It’s another hot day in Iraq and we’re continuing our sweep of another derelict city. We’re on the second story of a building that looks just like all the other empty buildings we’ve swept over the last week but we can’t let down our guard just in case this is one of the two or three rooms a week that isn’t empty. My squad I are lined up against the wall adjacent to the door single file. One hand on the weapon, one hand on the shoulder of the soldier in front of me. I feel a tap on my shoulder and I tap the shoulder in front of me. I’m ready. The point man kicks open the door and like a flood of camouflage and battle cries we pour into the room,covering all angles – left, right, up, down. It’s an empty room with a table covered in wires and circuit boards in the middle. We’re close but we’re not there yet. Reset. Next door.
This is a regular day on patrol during deployment. This is what I know – what I’ve been trained for. This is what I’m good at. Now I’m back from deployment, my second term is coming to an end and I feel it’s time to take my life in another direction. I’ve got a family to support and I feel like there isn’t much call for professional infiltrators in the American job market. I’m a smart young man but ever since I graduated high school I’ve been a rifleman and that’s about it. Where do I go from here?
The lessons I learned through the military really helped me through it. There are three qualities that were instilled in me that were especially helpful:
Determination to help me push through when it seemed helpless. I never gave up the job search or faltered in my steps toward becoming a successful civilian.
Discipline to stay on task and get it done in an efficient and timely matter. Just like combat or even PT, you keep going till it’s done, no matter what.
Self-Awareness to know myself, my skills and my limitations. I was able to properly apply myself in an effective manner to avoid wasting my time and energy on dead ends or lost causes.
I also found out that I was wrong about their not being any call for my expertise in the American work force. Anybody who got beyond the paygrade of E-3 has management experience and is perfectly qualified to lead. Police officers and security guards require some of the skills that I developed in my time in the military including strict discipline, weapons handling and how to diffuse potentially violent situations. These are noble professions that are a great next step to take after you exit the military since your time in the military often counts as a form of job experience!
The best resource I found was the Tip of the Arrow Foundation.They were the first organization dedicated entirely to military women and men like me who are looking to enter the job market but have known only the military and thus have little or no civilian work experience. They have volunteers standing by to help any military person who will have them and these folks are good at what they do. These professional job-getters help through every step, from creating a resume to interview preparation to helping you keep your job. This is my number one suggestion for any person in a similar situation to my own.
John is an Operation Freedom War veteran and a manager for Airsplat, the nation’s largest retailer of Airsoft Guns including Spring Airsoft Rifles.