Digital Immigrant. Cultural Refugee. Ethnic Exile

Category: Post-military life

Everything pertaining to my time as serviceman before, during and after.

A year after the military

I don’t miss the military life for one second. Ok, maybe I do sometimes. It’s been about a year since I “retired,” and I still have no regrets. I feel I always have to emphasize this point because, as I’ve said before, it isn’t a retirement but rather a transition from being in to NOT being in. The culture shock hit me hard when I realized the same job security didn’t exist in the civilian world. To this day, I still struggle with finding employment. But, it has less to do with my job marketability than it does my desire to “change careers.”

I worked in intelligence for about half my enlistment and aircraft maintenance in the other. While I don’t mind going back to the former, I’m sure as hell in NOT wanting to do the latter. I don’t think I’ve reached that point of desperation . . . yet. I’m thankful for having been a veteran, but they weren’t without conditions I couldn’t help being beholden to. It’s almost as if my situation was a series of double-edged swords.

The military can be a double-edged sword
image from wiki.c2.com

I was fortunate enough to leave the military with some semblance of dignity (and sanity). But then I needed another to better provide for my family. As a veteran, they told me I’d have everything I’d need to find another job in the real world. And, they were right. Multiple organizations have websites, workshops, online communities, and programs aplenty to aid vets like me.

In fact, The U.S. Veterans Affairs paid me to go to school. And that was great, as long as I met the requirements. If I failed or decided school wasn’t for me, I’d lose that pay, most of which I use for all my bills and expenses. And, while I did have other resources to guide me back into employment, their focus was towards the same occupations and positions that drove me to “retire” early in the first place. There’s a reason why the enlisted military is rated as the most stressful job 5 years running, and for obvious reasons, I’m not privy to go walking that same path to burnout.

Perhaps I’m too presumptuous in my decisions. Maybe my outlook on this need not be as grim as I’m making it to be. Should I bite the bullet and go back to aircraft maintenance? Well, I still get shudders at the thought, so, nope! But, every time I look at my shrinking bank account, my mind starts to shift farther from “nope” to “eh, maybe.”

The next time I get paid to do something, I keep telling myself it’ll be for something I enjoy (hell, I’ll settle for mild contentment at this point). That’s looking like less and less the case, and it worries me. Sometimes, I wonder if I should’ve stayed in the military. Thankfully, I come back to my senses. I believe I’ve mentally and emotionally recovered enough to the point where I can take to task whatever challenges I’m presented with to the best of my ability. But, I’d like to do that with something I like, like what I’m doing right now . . . writing.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing what most “recruitment gurus” suggest NOT to do, and that is rapid fire copies of my resume to any and every online job posting that Linkedin and Facebook think I’m a match for. I’m pretty sure it’s counterproductive and there are better, more efficient ways of approaching the job market (as in the many job fairs I apply to but always chicken out of at the last minute) but perhaps when I get desperate enough (as in my bank account starts dipping to critical, poverty-inducing levels), then I might just go about it in that smarter and less stupid way.

And try not to make this face whenever I land an actual interview.

Am I over military ‘retirement?’

Image from somecards.com

I think I should be by now.

It’s been over a year since I’ve was relieved of duty to the United States Air Force. I’ve been told not to call it a retirement because that implies that I no longer need to work. For a select group of retirees, that is not the case. I had about three months to relax before I found out that my wife was pregnant, which meant I could no longer sit on my ass anymore. I had to go find some work, and until recently, I had trouble finding it.

Was it because I was a veteran? Not according to the latest official numbers. Was it because of my age? Also, not according to current official stats. So why then did I have trouble getting a job? I don’t know, but I can speculate.

After some time and self-reflection, I’ve identified three things that may have contributed to my unemployment:

  • My well-intended but ill-conceived choice to change careers from manager to public relations/journalism/writing
  • My foolish and detrimental aversion towards becoming a manager
  • My misguided and ultimately self-defeating approach to seeking opportunities for employment

Basically…

via GIPHY

Yup, I wanted to be a writer. It’s why I have this blog. But, I wanted to make money from it. Oh silly me.

Now, I’m not knocking it as a career. In fact I’d love to have it as a career. And technically, it’s not off the table. But it is obscured from my view, tucked squarely behind my shelves of parental responsibilities, educational obligations and reality checks.

As for the whole manager bit, well, it’s less of an aversion and more of a reluctance. I can do it. I just won’t if I don’t have to. Call it 10+ years as a glorified baby sitter/secretary/punching bag. Like my ‘retirement,’ I’m kinda over that, but I still get nightmares sometimes.

And how did I self-sabotage my job search? One, by turning a modest but respectable student assistant job here in the local area because . . . I wanted to be a writer instead (see above). And two, getting all dressed up and ready to go to some job fairs only to give in to fear, tuck tail and run.

But, that was until recently.

I need to pay more attention to the full Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab) services the VA offers me because, if I had, I would have taken advantage of the VA Work Study Program waaaaaay earlier. Under this program, I can do what’s called a Non-paid Work Experience initiative where participants (mostly other VA offices, but can include other government agencies) take eligible veterans in and provides them with training and practical job experience. I thought the ‘non-paid’ part meant free labor, which it was, for the employer. But you do get compensation from Voc Rehab, which is technically minimum wage, but it’s better than nothing. But, in my opinion, the best part isn’t the on-the-job training (although that is a huge part), but the network and connections that you develop within that office.

Anyway, better late than never. I’m doing this now. I haven’t yet started so I don’t have a clue as to how successful it is. But perhaps in the coming weeks once I’ve done this awhile, I’ll chime in.

Until then, it’s schoolin’ and changing my kids diapers.

I can’t tell whether he’s happy or gassy.

Military Mondays: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

This is an easy one.

What is really derived from NATO, the phonetic alphabet is used to convey clear and concise messages over telecommunications platforms.  Before the advent of the cel-phone, most verbal commands or inquiries had to be requested over a walkie-talkie.  You remember those right?

I get the talkie part, but why the walkie?

Well, hypothetical idiot, they’re mobile telecommunications equipment, which means you can talk while walking.

You know when you pull up in a drive-thru, and both of you have to repeat what you’re saying over and over because of the poor quality?  Well imagine the same scenario, except the speaker is asking for reinforcements while being shot at by the enemy.  Kinda important to get the message clear.

 

And so the phonetic alphabet was taught to all military personnel in order to relay coordinates and reports that are usually in the form of a mish-mash of numbers and letters.  So as to not confuse the receiver (like saying “b” but the guy hears “v”), the letter is said using the phonetic alphabet (“b” as in Bravo, “v” as in Victor).

And that’s pretty much it.  If you want to know what all the letters are, just refer to the featured image above.  I also recommend checking out Military.com for all your questions about the military.  It’s where I get most of my sources, aside from a couple of outliers and personal experience.

Tune in next week for another Military Mondays feature.

Military Monday-Misconception #1: Not everyone in the Air Force flies.

“Off we go, into the wild blue yonder, flying high, into the sun…”

– Air Force Song

Although the word “airmen” implies flight, not all Air Force personnel fly.  If by fly you mean control a plane, that would be a pilot, or co-pilot (usually the newbie pilot in training).   If you mean riding on a plane while doing their job, that’s aircrew.  For example, those would be your navigators or combat system operators on the officer side, and loadmasters (the guys who pack everything on the plane and, on most cargo aircraft, air-drop everything at the command of the pilot.

More often than not, mission essential personnel are included with the aircrew as well.  They can be aircraft maintenance personnel such as crew chiefs, and even specially trained security forces that provide extra protection while the aircraft is on the ground and in contested or hostile territory.  Then you have your mission support personnel like your financial managers, medical technicians, firefighters, etc.

All airmen play a part in U.S. air power, whether they are up in the air or on the ground.  But yeah, not all of us fly.

Veterans Friday: Introductory post

So, this is where I get serious.

As a former member of the U.S. Armed Forces, I’m honored to have my country as best I could.  Anyone who enlisted, or commissioned, for a significant amount of time and has not incurred any disabilities is either very lucky, or unnecessarily hiding this fact.  For the rest of us, we rely on either the Department of Veteran Affairs, or programs like the Wounded Warrior Project.   We don’t have much control over the funding of, and aid from the VA, but we do have the ability to aid the WWP, and I would like to do my part to promote these programs and educate our greater community as to what they do and how they can help.  I’ll be the first one to admit that, even though I know of these programs, I’m really not that educated about them.  Once I carve out some time in my schedule to do my research, attend sponsored events and meet key figures of these organizations, I will post my reports here.  In the meantime, check out my think-piece on professional burn-out in the military.

 

Thank you for your attention and support.

Training Tuesday: Introductory post

Hello Peter, whats happening? Ummm, I’m gonna need you to go ahead come in tomorrow.  So if you could be here around 9 that would be great, mmmk… oh oh! and I almost forgot ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday too, kay.  We ahh lost some people this week and ah, we sorta need to play catch up.

Bill Lumbergh, Office Space

Almost every U.S. military member (at least Air Force) knows this quote well, along with the face of our featured image stock character above.  Training Day is a chance to catch up on our annual, semi-annual, or whatever time period the powers that be deem we need to refresh our knowledge on X or Y subject matter.  Most of this training takes place in front of a computer called Computer-based-training or CBTs or listening to a “speaker” while he/she plods through a MS-Power Point presentation.  However, I will attempt to do something different and break down each CBT we as service-members took, delve into why we need to do this “training,” and explain how this is important to know, not only as an Armed Forces service member, but an upstanding citizen of your community.  Unlike Military Monday’s content, I don’t have reference material to link to you, but you can take my word or any other Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine out there, we know CBTs and death-by-powerpoint.

So, if you can’t stay awake for next week’s post, (militarisms alert!) you’re going to have to stand in the back.

Militarisms Monday: Introduction post

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: You best unfuck yourself or I will unscrew your head and shit down your NECK!

R. Lee Ermey (R.I.P.) Full Metal Jacket

This will be the first post of a weekly set of topics dedicated to expand upon the sub-cultural elements of the military.  Topics include, but are not limited to

Keep in mind, there are already websites that explain these which you can find here, here and here.  I’ll just (militarisms alert!) piggy-back on what they’ll be saying and use my experiences in the Air Force and put my own spin on it.

GIT SOME!!

P.S. Why is it that no matter which branch of service you’re from, most of us have some sort of masochistic affinity towards Gunnery Sergeant Hartman?  Future post?

Relieved of duty 30 March 2018

Welps, it happened.  I was relieved of duty about a week ago, but I’m not officially out of the United States Air Force until May 1.  But as long as I don’t go doing something stupid like robbing a bank and taking the Tide-Pod challenge, I should be OK to relax.

via GIPHY

So now “I’ve got tons of time now to write my blog,” he says, even though he knows . . . it’s complicated.

Tangent alert!:  One of the most interesting sentences to use when you aren’t fully committed or don’t want to truly commit to anything, is “It’s complicated.  “So are you guys dating, or serious, or what?”

“It’s complicated.”

“So are you gonna be a writer for real now, or are you gonna do something?!!”

via GIPHY

It’s a conditional proclamation that doesn’t have to have the speaker commit to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, all at the unbearable chagrin of the listener.  I know I’ve had to keep myself from punching my screen every time I saw “It’s complicated,” on one’s Facebook relationship status.

That being said, now that I’m “retired,” it makes sense that I’d have the time to write . . . but just because I’m retired, doesn’t mean I’m retired.

I just turned 40 recently.  Most of us in the U.S. don’t retire until about 55-60 years old, typically.  Also, being retired from the military doesn’t mean you’re done working.  Well, I mean you can, but, if only your responsible for yourself and don’t mind living with your parents again.  If not, we still need to work.  I got a wife and future kid to feed.

But I’m gonna find time to write.  I’m doing it right now dammit!  Even if it’s in a self-reflective journal form.  I would like not for this blog to only be self-reflective, but if I got nothing else on my mind, whatevs.  However, I got some shit in my head I need to put in print (digital print, that is).  As of right now, here’s my list of what I want to blog about:

Competitive vs. cooperative behavior (pros/cons of each)

The challenge of not using your friends as characters in your stories

Finding the balance between artistic autonomy and fan-service

Thoughts on…

My other goal is to get more savvy about wordpress and design this website so it looks less like LiveJournal and more like . . . the Balance?

Cool!  Until next time.

via GIPHY

 

Different, or more of the same?

I can’t tell you if “different, or more of the same” is from the Game of Thrones TV show or one of the [A] Song of Ice and Fire books, but it is a line that Jon Snow tells to Daenerys Targaryen when asked whether or not to use her dragons on Kings Landing.  On one hand, she’d end the war quickly, but on the other, she’d risk burning innocent people.  Was she going to be a different ruler, and keep to her word and “break the wheel,” or was she going to be a replacement to Cersei Lannister, and by association, the Mad King?  Am I actually committing towards writing as a career, or is this another phase of mine?

Before I can properly answer this question, I’ll need to address some important issues.  One, I am no longer that fresh-faced 15-year old that thought he could write a story based on who of his friends were Samurai Showdown characters.  I am also no longer that overly self-conscious 23-year old who couldn’t get past his writer’s block, due to the fact that, he was overly self-conscious.  I am now a world-weary but idealistic 40-year old who served 16 years in the U.S. Air Force, and is ready to make a transition back to the civilian world.  Has military life made me a cynic?  If so, then I do still have what it takes to write?  Maybe it’s no longer so much about writing an epic fantasy novel like I wanted to years ago.  Perhaps I just want to get paid to put words on paper.  It’s that push-pull of my dreamer side and my pragmatist side that seems to distract me towards reaching my goals, writing or otherwise.  It is when I can control all that madness inside my head that I am able to focus all of it into letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and eventually, essays or stories.

The last thing Queen Olenna Tyrell said to Dany was, “you’re a dragon, be a dragon.”  Let’s keep this comparison going by telling me, “you’re a writer, be a writer.”

Almost at the end

In roughly two months, I’ll be retired from the United States Air Force.  I actually learned about it earlier but I didn’t want to write about it until now.  In fact, I would like to make it my new career.

But then I wonder, what makes now different from before.  Will I actually stick to it this time?  I’d like to think I’ve grown up enough to distinguish between a passion and a phase.  To be honest, I’m still not so sure.  All I can hope for is a continued desire to write about anything and everything up to this point.  My only goal at the moment is write something, anything, whether it’s undeveloped plots, half-baked characters, quotes of the day that I like, stream of consciousness rambles, or just what happened that day.

In about 51 days (not that I’m counting), I’ll leave the insane but secure life that is the military and embark on something that is possibly even more insane, but less secure…civilian life.

Here’s to fucking up, and getting better at it every step of the way.

 

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