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Air Force Veteran Finds Meaning in New Career with USDA Rural Development

Posted by Mariela Castaneda, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Equity Initiatives
May 25, 2023
Veteran Tray Middlebrooks works as a loan officer at USDA’s Rural Development in South Carolina. USDA photo by Stephanie Bittiker

Veteran Tray Middlebrooks grew up in Merritt Island, Florida, and Manassas, Virginia. After college, he wanted to follow a reliable and purposeful path forward. He went on to serve 10 years of active duty as an Air Force medic stationed in Nevada and Florida followed by three years in the Florida reserves.

Post-service, Tray found it challenging to secure permanent, fulltime employment. He found a temporary position working for the U.S. Small Business Administration, but his goal was to secure a permanent federal position.

Fortunately, Tray met USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison (MVAL) Monshi “Ram” Ramdass. Ram helped Tray narrow his search and navigate the federal application process, helping him be successful. “I kept on applying and kept on applying,” Tray said. “I am here today because Ram did not give up on my career placement.”

Today Tray is a loan specialist with USDA’s Rural Development in South Carolina. He is the team lead for his area and serves on a planning committee to help streamline the loan application process. His day-to-day work involves helping individuals and families in rural communities work towards their own goals, which he finds a rewarding use of his experience.

He believes veterans can bring great experience to the government, including leadership, a strong work ethic, reliability and integrity. He wants fellow veterans to know that they, too, can be successful in the federal workforce by using the skills they gained in the military, such as the ability to work well with others to achieve common goals. “You can apply your military experience to a government position that will allow you to continue to serve your country in a new way,” he said. “We know how to work, replicate, teach and lead to reach team goals.”

His boss agrees.

“Tray has brought a wealth of knowledge and excellent leadership skills to our agency,” said USDA Rural Development South Carolina State Director Dr. Saundra Glover. “I believe his military experience helped him perfect those skills, which he uses daily when helping individuals from diverse backgrounds apply for home loans or grants under our Single-Family Housing Programs, working with lenders or entrepreneurs interested in our Business and Cooperatives Programs, or connecting with leaders from surrounding rural communities and providing them information about our Community Facilities Programs or Water and Environmental Programs.”

USDA welcomes veterans like Tray and the many skills they can bring to the agency. Email or visit USDA’s Veterans Information page for information about employment, education and entrepreneurship.

Category/Topic: Equity Initiatives