29 July 2014

Why should you go back to school after serving?


If you were given the opportunity to better yourself in order to create a sound future for your family would you say no? Over a lifetime, a college graduate can earn roughly $570,000 more than the average person with a high school diploma. 2010 Census Bureau data shows a master's degree can add $12,000 to $17,000 to a year income over a bachelor's degree, and a PhD $30,000 to $51,000. Are you ready to hit the books?

There will be some challenges that will arise in going back to school. It is a complete change of pace from being in the military, but there is nothing that you can’t handle. You have served the nation and now, it is time to serve yourself. The higher you climb on the educational ladder, the more it pays. What’s even better, because of your service you can get a huge portion, if not all of your education costs covered - thanks to the GI Bill. You are primed to take control of your future and change it for the better.

Lets touch on some of the benefits of going back to school after serving:

Greater Career Flexibility: Education creates career options and opens doors to many different fields. Maybe you already have a degree and you want to get your Master’s, when you advance your education you are increasing future career opportunities. The continuation of your education will continue to develop your skills from the military as well as promote the growth of new ones.

Higher quality of life: It’s undeniable that higher education means higher pay – a no-brainer when you do not have to worry about student loans. Going to school pays off down the line: you will start with a higher base pay. Think of it this way, by pursuing an advanced education you are adding a Ferrari to your lifetime earnings.

Value Education: Going back to school will benefit others too: your family. By returning to school, you are reinforcing a family value of encouraging your children to seek the path of higher education. Make a statement to your family that self-improvement is important.

Help with Transition: Going back to school is a great way to transition back into civilian life. Going back to school gives you the opportunity to improve your career prospects, guarantee higher earnings post graduation, and ease back into civilian life.  What could be better?

Are you ready to continue climbing up the ranks?

Comment below or share advice here and connect within the military community.

28 July 2014

The Homeless Veteran Crisis


One in seven homeless Americans are veterans, and nearly 1.5 million veterans face an imminent risk of becoming homeless. The sheer amount of Americans in dire need of assistance is critical, especially since a very large portion of the national homeless population has served the country in years past.

The top-down nature of the military means that every service member answers to a superior, giving them a purpose and a defined role. What’s more, certain aspects of the military equip soldiers with skills they can apply later in life but other aspects of military life are lost on many civilians. Many soldiers leave service with a positive future ahead, but others are left at a loss without the structure of military life. They leave the service and have limited resources to help them excel in civilian life. For many, the only option is the streets, where they become a mere statistic in a major issue in the United States.  

Many people tend to think of homeless veterans as older men who fought in wars past but that is not the case. The Center for American Progress (CAP) suggests around 30 percent of veterans between the ages of 18 and 24 are unemployed. These are individuals in their foundational years for military and civilian career growth, yet they are stuck on the streets.

Companies are starting to understand the skills veterans offer and supporting veteran hiring initiatives. But many companies during the United States’ wars abroad did not understand how to properly recruit or interact with soldiers looking for domestic jobs. What’s more, the military does very little to prepare soldiers for the job-seeking process. The CAP reports 57 percent of veterans are unsure of how to professionally network as of 2011.  

It is clear Americans and fellow soldiers are concerned about the welfare of these homeless veterans. It would seem that the idea of government assistance is politically splintered but many people, from both sides of the aisle, come together to support the troops who have fallen by the wayside. There are countless resources available to veterans, but most importantly, there is a network of like-minded professionals offering advice and support.

What should we do to end veteran homelessness? How can we better prepare service members for transitioning into civilian life?

Weigh in on the discussion here and connect within the military community.

27 July 2014

July 27: Top 5 Discussions


Service members talk about all kinds of military-related topics, ranging from the latest regulation changes to career advice. Check out this week’s Top 5 Discussions on RallyPoint:

What technology that was supposed to help is actually hurting us?

Weigh in on the discussions and connect within the military community.

26 July 2014

Is There a Place for Affirmative Action in the Military?


Does affirmative action have a place in the US military, ranging from the lowest of entry requirements to the highest levels of leadership?

“...Not only do I believe [affirmative action] is wrong, I believe it is counter to all that the military stands for.” Army Captain 

“...The selection should be on tactical and technical proficiency.  Minority status should not play into it at all.” Marine Sergeant  

“...Done properly, affirmative action won’t undermine combat effectiveness.” Journalist

“...Affirmative action measures would not only be effective, they would be constitutional.” Constitutional Lawyer 

The US military has been an anomaly when it comes to racial integration and affirmative action. Historically, it was the first major American institution to fully integrate, but it has also lagged behind other aspects of society in terms of equal representation in leadership. Although desegregation was gaining momentum after WWII, President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981 fully integrated the US military. Due to the order’s timing with the Korean War, the War in Vietnam was the first US conflict to field fully integrated units, and the results were not good.  Racism and prejudice abounded, and unit cohesiveness was poor in many regions.

The 1980s saw great changes in the military as racial tensions wore down. Women became a significant part of the establishment, rising from just one percent of the ranks in the 1960s to ten percent by 2009. Other minority groups also grew in numbers and shaped the modern American military. These changes in the structure of the military have ushered in the question of affirmative action with regards to senior enlisted and senior officer positions.

Many of those in the military argue for a strict meritocracy, where one’s advance in rank is dictated by his or her skill in leadership and in the field, regardless of ethnicity or gender. Others argue that the number of white males in military leadership leads to a poor understanding of the military as a whole. Certain groups are said to be marginalized. For example, consider the sexual assault scandals and many victims’ common complaint that they don’t feel comfortable approaching superior officers. 

There is a hot debate unfolding in and out of the military as qualifications are changed to accommodate women like for the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course, or complaints highlight the lack of diverse leadership in the upper ranks.  

Does the leadership in the military lack diversity? Have you noticed an increase in promotions to those who wouldn’t normally qualify, aside from the fact they are in an underrepresented group within the service?      

Weigh in on the discussion here and connect within the military community.

25 July 2014

The Marines Defend Their Women

SSG V. Michelle Woods, US Army:

I asked a former female Marine if she had experienced an overwhelming amount of sexual harassment/assault while she served in the Corps. To my extreme surprise this was her response (paraphrased of course):

No. No, not at all. One time I was in the barracks and a guy in my unit snuck into my room and tried forcing himself on me. I started screaming and within a few seconds this whole crowd of Marines came barging into my room and carried him off. They’re my brothers, why would they let anyone hurt me?

Now THAT is honor and loyalty.

This brought tears to my eyes for two reasons.
Reason One: I was so overwhelmed and happy these Marines heard a fellow Marine in trouble and they came running to her rescue. There was no hesitation, no passive intervention and no second thoughts. That's just mind-blowing to me. 
Reason Two: My mind was blown because very rarely has a male Soldier stood up for me like that. Matter of fact, I rarely hear any male Soldiers stand up for women like that. 

I was raised where men watch their mouths around women, men hold open doors for ladies, and men take out the trash while women wash the dishes. I understand and learn more every day how the military is far from being the Southern paradise where knights in shining armor rescue damsels in distress. I also understand some women don’t like being treated that way. Roger, tracking.

Maybe those Marines who busted in her room didn’t care that she was a woman, they just heard one of their fellow Marines in trouble. Regardless of why, their actions and her response portrayed a very different world from what I know in the Army and that saddens me.

Is it sexist for me to expect male Soldiers to stand up for female Soldiers? Maybe so. 

Is it too much to ask for Soldiers to stand up for Soldiers, regardless of gender? I don't think so.

Comment below or share advice here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

24 July 2014

What it is to be a Leader

Before we delve into what it is to be a leader, we must first define and understand what leadership truly means. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower once defined leadership as “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” This is close to the definition we’re looking for but I think it could still use a bit of tweaking.

Leadership is the ability to inspire the desire in others to do something that needs to be done out of respect for both your character and position.

So how do we inspire that desire in others?

Well, there are countless books on leadership that we could read but mostly it boils down to using common sense when looking for this answer.

Leaders do not demand respect – they exemplify the actions of one who deserves it. Your rank or position is meaningless if your Soldiers don’t respect your character.

Those who operate under the “they may not respect me but they’d better respect my rank” mentality are not leaders. They are managers of personnel. Just because a Soldier stands at parade rest for you does not mean that they respect you.

Soldiers respect leaders who look out for their wellbeing in the face of injustice – even if it means putting your neck on the chopping block as you stand up to superiors who have made a poor decision. Nobody respects a “yes man.”  Your troops respect leaders who don’t ask them to do something that they themselves wouldn’t do or haven’t done before. They respect your tactical and technical proficiency – your honest tactical and technical proficiency, not the things you make up because you don’t know the answer to their question. Admitting that you don’t know something is far better than your Soldiers not being able to take you for your word when you’re giving them instruction and thinking that you have no idea what you’re talking about. 

That being said, they also won’t respect you if you never know any answers to their questions. Take the time to seek self-improvement in areas you fall short. Convey yourself as a professional. Sending emails and text messages like a 16-year-old using the latest internet slang, poor spelling or broken English isn’t doing you any favors. If your Soldiers feel that they are smarter than you, they will have a hard time taking you seriously when you do have knowledge that they could benefit from.

Soldiers respect leaders who can effectively pass on information so that it is understood. Those who can readily find how best to work with their subordinates, in order to help them grow, are a fine commodity indeed. If you can find a way to communicate your instruction to them in a manner that is best conducive to the way that they, as individuals, learn, you’re already halfway there.

If you can earn the respect of your Soldiers, being their leader will be made much easier and rewarding. How do you show leadership? What qualities do you look for in a leader?

Comment below or share advice here and connect within the military community.

*These opinions belong to the writer and in no way reflect the views of the DoD or other departments of the US government.

23 July 2014

Veterans Unemployment: Comparing State by State


The veteran job market is improving, especially in locations with a large military presence and states without a massive influx of college graduates each year.

Over the last decade, post-9/11 veterans have had a much higher unemployment rate than their civilian counterparts, but this is starting to change. Over the last several years, the economy has begun to rebound from the recession nearly six years ago. The gradual rebound means more jobs for regular civilians and veterans alike. Even with this change occurring, there are certain parts of the country that are much more advantageous for veteran job-seekers than others. 

Let’s look at the two states with the lowest and highest unemployment rates for vets. South Carolina has a 4% veteran unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation. On the other hand, Indiana has a 17% veteran unemployment rate. Why? 

For starters, states with large military presences have higher than average veteran employment rates. There are many industries in these areas that require skills developed during military service that are easily transferred to civilian life. There are also many businesses that are either veteran-owned or make concerted efforts to hire veterans. Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia are ranked the highest in veteran employment rates with bases like Ft. Bragg, Ft. Benning, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Langley Air Force Base, and Quantico.  

Next, states that report high rates of veteran employment also report low rates of college graduates. This is one of the biggest complaints from veterans. Many serve their country with a high school diploma then transition into a civilian workforce where many competitors have college diplomas. States like Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey score low on veteran employment rates because of their heavy concentration of college graduates. Yet again, the Southeast has a low graduation rate, and more opportunity for vets.  

Many vets are returning with skills in construction, telecommunications, and engineering, and they should be targeting states that have broad availability in the industries. States like South Dakota have specialized oil and healthcare industries that make the job search difficult unless the skills acquired during military service transition directly into the role.

Knowledge is the key to success in the job search. It’s best to target states where many businesses that are hiring understand the military lifestyle and the skills veterans have to offer.  

How will this information affect your job hunting? What tips do you have in marketing yourself in states that have tougher job opportunities for veterans?

Weigh in on the discussion here and connect within the military community.

22 July 2014

Staying in Touch with the Military after Transitioning


So you have successfully transitioned out of the military, you are working, you are moving forth with your life.  Have you found that there is something missing?

If you ask some of your fellow veterans if they missed being in the military, you would be surprised by their answers. Despite the various dangers and hardships that one faces while being deployed there are those who miss it. They miss the camaraderie, they miss the sense of unity, they miss the sense of community and the culture of honor. This is why it is important to stay connected with the military community after transitioning.

When you have a social outlet to stay connected with your fellow service members there is a way for all ranks of military outlets to meet and discuss issues affecting their every day life,  such as how to use the GI Bill or even how to explain what you did the in military to your children.

By staying in touch with the military community after you transition you will:

Regain that sense of community and military camaraderie sometimes civilians just don’t get it.

Have the opportunity to connect with those who have similar backgrounds as you. Do not forget you will never stop being a veteran.

Become a mentor to a service member starting with their transition process--a reminder that your service will not end when you leave the military.

You never know when staying in touch with such a vast community will help you in the future. Veterans are a powerful force and will always be willing to lend a helping hand when you are in need.

When you join the military, your service defines you. You eat it, breathe it, and sleep in it. So when you leave it, you are leaving a piece of yourself. There will be no one forcing you to stay in touch with the military community, but luckily it is easier than ever to keep in touch with those you’ve served with. And it truly benefits your wellbeing.

You’d be surprise how many of your fellow service members feel the same way you do. Those who reach out, find answers.

Comment below or share advice here and connect within the military network.

21 July 2014

Remembering Fallen Civil War Soldiers, One Tree at a Time

620,000 trees will be planted in honor of each Civil War Soldier who died in battle. Visitors traveling between Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Charlottesville, Virginia on the scenic byway will be able to remember the Soldiers’ sacrifice in a new and very unique way.

This is all to commemorate the Civil War’s 150th anniversary. The Journey through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s Living Legacy Project will be planting or dedicating a tree for each man who died in the line of duty from 1861 through 1865. 1,500 trees already have been planted or dedicated. The goal is to have all 620,000 grown tall by the Civil War’s bicentennial in 50 years.

The fallen will not only be honored with the blooming trees, the 180-mile long memorial will be interactive as well. Each tree will be geotagged, and visitors can access information about each Soldier represented, including photos, diaries, and records from the 1860s. Half of the Civil War’s fallen Soldiers are unknown, but even they will have trees dedicated in their honor.

The interactive experience will make it easier for people to connect with those who served generations before us. Having living trees represent each human sacrifice gives us a beautiful symbol that can grow with today’s and tomorrow’s people. Geotagging the trees with the Soldiers’ stories brings what may seem like distant history to the present.

It’s amazing to see the unique ideas groups and organizations come up with to recognize and honor our fallen service members. The Living Legacy Project takes remembering to the next level by doing something great for the environment as well.

What are some memorable actions you’ve seen people take to honor those who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice? Do any of them involve technology or serve multiple purposes?

Start the discussion here and connect within the military network.

Image Copyright: Tony L. Sandys / Washington Post

20 July 2014

July 20: Top 5 Discussions


Service members talk about all kinds of military-related topics, ranging from the latest regulation changes to career advice. Check out this week’s Top 5 Discussions on RallyPoint:

Weigh in on the discussions and connect within the military network.