Posts Tagged ‘retirement’

I have just under three weeks left of my transition leave before I wake up a civilian for the first time in over 20 years.  So far, the transition from soldier to civilian has been pretty easy; I have been so busy that I have not had a whole lot of time to wallow in what is soon to be my past life.  I was very fortunate to land not one, but two jobs and have been putting in the hours ever since.

There are many detractors and naysayers about what the Army provides transitioning service members, but I am not one of them.  I thought that all along the way, there were things that I needed to do, that I was provided a rough outline to accomplish.  Other than a few mandatory checkpoints along the way, I was able to pick and choose when and what I would follow.  Even if there was something I chose not to do, I at least gave it a once over in case I needed to take advantage of it later.  The one experience I will have to wait on is my VA compensation, that will be a few months into the new year before I get even the tiniest insight as to how that will go.

I managed to pick up a ton of skills over the years and the key to landing my positions was putting it together coherently in my resumes and tailoring them to the positions I was looking at.  There may be a similar thread throughout any one of the resumes I sent out, but they were all organized with the language of the position I was applying for.  I am not so naive as to think that I have found my dream job, with a dream company, but I have entered the field I want to pursue, even though prior to I had no idea that was what I was looking for.  I am enjoying learning the Loss Prevention/Asset Protection discipline and I am coming to realize that it has as many possibilities available as my career in the Army did.  There are so many areas of interest within it that just like my prior career, you get trained for one thing and the next thing you know it is time to look at the next area.  I look forward to moving from novice to journeyman.

A few bits of advice for those looking to start or are in the transition process:

1.  Outside of rare instances, your resume alone will not get you hired.  It will open the door, but it is up to you to walk through it and let them know you  are who they are looking for.

2.  Organize your job searches.  Keep track of who you applied to and when.  Make sure you know which resume you sent to them.  Windows computers provide this neat thing called a file structure, use it to your advantage.

3.  Follow-up any interview with a Thank You letter.  It pays dividends.

4.  A good cover letter attached to your resume will fill in the blanks and add a personal (not too personal) touch.  A resume is a statement of fact, cold, possibly a little embellished, but it is a dry read.  A cover letter adds a sense of YOU to it.

5.  Do not be afraid to ask for a critique or explanation if you are not hired for a job.  Some companies are kind enough to send you a rejection letter without being called in for an interview.  Use this as another opportunity and ask to speak with the HR department.  Explain you are just transitioning, ask for what you could have done differently, then make those adjustments and re-apply; this lets them know you are serious and it answers a few of the questions for them they may have when you score that interview.

6. Do your research before the interview.  Make sure you understand who you are applying to and frame your answers to their questions based on their culture and philosophy.

7.  Dress the part.  Wear a suit and tie.  The right image from the get-go lets them know that you may be coming in low, but you intend to rise to the top.

8.  When applying do not put in salary requirements on the application, especially if they are not advertising a range in the announcement.  Let it work itself out in the interview/hiring process.  I received a couple quick rejections on applications because I was putting salary in, as soon as I stopped putting it in, I received more call-backs.

9.  Do not under-value yourself, but do not value yourself out of a field you want to work in either.  It is a fine line for us service members.  We have tons more management experience than most professional managers in the civilian world, but we are breaking in to fields that are new to us.  Even good managers and interviewers can feel threatened by a potential new hire.  Use your savvy, be aware of your surroundings and who you are taking to, and most importantly how you are talking to them.

10.  Assume the interview began the moment you parked your car and that it does not end until you are well out of sight of the building.  Always present yourself in a professional manner.  To paraphrase my last job “assessment is an everyday event”.  Be relaxed, just not too relaxed, be sure but not cocky, if you do not know an answer, at least make them think you will find it out.  The biggest thing is to leave a great impression and make them wonder where else in the company could your bad-ass self do wonders for them.  Don’t be a one trick pony.

These are just a few things to pass along while my mind is still fresh, and keep in mind these apply to someone who is actively seeking on their own, it is a whole different ballgame if you are being actively recruited for a position.  There are no universal rules for landing a job, but there are a few constants.  The biggest one to remember is that it is all up to you, no one owes you anything and no matter how irreplaceable you were in you last job, you are going to be the FNG in the new one.

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Hail And Farewell

Posted: October 13, 2014 in General
Tags: , , ,

This is a pretty heavy week for me.  21 years after enlisting in the Army I will be retiring.  My ceremony is this Wednesday and I will have a small circle of family with me and as many of my co-workers who are available to share the moment with.  My wife, kids and parents have never been to a ceremony that I have been a part of and I am super excited that they will get to be a part of my very last one.  I will still technically be on active duty until December 31st, but for all intents and purposes October 18th will begin my new life.

The military is steeped in tradition and the retirement ceremony is the last send-off of someone who is culminating one career and ready to move on to the next one.  I am fortunate that the organization I currently work for allows us to be recognized individually for our retirements.  This is not so for most of the rest of the Army.  Generally, they do a few retirees at one time so as to maximize the amount of troops that can show up for them.  I remember standing in several formations for retirement ceremonies during my lower enlisted careers for people I did not know, we just happened to be the ceremony company at the time.  While each retiree got our brightest spit-shines, stiffly starched uniforms, and perfectly clean and serviceable kit, it always felt a bit impersonal to me that someone who has put in that much time was not able to share it in the same way I will get to this week.

I have had plenty of time to reflect during my trips between my old home and new one.  Four and a half hours in a car allows for plenty of time for the mind to wander.  As sad as this is for me to bring this chapter to a close, I have to say it has been one awesome ride and I could not ask for a better place to close out my career than where I am right now.  When I started this journey two decades ago I never thought that I would stay in this long, nor did I ever believe I would be able to work where I do and do the things I have done.  I began with the idea of simply making something of myself and getting off the rocky path that I was heading down.  I never dreamed that rocky path would lead me where I was and that I would get to walk it with the best the Army has to offer.

I have made many friends over the years.  Some have drifted away naturally as they left the Army or went on to new duty locations.  Some I have had the privilege of working with for a very long time.  We have served together, worked together, lost comrades together and helped patch each other up in more ways than one over the years.  I have been fortunate to become awesome at my trade because I have been able to work with peers that made me better because they were better than everyone else.  The last 10 years have been spent working alongside true masters of their trade and this has very little to do with our ability to apply martial skills in combat.  That, is just a small part of the job.  I have been able to work with team mates that excel  so well at their own little slice of the pie.  They are innovators, creators and I have been blessed with extremely good fortune to be a part of that and add my own contributions to our successes  This is as close as I will ever come to a “tell-all” and it has nothing to do with the dirty details and secrets of the community.  It is simply about the men and women who have gotten the hard things done and will continue to well in to the future.  They deserve all the respect our country has to offer them and they certainly will have my eternal gratitude.

I have grown over the years, and not just at my waistline.  I have learned the difference between being a hot head and physically acting out, and, evaluating what is around me and responding appropriately.  I became a leader while being surrounded by leaders.  I learned to make decisions and live with the results, and I have learned that sometimes living with those results will be a daily struggle.  I have not grown my shallow pool of empathy but I have learned to simply accept; it may not be for me to understand what someone is going through, that does not mean that they are not going through something.

I have learned to care.  Often people have a media driven image of people in the Special Operations community as uncaring, wanton killers; this could not be further from the truth.  You train to be perfect and to adapt when the plan goes awry, as it always does, but each action has consequences and an infinite number of good or bad outcomes as it plays out.  Those things add up and if you do not care, you will not recognize when someone’s bucket is full and you surely will not recognize it when your own is overflowing and raining down on those around you.

The greatest thing I have learned is to appreciate what I have.  I have great parents who gave me a work ethic and appreciation for life that I was to grown in the Army.  I have a beautiful wife with whom I have shared the extreme ups and downs associated with a man in my chosen profession.  I have some awesome children who have turned out pretty well considering their dad has been part-time for most of their lives.  I have a wonderful new home that I will retire to, people I will stay friends with through the course of my life, men and women who have my undying respect and admiration for what they do on a daily basis and deeds will go relatively unknown.  I also have an open road in front of me to start out on my next adventure, most of which I will travel with those closest to me.

As I close out one volume I begin another.  This blog has served me well to navigate the last several years and I hope it continues as I start anew.  Until the next book begins.

MBW AR

THAN IT IS TO RETIRE FROM IT.  Way back in the day I enlisted in the Army.  It was a relatively simple process that in total took about 48 hours.  First I went to the recruiters office, he took me to Newark MEPS and I did my testing, selected from my measly ration of available MOS’s, raised my right hand and swore an oath for the first time, went home and waited six weeks to get sent off to Fort Sill, OK for basic training.  Prior to leaving for FT Sill, I went back to the MEPS station, got my physical, raised my hand again and said the same oath, signed my name a bunch of times, picked up some meal vouchers for the trip and was whisked away on my first airplane ride.  I still have the 20 or so pages of my original enlistment contract as well as my subsequent re-enlistments.  Overall, pretty simple, not a whole lot I had to do but show up, sign my name a bunch of times, and, begin my love/hate relationship with push-ups and flutter-kicks.

21 years down the road, I have signed my name many more times than was required to get into the Army and I have seen more people and been through more processes than was ever required to become a Private.  I still have much more to go.  I began the process of making copies of my medical file.  This is my detailed accounting of injuries, surgeries and other assorted ailments cataloged during this amazing journey.  My file after 20+ years is small compared to some of my co-workers; I have never been shot, been near explosions but never blown up, had many hard landings in airborne operations but have never had a serious injury, or required any kind of physical rehabilitation due to loss of limb or eyesight. I know many, many folks who have, several of which are still serving today, kicking down doors and providing the good news to those who deserve it.

Over the last several years I have begun to feel the warranty wearing out on many of the parts of this awesome piece of machinery.  The knees have more creaks and pains than they used to, the lower back sometimes spasms to the point of curling my toes, I can’t turn my head all the way to the left without effort or having the shit scared out of me ( I pay for that for the rest of the day when it happens), my hearing is on the wrong side of good and this is without mentioning all the other assorted wear and tear that soldiers put on their bodies just to try and achieve positions in special organizations that do special jobs and have physical requirements not found in the regular ranks.  There is a reason we are able to retire at such an early age, we get worn out and it simply gets harder to do those things you used to.  The mind is willing, but the body says you need to pump the brakes and slow down.

Medical issues are not the only thing addressed during the transition process.  You have to arrange to have your household goods shipped or work the process to ship them yourself.  There are financial things that need to be taken care of; are you owed money or do you owe money to the government?  Do you maintain your healthcare or find it out on the economy (this includes dental as well)?  Do I maintain my life insurance or try to get someone new to put a dollar figure on my existence?  You have to clear your unit as well as the base.  It is not something you have to go through alone, the Army ahs done a pretty good job at putting resources together to help you and guide you, but at the end of the day, unlike when you joined, they will not do it for you.  If you don’t do it and work the system that has been taking from you for all the years you have been in, then it all falls on your shoulders when you do not get what you deserve.

The interesting thing is after all these years is that you sort of grow up within the system (at least those of us who have actually taken charge of their careers anyway).  In the beginning things are taken care of for you, the recruiters get credit for you actually coming in (thinks salesmen), the drill sergeants and all those other people that support basic training and AIT give you the most basic of tools to go forward and then at some point you reach your first duty station and begin drinking from the firehose, turned up full blast.  At the end of the day, as the sun starts to set on your career you have to take the time allotted to you and begin to break away from the system and begin to work the process.  If you do not, you will be out on the street wondering where it all went and carrying a chip on your shoulder heavier than any rucksack you ever carried was.

It has been a long and interesting ride for the last two decades.  This transition process is really no more or less challenging than anything else I have ever done in the Army.  At this point I cannot even say it is less dangerous either, I have not gotten to the end yet and I am sure there is at least one more asshat in the system who is a subject matter expert in their field that I will need to deal with and want to choke the ever loving shit out of because of either their attitude, or, mine even, just like there has been for every day that there has been an Army.  Simple fact of the matter is there is work to be done right up until the day I go on transition leave.  I may be able to take a little bit deeper breaths on a daily basis than I did for many years and the pace has moved more towards marathon than sprint, but it has been a hell of a ride with some awesome people who have given more for their country than the country will ever know they did.  Each day I get a little more done and move myself a little further away and on towards the next adventure.

Today I sit a mere 91 days from taking the big leap into retirement.  After almost 21 years I will hang up my stripes, join my family and close out the longest running chapter of my life.  75 days later I will be added to the retirement rolls for good having used up the remainder of my accumulated leave time.  Hopefully, prior to October 18th I will know what career I have to look forward to and continue to fund this extravagant lifestyle Uncle Sam, and your tax dollars, my family and I have grown accustom to.  In that I kid, many years we scraped by, some years we lived middle class normal from a financial perspective, but many of the costs during those more flush years have come at a price more burdensome than fiscal debt.

The last few weeks or so the anxiety has really started to creep in to my life with so much left to do in order to close out my career.  I have one house that I desperately need to finish fixing up so that I can get it on the market.  I need to complete my physical and medical records review so that I can waited with baited breath for the VA to figure out what I may collect in disability.  I need to finish out whatever meetings and briefing and schedule whatever needs to be scheduled so that I can leave this place when the day comes.  I need to continue to write and tweak resumes and really lay into finding a job that I can work from our new home.  Most of all I need to figure out how to let go.  This and more is just on the current career front.

On the family and personal side there are numerous thoughts, good and bad flashing through my overactive imagination on any given day at any given time.  I have been commuting as often as is practical to see my family for anywhere from a couple days to a week plus over the last two years as they settle in our retirement home.  How are they going to take having me as a permanent resident in their lives after more than a decade of flashing in and out for periods of time?  For that matter how am I going to take it?  That is just as big, if not a bigger change, for me than it is for them; chances are that the thrilling, exciting, potentially life ending reasons I was gone from their lives in the past will not be the case anymore.  That shit is a young man’s game and I am swiftly moving away from being a young man and I will need to seek new things to bring excitement to my life and hopefully a career that is lucrative enough to be able to do so while it keeps me as interested in coming to work each day as the Army has done for me for so long.

I will be moving into an environment that my impact has been made substantially from afar in.  My family has never, ever made me to feel anything but included, even when I was not there, but I must acknowledge that many, many times I simply was not there.  I have a beautiful wife who is finally engaged in a career that she was both educated for and wants to work in.  A teenage son who is close to leaving the nest, either under his own terms and conditions or at the end of a boot sometimes.  A young daughter to whom I am a hero, but has yet to have me home for more than one continuous year in her short life.  All of these wonderful people are currently living in a location I prodded and nudged them to and they embraced wholeheartedly once they got there.  A place I soon will call my home too.

Despite all this I am not afraid.  I will get a new job, there are a couple things that at this point look like they may pan out, even if they are not a next career, but a stepping stone.  We already have a house, the wife has a job, the kids are in school and one of them works.  Clearing the Army will be done in time and to be fair, they have done a very good job at providing resources and some mandatory training to help transition.  There truly is a lot out there if one is willing to put the work in to getting it done.

So why all the anxiety and worry?  Why the jacked up sleep cycle and periodic moments of “what the fuck is going on?”?  I think it is because I am getting ready to shed my skin and change my life for the first time in two decades.  I could probably pick up numerous jobs here locally if I was so inclined, I have a pretty unique and varied skill-set and I know there are quite a few things either already or coming available that I could grab on to.  The problem is I need to break away from it, at least for a little while.  I need some distance in order to be what some very deserving others need me to be.  I need to figure out all these skills and experiences that I have developed and had all these years can be best put to use.  I need to figure out what my real strengths are vice the tools I have gained.  Basically, I need to figure out how the current me becomes the old me and what the new me is going to be and how the best parts of the old me can fit into that without the worst parts coming in and making a complete trash job of it.

For many years now I have been what I consider to be the perpetual “number 2”.  I don’t like being the figurehead.  I like to be behind the scenes, moving the pieces around, getting things done.  I have on many occasions stepped into that number 1 position, but it is not my most comfortable place to be.  I am going to have to get used to taking charge of me in the very near future and making sure that the moves I make benefit me and my family, as well as whoever puts their trust in me as a potential employee.  It is this change that causes me my sleep issues and makes me break out in cold sweats from time to time.  All the rest is a somewhat structured form of chaos that has filled my life in one way or another for the last 20 years.  I will work through them, but as I get closer to making one final jump in my Airborne career I realize, that I am not familiar with the parachute and I do not know how hard the landing is going to be when I finally hit the ground.  Hopefully, after I catch my breath for a day to two I will be off and running to the next adventure.

More discussion on worry and anxiety as new ones creep up over the coming weeks.  I started this forum as a personal way to vent and clear the old brain pan out from time to time.  I think it would be for my betterment if I started using the resource I put in place for myself a little more as the day draws closer.

I celebrated my last Independence Day on active duty this year.  It feels a little weird to throw that out there like that, but for the last 20 plus years I have been privileged to wear the uniform of my country on the birthday of my country.  For the last 19 of those years my wife and I have celebrated our 1 July marriage anniversary in conjunction with the 4th, I think that mostly started because the 4th was the day I had off of work and we knew we could celebrate unabashedly without the need for getting up early the next day.

This year we celebrated in our retirement location, where the family has been settled in for almost two years now.  We did not do our last big blast at Bragg like we have done so many years in the past.  New town puts on a pretty good show, the fireworks were not bad, considering they put absolutely no thought in to where they launched them from, but once the crowd shifted their position and moved forward of the trees that were blocking them, it turned out to be a pretty good display.  I am pretty sure the planners will do a little better next year at sighting them or at least focusing the thousands of people who showed up better prior to their beginning.

At the end of the day though, they just were not Bragg’s fireworks and all the events that go on with the day.  There was no flag ceremony, no cannons firing off, no buzz that you can only find surrounded by your brothers and sisters in arms, and, as much as I may hate to give them credit for it, there were no Golden Knights dropping in for the official kick-off of the festivities.  Despite this, it was a great day out with the family in our new home.

It was the last time we will celebrate with our son as a minor, he will be of age next year and free to be on his own.  We will still have our little girl who loves to get decked out in the red, white and blue and show a level of patriotism that is becoming a rarity these days.  She is swiftly approaching her teen years so I will hold on to that for as long as I can and the red, white and blue are replaced by all black, attitude and hostility.

Next year I will celebrate as a Veteran.  Hopefully, I will still be as enthused as I have always been.  Some of the reason for moving the family out so early was to get them settled and make it as easy as possible for them before I retire and uproot their lives and just turn them upside down.  Another part of the reason was so that I could get used to my new surroundings and slowly wean myself off that machine that has kept us going for so many years.  Maybe, just maybe, make it a little easier when I am going through the withdrawal that happens to everyone who has spent so long in uniform.  I know there are going to be some rough spots as I move further away from the life I have lead for so long, but we made these moves with the idea of sanding down some of those rough edges before they can do any harm.

January 1st I put one life behind me and officially begin another.  I trade one roller coaster for another.  It is a little bittersweet this last year in uniform.  I am leaving at a time that is just as, if not more tumultuous than any other in the last decade plus.  Friends and comrades are still in and will continue to go in to harms way.  Children of those I have served with over the years have reached an age to pick up the mantle and continue the fight we have grown too tired to.

Next year my daughter will finally get the undivided attention of Dad for the first time in her life.  My son will be a man in the eyes of the law.  And, my wife and I will get to celebrate our anniversary on whichever day we choose, simply because we choose to, not because it may be a day off and Uncle Sugar has extended it to me in his benevolence.  I look forward to being a Mister again and seeing things through the eyes of a civilian, or as close to that as is possible knowing the sacrifices that go in to keeping our country and freedoms in tact, whether it seems like they may be or not.  Next year I truly get to be part of the audience rather than a member of the crew putting on the show.