WHO WE ARE
Meet Founder and Chairman, Nicholas Pinero
Nicholas Pinero served in the U.S. Navy as a Damage Controlman Second Class Petty Officer from 2001 to 2012. His first duty station was aboard the USS Curts (FFG-38) in San Diego, CA. From 2006 to 2009, he served on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), where he was the work center supervisor of the Firemain/Main-Drainage shop. Nick’s final command was with Afloat Training Group (ATG) in Norfolk. While stationed at ATG, he trained sailors aboard ships in the Mid-Atlantic region on firefighting and fire suppression systems and also assessed their training.
After the Navy, Nick worked as an instructor at a merchant marine academy, but he lost his job. Like most veterans, he made the rounds of the career fairs but had to resort to working for a temp agency. While the agency would help pay for certifications required for their positions, their salaries were not commensurate with what Nick could make if he was hired to these positions directly.
Nick had completed the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) certification program while serving in the Navy. In 2015, he was able to use this certification to start his own protective coatings business, Atlantic Coating Inspection. But Nick knew that most of the people with whom he had served were not as fortunate.
In 2017, Nick launched the Gilbert Foundation to make the transition from military to civilian life easier for his fellow veterans. He named the nonprofit after his mentor on the USS Enterprise, Chief Warrant Officer John Gilbert, whose motto, “The right person for the right job” and unwavering support had had such a significant impact on Nick’s own life.
Nick sits on NACE’s workforce development board. He also funds special programs for a Title I school in Charleston, South Carolina, where Nick spent part of his childhood.
Meet Mike Buytas, Secretary
Mike Buytas served in the U.S. Air Force as a Combat Photographer from March 1988 to Dec 2009. His duty stations include Shaw AIFB SC, Taegu AB, Rep. of Korea, Wiesbaden, Germany, RAF Molesworth, UK, Vandenberg AFB, CA, Syracuse, NY and Charleston AFB, SC. While stationed at Vandenberg AFB Mike became aerial qualified and flew many missions aboard UH-I helicopters in support of various rocket and missile test launches. It was here he was selected for the prestigious Military Photojournalism School at Syracuse University. Upon graduating the arduous year long course, he was chosen for Special Duty at the 1st Combat Camera Squadron in Charleston, SC.
During his nearly nine years with the 1st Combat Camera Squadron, Mike deployed to Afghanistan, Bosnia/Herzegovina, three deployments to Iraq and numerous humanitarian deployments including Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. He was the U.S. Army Combat Action Badge and the Bronze Star.
It was at Charleston where Mike became a sought-after trainer and mentor and realized his passion for passing along what he had learned. He developed many training programs and became the 1st Combat Camera Flight Manager, responsible for the training, safety and deployment of more than 40 highly-qualified Combat Cameramen.
When Mike retired, he completed his bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Shortly after, he became an instructor for ReadySC-Boeing project, where he still works today.
Meet Felicia Houston, Treasurer
Felicia has more than 25 years of experience in the non-profit sector. Felicia is currently Chief Financial Officer for Lowcountry Food Bank in Charleston, where she directs the financial and accounting practices of the organization.
Previously, she was Chief Financial Officer for 10 years with East Cooper Meals on Wheels and an accounting adjunct instructor for a local community college. Felicia holds Master’s degrees in both Accounting and Information Systems from the University of Phoenix.
With a goal of helping veterans like her son achieve success, Felicia became a founding board member of the Gilbert Foundation. Together with Nick Pinero and other board members, Felicia will work with the Gilbert Foundation to enrich the lives of those veterans in need of assistance as they transition to civilian life.