to do it professionally.” The two recent courses, he continued, focused on this type of work, “such as a feature news story that goes on a corporate web­ site. More content is being shot for the Web, and the market is expanding in that area.” “We teach them to be ‘preditors,’ ” said

Paixao, referring to the industry term for

a producer­editor. “Each of our graduates

leaves our training capable of producing, shooting and editing stories on video.”

Preparing for the “Outside World” Anyone who has left a career in the military can expect a certain amount of shock while adjusting to life in the civilian world, and the foundation’s media students

Sgt Brad Pulliam, a musician, artist and father, is now a leading partner in Command

Sgt Brad Pulliam, a musician, artist and father, is now a leading partner in Command Media, specializing in editing and special effects. Pulliam and his photographer wife, Brittney, plan to work together on both production and post-production projects for Command Media.

are no exception. The rough economy and contraction in the film and television industry can make it more difficult to find work. Lombard and Paixao do their best to prepare their graduates for civilian life in a very fickle career field where it can take awhile to move up the ladder. “We want to help them generate bread- and-butter income, so they can feed their families while excelling at their craft,” said Paixao. “The program teaches them a professional skill that will help them move forward in their daily lives.” Students, adds Paixao, can then work for local TV stations, as freelancers or work together to open their own businesses developing videos for the Internet. The classes have become more discus- sion-oriented with ideas blossoming into student projects. “It becomes infectious,” said Lombard. “The wounded warriors start having fun and opening up. They start talking to one another about very personal stories. It made me realize that we don’t have to have a super disciplined class where you have to show up at a certain hour. These men stay up sometimes all night in the barracks at our training studio working together on projects.” Lombard and Paixao make sure to accommodate the medical needs of their students. “There were no worries if you had to miss out on a class for a medical

pooled their personal experiences about

a K-9 handler and the other a sniper—

create content and practice their new skills has resulted in a number of very personal projects. Two weeks into the class at Twentynine Palms, two students—one

Further Down the Road As the foundation continues to fine- tune its training program, Lombard and Paixao also are trying to keep up with the demands of ever-changing technology in the film industry. While still serviceable, the cameras and computer editing equip- ment that they bought for their first class in 2008 rapidly are becoming outdated. “Very soon we’re going to need to pur-

post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into

a short video piece that they put together overnight. When Lombard and Paixao

arrived in the classroom the following morning, the two Marines invited them to watch what they had created. “It was arguably the most powerful piece on PTSD that we have ever seen,” said Paixao. “We were both in tears.” Lombard told the two Marines, “If we don’t do this one more day, one more hour, you’ve just made the last four years completely worth it.” The video, which circulated among other Marines on base and headed up the chain of command as well, “is the essence of what we’re trying to help these young men do,” said Paixao. One of the two Marines who produced the video plans to make a career in the film industry. Putting together the brief but very personal video “definitely changed his life’s course as to what he would be doing when he’s medically retired in September,” added Paixao.

appointment,” said Pulliam, “because the instructors would make sure to help you catch up when you came back. They also made the equipment available after hours, and Kev said he would help on Saturdays as well if we wanted extra time.” “We’re dealing with active-duty guys who are just starting a long process of healing,” said Lombard. “We want them to feel comfortable to flow in and out of the classroom.” Sgt Brandon Del Fiorentino, a scout sniper and sniper instructor, appreciated this approach as he recovered from his injuries. “This is a job that will flex and bend with my limitations in my medical disabilities,” said Del Fiorentino. “I can work safely in my home, editing, or [when ready] go into the world and film things I’ve never seen or experienced before. In a way, this is giving me a form of treatment that hasn’t been tested and used yet.” The flexible format of the foundation’s course wherein students are encouraged to



These 11 are among the 22 active-duty Marines in Co A, Wounded Warrior Battalion-West, Camp

These 11 are among the 22 active-duty Marines in Co A, Wounded Warrior Battalion-West, Camp Pendleton, Calif., who completed WMCF media training in March 2011.

foundation a heightened visibility within the Beltway and has netted many jobs for wounded-warrior graduates. “The course has changed a lot of things in my life,” said Corporal Nate Peck, who wants to be an editor for a large production company. “What I get from doing this is maybe a career change for life.” Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of Wounded Warrior Battalion-West, the foundation has a permanent California classroom with an ongoing program in the Wounded Warrior Barracks at Camp Pendleton. “We have 10 interns who went through the course and have been assigned to us as their duty,” said Lombard. “They work on projects for a certain number of hours each week, and we bring in ad- ditional trainers to continually sharpen their skills.” Lombard and Paixao currently are plan- ning new classes in August and September at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms. The couple looks forward to meeting a new group of warriors as they continue to assist and in some cases produce content with current and former students. “The command saw such an increase in morale among the students in the classes,” said Lombard, “that they invited us to go to every Wounded Warrior detachment.”

Author’s note: Upcoming course dates are as follows: Camp Pendleton, Aug. 8-Sept. 16 and at Twentynine Palms, Sept. 12-Oct. 21. Information about the Wounded Marine Careers Foundation and how to apply for upcoming courses is available at the foundation’s website: Editor’s note: Allan T. Duffin is a free- lance writer, television producer and Air Force veteran with service in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He is the author of “History in Blue: 160 Years of Women Police, Sheriffs, Detectives, and State Troopers,” published by Kaplan and distributed by Simon & Schuster. Duffin’s website is

Wounded Warrior Battalion-West, for example, is talking to the foundation about sponsoring a class at the base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, where approximately 80 personnel are recovering from injuries.” “We’re ready, willing and able to help any wounded Marine or soldier with any physical or mental challenge who has a passion to learn a new skill in media,” said Paixao. “We’re staying the course.”

chase new equipment,” said Lombard. “We’ve been able to run the classes at very reduced costs right now because so far we haven’t had to purchase equipment.” Currently, the foundation is trying to obtain funding to bring its gear up to date. Lombard and Paixao launched the foundation as a nonprofit because they wanted to ensure that the school would never be about the money. They require just enough money to run it and fund what the wounded Marines need, they say, and help as many wounded warriors as possible. “We know the mission works,” said Paixao, “and that’s reward enough.” Recent developments include a cross- country move for the foundation’s head- quarters, which relocated in 2009 from San Diego to Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. This move, made possible by former MCA president Major General Les Palm, USMC (Ret), allows the foundation to work closely with the MCA. The prox- imity to Washington, D.C., also gives the

L eatherneck—On the Web See additional photos at woundedcareers

Leatherneck—On the Web

See additional photos at woundedcareers




photos at woundedcareers 40 LEATHERNECK AUGUST 2011