A common expression among veterans: “I wish I would have known…”
It is difficult to know where to start, but in the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I considered writing this blog for years before my separation from the Air Force. Though my journey after getting out was fairly typical, I nonetheless feel a strong urge to relay my experiences and those of others. With this blog I hope to help veterans and service members by relaying professional insights gleaned throughout the transition from active duty into the professional civilian world and beyond.
Accordingly, I present to you “The Post-Military Professional: Reflections on Reintegration and Private-Sector Leadership Principles for Veterans,” or for short, “The Post-Military Professional.”
When I instructed at USAF Basic Military Training, I gave a lecture to all of my trainees before their graduation ceremonies which featured five main concepts. I did so because I had either made mistakes myself or had witnessed others falter, and I wanted to encourage the next generation to avoid learning the hard way. I would like to share those five guiding principles with you, as they are the foundation of this blog. I contend that everyone from newly-graduated enlistees to private-sector senior business executives would benefit from adopting these mantras (or relevant variations thereof):
- ”Live with integrity.” Do the right thing, even when no one is watching. When in doubt ask yourself, “Would I want my children to know about/emulate what I’m doing? My parents? My religious leader?” Our society on the whole, in my opinion, is facing a catastrophic shortage of integrity.
- ”Keep up with your PT.” You are in shape now, fit to fight. Maintain it or strive to achieve new levels. Going in the opposite direction will not help you. Respect your body, and you will be healthier and live longer. This includes being aware of mental health concerns in yourself and others. Have the courage to ask your wingmen up and down the chain, “Are you all right?” Oh, and don’t forget — hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
- ”Use your educational benefits.” We are talking about increasing your professional marketability and earning potential for free. In fact, in most cases you will get paid to further your education. There are hundreds of state and federal benefits, grants, and programs for vets. You have earned them all, so take full advantage.
- ”Do not get married in tech school.” The tech school portion obviously does not apply to you anymore, but the underlying concept does: Be cautious with your heart. Be patient. Be picky. Do not become a statistic. And remember, the key to happiness and fulfilling relationships with others is to first love oneself.
- ”Do not buy a car with your first paycheck.” The easiest way to turn $60k into $30k is to buy a new car and drive it off the lot. I was always astounded by how many SNCOs had extremely expensive cars, boats, and houses, but they were still living paycheck to paycheck. Get your financial life in order — it’s tough out there.
There you have it; the Post-Military Professional in a nutshell: a resource for veterans in and out of service with primary focus on the transition to civilian life. Areas of interest include professional and career development, veteran benefits, health and wellness, financial management, and living a virtuous life.
If you are interested, I invite you to follow along and share with your friends. Comments and discussion are welcome. Have an idea for a subject you’d like to see the Post-Military Professional cover? Share in the comments section below.