A chance to improve the military to civilian transition process

As those who follow my writings about military transition know, the process is often contrary, capricious, confusing, and supremely frustrating.  I have been writing about my experiences for nearly two years now, and over that time I have been disappointed to see that the process has not really improved.  Transition is still just as consternating as ever, despite millions of dollars spent on the process by both the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.

I am currently writing a book about my transitional journey, and that is where you come into the picture.  I have created a survey in which I am humbly asking every veteran and every military person who is going through transition or has completed transition to participate.  I have my own observations and opinions, but as author Eric Herzel once said: “One’s opinion should only be as strong as one’s knowledge on the matter.”

Since I am planning to write much more about transition, I really need to incorporate the collective knowledge of as many of you who have experienced transition in order to make my opinions as fact-based as possible.  Will you help?

Without further ado, here is:

Military Transition  Survey

Thank you in advance — and I will be posting the insights and results soon!


13 responses to “A chance to improve the military to civilian transition process

  1. Mike,
    I was the Transition Supervisor at Camp Pendleton for 20 years – retiring last September. I am pending a 10 day trip first of May and back surgery in two to three months. I am glad to answer most direct questions and willing to meet with you, should you desire. I too feel there is vast room for improvement – it begins with the Marine Corps culture and attitude towards those who faithfully served when they decide to leave active duty.
    Just planting a seed – but what do you think of “CALM” – Career and Lifecycle Management? – where the transition out begins with the recruiter or OSO informing the individual they will be preparing for their exit from the military beginning at bootcamp (lifecycle = bootcamp to boot hill) requiring achievable benchmarks throughout their career? This should not be an end of career event – it should be a process that is ingrained into Marine Corps ethos as much as rifle qualification or dental readiness.
    I’ll stop there.
    Semper Fidelis

  2. Mike, I am Tim Murphy, Maj. USMC Retired, long time member of the Marine Executive Assn Board and currently ExecDir. The recently introduced TAP replacement does not help a Marine get a job. One and a half hours on networking and 7.5 hours on filing for a Gov job, doesn’t compute. Most Marines start late. Should be a one year thought process taking stock of knowledge, skills and abilities and how to offer them to an employer. Thanks, I look forward to the book. Semper Fi,

    • Hi Tim,
      I have spoken with hundreds of veterans, if not thousands, and one of the themes that is very consistent is their disappointment with the transition assistance and education process. That was why I started this blog in the first place. I am a reasonably smart guy and transition for me was startlingly more difficult than I had anticipated, and my experiences coupled with the stories that others share with me compelled me to dig deeper into the subject. Thanks for taking the survey, and I’ll be writing about the results soon.
      Thanks for all of your great work at the MEA!

  3. Mike,
    I retired last year and discovered that there was alot of “hype” about how effective the transition courses are. Much to my dismay I discovered the hype to be more propoganda than anything else. The translation of skill sets to civilian employment remains an ardurous task. After educationg myself through trial and error, I chose my current position to attempt to make an impact and change some of the misinformation I recieved. Even the higher leadership can stand to get more engaged with the transitioning service members instead of just scheduling a course, presenting documents, and then a shake of the hand and you’re off!. I look forward to reading your material. Please let me know if I can be of assistance in any way. Semper Fidelis!

    • Hi Jason,
      Your comments are right on with those that I have heard as well as my experience. The transition from a way of life to a civilian career is much more challenging than most people realize, and I would very much like to make the whole process better if I can. The best way you can help is to pass the survey along so that I can gather more data to help me present the most factual case that I can. Your comments about the involvement of leadership in transition is a great one, too. Leadership from above should not stop with your decision to leave the military.

  4. Mike, if you have not already seen our site, I encourage you to do so and share it with others, especially through your conversations, your writings, etc. Launched in 2012, it includes interviews with those who have transitioned, experts working with that community, all intended to supplement the minimal information provided through most TAP/ETAP programs. http://www.seniormilitaryintransition.com

    I agree that the transition training, especially for senior military leaders, leaves much to be desired. For this reason, I have co-created and am co-teaching the Military Officers’ Association new Military Executives in Transition workshop. The next one will be held in May 2013 in Alexandria, VA.

    I hope you find this information helpful and I look forward to connecting with you via LinkedIn.

    All best,

    Vera Steiner Blore

    • Thanks, Vera!
      This is the first I have heard of your site, but will check it out. Thanks, and I will pass the word! Please do the same with my survey. It has provided some great insights so far but I could really use more data points.

  5. Mike,

    I just finished your survey and I was very impressed with its thoroughness. I was recently medically retired from the Army and despite having an MBA, I am still having issues finding gainful employment. The transition classes and instructors do not want to slow down and help Soldiers and Veterans alike actually learn how to translate their skills. They think it should just – poof – come to us! Well, it doesn’t! My MBA is in Marketing, so you would even think that I would have an advantage in this area and while I do understand the importance of building one’s personal brand, actually doing it in a way to sell it is a totally different scenario. Employers in today’s market simply do not seem that interested in Veterans, to be honest, despite the hype they put out there and it is frustrating. Yes, we are versatile, with an amazing work ethic, but apparently there is something to us that offers too much of a risk. At least that is the vibe I am getting. At any rate, thank you for starting this campaign, Sir. It is greatly appreciated!


    Tammy Wells

    • Hi Tammy,
      Thank you for your taking the survey and also for sharing your insights. It is really tough to change your way of life and career all at the same time. Does the Army have anything like the Marine Executive Association? It is a networking group that really helps veterans with their job search. If the Army doesn’t, I invite you to take a look at the MEA- they welcome all transitioning military and veterans from every service.
      Also, please forward the survey to anyone you know to whom it would pertain- I really need more input from the Army side of the house!
      Thanks again, and best of luck! It takes time, but you will find your new career.

  6. Mike,

    Good Morning. I have recently completed your serve, and look forward to what you end up with. It is interesting to have read the previous postings. As a retiree, the transition process is good – however, the mindset both engrained by one’s branch, as well as a culture of one’s occupation is potentially just as undermining as the lack of preparation allowed for such a transition by one’s service.

    I also just read the article The Unexotic Underclass, also within LinkedIn. And, feel that there is more to these gap then just failures within the transition process. Occupational training needs to address successful transition into the rest of the world, for the same occupation. Certifications, experiences and even knowledge within the military seems to be shunned upon, as intangible skillsets do not (seem) to sell when competing for jobs against certifications.
    Additionally (a bias option) there is a second disconnect for the individual transitioning by choice and by protocol. After focusing on the tasks at hand until separation (because of groom of not being an individuals, and positions within ranks structures) the success of any transition program becomes lost…
    As an infantry-man, or even combat arms, Marine will find that unless they can get away with dictating what they will or will not do (E8-9), the requirements to continue to perform as their peers (80-90 hours a week) under-minds any potential for effective transitional adjustments. Coupled with the requirements for pending any findings before some programs (VA Rating, prior to Voc Rehab, Medical coverage for service connected without deductible…) this service limitee is going to find it difficult to transition.

    I have since realized there is a reason that (within Marine Corps communities) there are no rank insignias plastered all-over Gunnery Sergeant, or below vehicles- that is retired. The rank at retirement for these individuals does not help, ie becomes another Red Badge of Courage, and or they do not stay within the local military community to compete with senior ranking personnel. I was not commissioned, nor was I a Warrant Officer, but these categories of service members, in particularly Marine Corps and Combat Arms, seem to mirror the same behaviors regardless of rank classifications.

    So long as the services and politician see the military (not the personnel) as tools, no transitions program will be ineffective. So long as the ideas that individuals do not exist; everyone is replaceable; and the mission is prior [in all aspects] the application of this check in box programs (as required prior to separations… TAP/Retirement TAP) the full use of these programs becomes null-in-void. According to the TAP, 2 years is when one should begin the separation process; according to HQ MC, retirement process can be initiated by submitting the retirement application no earlier than 14 months prior to separation date.
    Yet, the service member remains on the Commanders rolls, for training and deployment readiness; and the individual is required to continue to fulfill the requirements for annual, sustainment, seasonal, and operational requirements so long as “he” is on active duty.

    With 365 days in the year, the loss of 104 days to weekends (52 x 2 weekends days), the loss of an average 2 more days per 96s each month (10 federal holidays) the remaining days are undermining the commands ability to complete its training requirements – where does the transitioning service member get the additional time to focus on their transition – days off; federal holidays; in between duties – (these pending veterans are now the command’s outcasts, and they now are assigned the bulk of these garrison duties, to include the weekends and holidays)?
    My opinions are bias and bitter; however, even if these views are only of the ten percenters, it is ten percent of the services’ increasing downsize efforts.

    Best of luck, I hope that you can make an effective impression with you research.


    • Christopher,
      Thanks for your comments. They are very insightful and make a lot of sense. I am particularly intrigued by your observation that those in uniform are viewed as tools the fulfill a purpose than individual people. I had never thought about military service and transition in those terms, but it resonates.
      Thanks also for taking the survey!

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