What do you miss about being in uniform?

When I hung up my uniform for the last time I realized that a huge and fundamental part of my life had changed.  What I did not appreciate at the time, however, was how much the people that I had served with during my career were in that change.

The military is, in many ways, a closed society.  We go to work on bases that are segregated from the civilian population, and we spend days, weeks, and months on end training and preparing to defend the nation from its enemies.  We deploy away from our homes on ships and airplanes with people just like us in the berthing spaces and seats next to us.  Being in the military is an intense and all encompassing immersive experience.

It begins with the shock of meeting your Drill Instructor or Drill Sergeant or whatever your service calls the steely eyed killer who breaks you of all of your nasty civilian habits and transforms you into a Marine, Sailor, Soldier, or Airman.  It continues as you go through training to learn your military craft, and the bonds between you and your compatriots is cemented when you show up to your first operational unit.

It continues as long as you wear the uniform.  Whether you stay in for three years or thirty, you experience a shift in your soul by wearing the cloth of the nation.  You become a critical part of a team, and live your life with people who would willingly die or kill for you — and you would willingly do the same for them.  It is an incredibly powerful experience that suddenly comes to a shocking end when you get out.

One of the questions that I ask in the military transition survey (if you have not taken it yet, please follow this link and help me gather more data: Military Transition Survey) is what you miss the most about serving in the military.

What do you think the most common answers are?  Cool training?  Seeing new and exciting things?  The pay and benefits?

Nope.

The two most common answers by a wide margin are these:

Feeling of camaraderie with my fellow servicemembers

and

The people you served with

After spending a lot of time personally reflecting about my service, the people that I have met, the places I have gone, and the things that I have done, the thing that I personally miss the most about my time in uniform is the same.  I miss the people that I served with.  All of them.  Even the ones that I didn’t like very much, because at the end of the day they were still on my team and ready to fight by my side.

Relationships are powerful, and they are probably the one thing that you can take with you when you leave the service.  So if you are on the way out, make sure to get some email addresses and phone numbers of those you want to keep in touch with.  Find a veterans organization that you like and spend some time there.  Departing the military will drill a hole into your soul, and it is a hole that only those who have served can really help fill.  So don’t wait until it is too late, and reach out to your friends before it is too late and, like your last day in uniform, they are behind you.

Some preliminary results

Thanks to all of you who have read my posts about the transition survey that I using to conduct some research into the military transition process.   A lot of you have helped me out, and I truly appreciate your time in taking the survey and for sharing it with others who can help.

That said, I can never get enough data.  If you are a veteran or a military person going through transition, please take my survey here: Military Transition Survey .  Thanks!

So far the data are showing some interesting trends.  The Marine Corps is the best represented so far, so for those of you in other branches here is your chance to catch up and beat the Marines….

About half of the respondents are combat veterans, and veterans from every conflict since the Korean War have taken the survey.  My first look at the data shows that there are many more programs available today than were out there for earlier generations of veterans, with many of our Vietnam, Korean, and Cold War veterans responding that they had no formal outprocessing resources.

More recent veterans report that there are a lot of different programs currently available, and that they produce a wide disparity in results.  Some are reported to be great, and others are reported to be useless.  I am looking forward to diving more deeply into the data to learn more.

The split between veterans who did and did not serve in active combat is about even, as is the ratio between enlisted and commissioned respondents.  Very few warrant officers have weighed in, though — so if you are a warrant officer, please jump in!

I will start analyzing the information in greater depth next week, and I’ll keep you posted.  Till then, keep sharing the link and get as many of your peers and friends as you can to take the survey.

Thanks!