So you have taken the plunge and let the world know that you are moving on. Now what? Unlike pretty much every aspect of military life there is nobody grabbing you by the noggin and telling you what to do. So it is time for a little adventure learning, some sleuthing, and a seeking out the advice of those who have either gone before or are transitioning now.
I’ll start with the adventure learning part. For my entire career people have told me what to do, and in doing what they said I learned a great deal. As I got older and higher in rank the telling softened from short pithy phrases like “WHAT THE F*%#$^! DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING??” to more more genteel greetings with “Sir” on both ends of the sentence, like a “Sir” sandwich.
“Sir, would you like me to bring the HMMWV around front, sir?”
“Sir, would you like some broccoli with your unidentifiable brown meatlike substance, sir?”
“Sir, everyone is at the table…can we start the meeting now, sir?”
(For what it’s worth, Marines come by the “sir” sandwich honestly. When I was a teenaged and petrified recruit my Senior Drill Instructor sweetly informed me that “the first and last words out of my filthy sewer would be SIR!”, just like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from the movie Full Metal Jacket.)
I far prefer the latter to the former, but as I am now transitioning I generally get neither. I do get the polite “Can I help you?” with an occasional “Sir” thrown in for effect, but nothing reminiscint of my carnivorous days in the pack. Now it is the pedantic pabalum familiar to the herd. So it goes.
Back to adventure learning. I quickly ascertained that being a rank-conscious martinet would make my transition both painful and annoying, so I opted for the more low-key approace, which suits me and my personality just fine. I wandered around various administrative sections and asked what I needed to do to retire.
“Excuse me Marine, but could you tell me what I need to do to initiate my retirement paperwork?”
After the Marine gave me the blankest stare I have seen since I asked my ten year old where the empty candy wrappers in his pockets came from, I asked to see his boss.
A motivated noncommissioned officer came up, and sure enough, he didn’t know either, but he knew who did. I talked to his boss (by now I had made it to the Warrant Officer ranks- the experts in their fields) and he pointed me to just the guy I needed to talk to.
A retired Marine who was in charge of outprocessing Marines who retiring. Who would have thunk it?
So, armed with the who, I set out to find the where; where he works and when I can meet him. Employing my best Sherlock Holmes impersonation, I employed my digital Watson (aka my tired, slow, yet generally functioning work computer) for some help. After a few emails zorched across the cloud, I had what I needed- an appointment!
Off I went to a decrepit old concrete building with a lot of civilians and a few Marines attentively working on whatever they were working on. I met the transition guy, who was absolutely great! He asked for my social security number (the Holy Grail for identity thieves, but the single most important number to a military type because every aspect of his or her life is pinned to it) and entered it into his computer.
Lo and behold, he pulled up all the information I needed to start the process! Happy day!
Until he told me I couldn’t retire yet. D’oh! More on that in the next post…and how I should have spent more time seeking out the advice of others before I arrived at his desk…