By Sgt. 1st Class Justin A. Naylor
FORT STEWART, Ga. -- For two Ft. Stewart veterans, a brewing hobby has bubbled over into a fulltime job.
Dr. Kristen Boucher and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremy Boucher opened the doors to Split Fin Brewing in Midway, Ga., in June and both attribute their business’ early success to the skills they gained while serving.
Jeremy, a Springfield, Massachusetts-native, most recently served as a maintenance technician with the 3rd Infantry Division on Fort Stewart and retired earlier this year after 22 years of service.
Kristen, a Syracuse, New York-native, served as a chemical officer for four years before leaving the military in 2017. She now works as a Department of the Army civilian at Hunter Army Airfield.
The couple married in 2016 and said a brewery was definitely not in the plan at the time.
“I actually never drank beer until I met my wife,” Jeremy said.
Fatefully, Kristen’s aunt sent a winemaking kit years before. The next Christmas, the couple moved from winemaking to beer brewing and their hobby just kept growing.
As Jeremy neared the end of his career and began to prepare to transition to civilian life, the couple knew they needed a plan. Their beer-making hobby was blossoming and the couple joked that maybe they should start a brewery. Their jokes soon turned into reality.
“It just seemed like a logical thing to do, to open up a brewery, because we both loved home brewing so much,” Kristen said.
With the support of his leadership at 3rd ID, Jeremy took part in an internship at a local brewery coordinated through the Army’s Career Skills Program.
The internship program is designed to offer service members no-cost training in specific industries.
The internship provided Jeremy vital insight into the workings of a brewery. It also helped ease his transition out of the military by providing him the chance to work in a civilian business for the first time in 22 years.
“I was scared to get out and be in the civilian work force again,” Jeremy said. “I felt more secure knowing that the Army had my back.”
Both Kristen and Jeremy took part in Fort Stewart’s Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program. SFL-TAP provides a number of classes to transitioning service members such as a Military Occupational Code Crosswalk to help define and translate military skills, financial planning classes, and resiliency classes.
SFL-TAP also provides workshops to help Soldiers compare their current salary, benefits, and opportunities with those they might be able to attain in the private sector, as well as identify gaps in their military skills that may assist with civilian employment.
Jeremy and Kristen also used their GI Bill benefits to pursue master’s degrees at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management. Kristen earned her master’s in business administration and Jeremy earned his master’s in emerging enterprise entrepreneurism.
Using the knowledge gained from the internship, SFL-TAP, and from their GI Bill-funded degrees, the couple came up with a plan. They purchased brewing equipment, found a spot in their town, and opened their doors.
Although their military service is complete, the couple said that the values they learned in the Army continue to play a huge role in their lives.
For Jeremy, the Army mantra of “never quit” is a cornerstone of his business outlook. No matter the challenge, Jeremy said the Army taught him to continue to push forward and overcome obstacles.
“Coming from the Army Values standpoint, I consider myself a Soldier for life,” Jeremy said.
For Kristen, military service provided a mindset that she continues to use in civilian life.
“I think that being in the military, you have a different perspective on things,” Kristen said. “I feel like we are able to operate efficiently and effectively, get the job done better, be a little more efficient.”
Since their opening, Kristen and Jeremy said the coastal Georgia community, including a large number of local veterans, have embraced their business.
“Community support has been amazing,” Jeremy said.
Although Fort Stewart Soldiers are currently unable to frequent the brewery due to COVID-19 restrictions, Jeremy is excited to see them when the restrictions lift.
While still new to the world of business ownership, Jeremy has advice for other Soldiers looking to start their own business.
“Do not be the one who always talks first. Sit back and listen,” Jeremy said. “No matter how good you are at something, there is someone out there that knows how to do it a better way. Learn to be humble.”
He also encouraged transitioning service members to find their niche.
“Find your passion and give everything you can to make that passion or dream a reality,” Jeremy said.
Finally, Jeremy said Soldiers need to understand that there is life outside of the uniform.
“You are a Soldier, but there is more,” he said. “Slow things down when at home. Pick up a hobby and become passionate about it. A hobby can be what gets you through even the toughest deployment.”
The couple sees big things for their brewery in the coming years, but said that Midway and the Fort Stewart area will always be its home.
Soldiers preparing to transition to civilian life can find additional SFL-TAP services here or at a local SFL-TAP office.