Patience

I just had lunch with a friend and colleague who is currently on terminal leave.  He has climbed out of the cockpit for the last time and now he is knee deep in the job hunt.

We had a great conversation about the highs and lows of transition, and it brought out one aspect of the journey from being a uniformed killer to a suit-wearing civilian: it takes time.  Lots and lots of time.  And, to reach a happy destination at the end of that journey, it requires patience.

Lots and lots of patience.

Patience to work through the Veterans Administration’s bureaucracy for things like the GI Bill, medical examinations, and the excruciatingly long disability claims process.

Patience to find out what you want to do with the rest of your life.  Once you take your uniform cap off for the last time something happens to your brain, and suddenly the things that you thought would be easy (like getting a sweet job, going back to college, moving back home) are dauntingly hard.

So this is a quick post on the importance of patience.  Even though the trials and tribulations of your transition are unique to you, there are tens of thousands of people just like you going through the same thing.  Those who are the most successful are those who are patient.

A smart person once said that with patience comes wisdom, and that person was right.  A certain way to be unhappy is to jump on the first job that comes your way, because it most likely is not what you really want to do.  Following the quick and easy path to a college or school with a dubious reputation will result in your GI Bill benefits being flushed down the proverbial toilet because once they are gone you can never get them back and use them at a more reputable university that takes a little work to get into.

Patience is a virtue, even though it is very painful at times.  So stick it out, hold to your goals and dreams, and keep moving towards them.  Don’t give up and take the easier path — you’ll regret it later.

Trust me.

Early retirement from the Marine Corps — are you eligible?

As the fiscal belt gets tightened and the end strength of the armed forces shrinks, the services are using force-shaping tools get in line with the post-war realities of a smaller military.  The Marine Corps recently announced an opportunity for career non-commissioned officers is certain Military Occupational Specialties to retire with less than 20 years of service.

The Corps’s announcement of the Enlisted Temporary Early Retirement Authority, or TERA, is one of the many different measures will be used to help those in uniform transition back to the civilian world with a reduced pension and other benefits, which is not a bad deal at all considering that not too long ago the services were using Reductions in Force — RIFs — to essentially lay off (read: fire) “excess” personnel.

The offer is limited to some specific job areas, so if you are not in one of the listed MOS’s then you are out of luck.  This time, that is.  There will certainly be more programs announced as the need to shrink the force becomes more pronounced.

Here is an extract that lists those eligible from the Marine Administrative Message (MARADMIN) that announces the program:

ALL ACTIVE COMPONENT MARINE STAFF SERGEANTS (E6) IN THE FOLLOWING MILITARY OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTIES ARE ELIGIBLE: 0369, 0481, 0619, 0629, 1361, 2146, 2311, 2862, 5524, 6074, 6112, 6122, 6152, 6172, 6174, 6212, 6252, 6322, AND 6469.  ALL ACTIVE COMPONENT MARINE GUNNERY SERGEANTS (E7) IN THE FOLLOWING MILITARY OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTIES ARE ELIGIBLE: 0161, 6112, 6152, 6172, AND 6322.  ADDITIONALLY, ALL MARINE STAFF SERGEANTS (E6) WHO HAVE FAILED SELECTION FOR PROMOTION TO E7 AT LEAST ONE TIME ARE ELIGIBLE TO APPLY.  MARINES WHO REQUESTED NON-CONSIDERATION FOR PROMOTION ARE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR TERA.

Progams like this one were very common about 20 years ago as the entire Department of Defense reduced the endstrength of all four services as a “benefit” from the end of the cold war.  The so-called “Peace Dividend” required steep cuts across the board, and all of the services employed TERA as well as other programs to soften the blow for those who had to get out.

For what it is worth, these programs won’t last forever, and if you are thinking about getting out then this may be a way to do so and still keep some retirement benefits.  It certainly provides some food for thought.

If you would like to read the MARADMIN in its entirety, click here.

40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World

This has nothing at all to do with military transition, but I have always been interested in cartography and these are some of the coolest interpretations of data in map form that I have seen…take a look!

TwistedSifter

 

If you’re a visual learner like myself, then you know maps, charts and infographics can really help bring data and information to life. Maps can make a point resonate with readers and this collection aims to do just that.

Hopefully some of these maps will surprise you and you’ll learn something new. A few are important to know, some interpret and display data in a beautiful or creative way, and a few may even make you chuckle or shake your head.

If you enjoy this collection of maps, the Sifter highly recommends the r/MapPorn sub reddit. You should also check out ChartsBin.com. There were also fantastic posts on Business Insider and Bored Panda earlier this year that are worth checking out. Enjoy!

 

1. Where Google Street View is Available

map-of-the-world-where-google-street-view-is-available

Map by Google

 

 

2. Countries That Do Not Use the Metric System

map-of-countires-that-use-metric-system-vs-imperial

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Another “plan” to reduce retired veteran benefits

I wrote about not long ago about the government’s strong desire to reduce the health insurance benefit for military retirees.  The subject has reared its ugly head again with a renewed attack on retirees who are enrolled in TRICARE, the health care system for military members, their families, and retirees.

As reported in the Marine Corps Times yesterday (you can read the whole article here), Chuck Hagel, the Secretary of Defense, proposed that “working age” retirees should not be able to utilize TRICARE as their primary health care system but instead should be required to use their employer’s plan instead.  TRICARE would only be used as a secondary or backup plan.

Although the proposal is a long way from being written into legislation, it is a strong indicator that veterans are choice targets in the DOD’s battle of the budget.  Should it become law, though, it will be a significant blow to the 1.6 million veteran retirees who are currently enrolled in TRICARE but have not yet reached age 65.

Interestingly, the issue is one that impacts the Department of Defense and not the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is why the SecDef is pushing for the change.  Most benefits for veterans are covered by the VA, but in the case of retirees it is the DOD that pays the bills.  A retiree’s pension comes from the same place that it did when he or she was still in uniform: the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.  TRICARE, the military and retiree health plan, is also covered by the DOD’s budget.

And Chuck Hagel doesn’t like that very much.

The DOD continues to bang the drum of readiness, and as happens at the end of every war the organization focuses inwards to guard as much of the fiscal pie as possible from those who demand that the post-war military machine shrink in response to the wars no longer being fought.

I find that to be as normal as dawn follows darkness, but I also find the scapegoating of retirees to be a bit insulting.  It is OK for the military to squander $34 million on a useless headquarters in Afghanistan that the military commanders on the ground didn’t even want, but it is not OK for the Department of Defense to honor its commitment to those who dedicate decades of their lives to the defense of the nation.  Instead of conducting a thorough and critical review of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent (and often squandered) on defense equipment and service contracts Hagel finds it easier to go after those who actually went into harm’s way than the connected and powerful  who never left the comfort of their own living rooms.

It is an example of the oddly twisted thinking that pervades governmental agencies, and in my opinion it is just as hypocritical as the administration pushing to subsidize healthcare costs for members of congress and their staffs while ignoring small business’s pleas for relief from the costly requirements.

Anyhow, if having my promised access to health care is cut as an expedient to allow the DOD to keep squandering the taxpayer’s dollar, then so be it.

All I ask is for every military recruiter from every branch of service to explain to every prospective recruit and officer candidate that the benefits that they are being promised in exchange for the opportunity to risk their lives are not really promises.

They’re just part of the honorless practice of bait and switch.  I had always thought that we, as a nation, were better than that.

Sadly, I guess not.

The things you don’t expect: life out of uniform is not as easy as you might think!

This morning I literally ran into a friend of mine as I was out pounding the pavement on my daily jog.  He was returning from his morning run and I was just heading out on mine, so we stopped for a few minutes and catch up on things.

We chatted about this and that, and before long we were comparing life in uniform to life after you hang your uniform up.  In addition to the obvious differences, like being able to sleep late, grow your hair, and go for a run without wearing an obnoxiously annoying reflective belt, there are some that become apparent only when you need to get something done.

One of the tremendous strengths of the military is that many of the mundane, yet annoying, aspects of life are taken care of for you.  Things like food (which sits waiting for you to start eating at chowhalls on every base) and clothes (with uniforms being issued and a clothing allowance to help defray the cost to replace them) and administration (with clerks waiting to solve any problems you may have with your pay and allowances).  These things are taken care of so that warfighters can devote their time and efforts on the mission of preparing for and fighting our nation’s battles and winning our country’s wars.

Not so much in the civilian world.  Those things get done by one person.

You.

Although it may seem obvious that you will need to take care of all of these things (and more) yourself, it is not so simple.  What I was not really prepared for was the amount of time that I had to dedicate to taking care of all of those mundane little ankle biting tasks that civilians have been dealing with their whole lives.  Where before things like pay problems and meals seemed to take care of themselves I now found myself spending hours at the bank and the grocery store because otherwise my family and I would be broke and hungry.  Suddenly there was nobody around to deal with those things but me.

Civilians are used to it.  They cook their own meals because there are no chowhalls in suburbia.  They go shopping and buy their own clothes, which can be quite daunting when you consider that military folks have been wearing the same shoes and combat boots and dress uniforms for decades. When they have a problem with their paychecks or vacation days they get to go deal with it themselves because there is no First Sergeant or Sergeant Major or Chief Petty Officer hanging around the office to deal with such matters.

One of the things that comes with hanging up your uniform is freedom.  Freedom from people in different uniforms (or no uniforms at all) shooting at you as well as from people in your own uniform yelling at you and waking you up in the middle of the night.  With that freedom, however, comes responsibility for yourself in a way that has not been a critical part of your life since you first swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Now you have to do all of those little annoying ankle-biting things that everybody else in the civilian world does.  And let me tell you, it takes some getting used to because everything takes a lot longer than you think it should and there is nobody there to tell you the right or wrong way to do things.  Just like you once learned how to become a successful Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine you must now learn how to become a successful civilian.

This time, though, you don’ t have a Drill Instructor “mentoring” you along.  You also don’t have a platoon of bald and nervous friends learning the ropes with you.  This time you get to figure it all out on your own.  But, all things considered, it isn’t bad.  It’s just a little surprising.

And really annoying.

Good luck!