17 December 2014

22 a day; what does that number mean to you?

22: That is the number of veterans that END their lives every day. That is 8,030 veterans that are no longer with us come December 31, 2014. Too many veterans are dying each year and we need to do better as a nation to battle this statistic. I, for one, almost became part of that statistic last year. I was lucky my wife somehow figured out something was not right because the VA did not help me. Instead, they kept me on a zip-lock bag of medications that I told them made me feel numb and zombie-like. The medications were the reason I was ready to take my own life.  They said my medications were not the problem, I just needed to get used to the “new me”. I almost accepted their reasoning, and it would have killed me if I did. 

The big problem is the stigma that goes with mental health problems. I just heard someone say the other day, “people who commit or attempt suicide are some of the weakest people.”  No, we are not. Some of us have been in dark places for years and ultimately see no light at the end of the tunnel. We think the only way to feel better and alleviate the burden on our families is to end our own lives. In my mind, the stigma won’t ever leave until the whole country is educated about the mindsets of suicidal people.

We need to be more proactive in our treatments of depression and mental sickness. We need to be educated on the side effects of the medicines prescribed to us. I was guilty of taking whatever the VA prescribed me without question.  It seemed like for the first 2 months, every time I turned around, more medications kept being added to battle the side effects of another. Or they would ask, “Are you still angry?” and I would say yes, so they would keep upping the dosage.
I ask you all to be a good friend and look for the red flags. If you wondering what some red flags may be, I would say listen to “Red Flags” by Soldier Hard. It is a great song that will educate those who don’t really know what to look for. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friend if he looks like he needs help – realize that a veteran who seems like he is going to hurt himself, wants and needs help whether or not he admits it. I can tell you I was afraid to admit I needed help because I felt it made me look weak.

From my personal experience, I felt lost in life because after retirement, I felt like I lost who I was. To me, I was BU2(SCW) Ferretti - Navy Seabee. I did not know how to be Corey Ferretti as a civilian. I also felt like I lost my mission in life and I could not easily get hired. When I finally did get hired, I had troubles adjusting to working there since it was so different than everything I knew. They were great employers, but I just walked out because I could not deal with my own life. I think if more veterans knew to focus on finding a new mission in life once they got out, it would help them so much. There are many veteran-focused groups out there, like Team Rubicon for example, who provide disaster relief. Find something that you love and find a way to make it your work. For me, horses saved my life. I am now apprenticing as a Farrier - I have a lot to learn, but I get to work with horses every day and they are my therapy.
I’m sure there are others on RallyPoint who wouldn’t mind sharing their stories in order to help those who might be in a bad place but don’t want to bring it up. If you’re in a bad place, I would be happy to talk more about my story if you have any questions. A question to other veterans: how have you found your new “life mission” after leaving service?

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

15 December 2014

Do you know how to make a modern resume?

Applying for a job in the civilian world is a multi-step process that starts with the resume. Basically, it is your resume along with your cover letter that gets you in the door for an interview. But, the modern resume is not like your father’s resume. Today, it serves as a database of your skills and experiences, and is often scanned into the employer’s personal computer system to be reviewed by various algorithms. The algorithmic search is what is new in today’s job market. It is a keyword search where the employer tries to find a match between the skills and experiences he needs and the candidate. As techniques continue to change, it is very important to understand how the employer will view and use your resume.

In the past, there were two types of resumes: skills-based and experience-based. Now your resume needs be a hybrid version, including both a skills section and an experience section. The skills section may be the most important in making the initial employer/candidate match to get you an interview. So, what to do? How do you list your skills gained in the military? Remember, the military skills terminology may not always match the civilian terminology. I was an 0205 Battalion/Brigade-level Communications Officer. That means nothing to most employers. But, breaking it down: I managed wire crews for landline communications, a telecommunications network, and a UHF radio net. This means much more to a civilian employer, but it is still not quite good enough. You need to better match exact terminology used by today’s employers. A better description would be: managed wired, wireless communications, and encrypted digital networks. The chances for a match are greatly enhanced with these revisions. It is always best to look at the employer’s job descriptions and employment ads to see the best, current, state-of-the-art terminology for your skill set. This will improve your chances of getting matched and granted an interview.  

One last reminder - there is no shortcut to getting the job you want. It is always best to research the company you want to work for and write a custom resume and cover letter for each position you apply for. With computer-based word processing, it is not difficult to customize each resume!

Do you have any tips on how to create a more attractive resume in today’s job market?
For Reference:
Pat Hefferan lead a Signal Platoon in Vietnam (1971-2), and afterword had a long business career in the Electronics Industry, where he hired hundreds of employees and read thousands of resumes.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

12 December 2014

Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Military

Traumatic brain injuries can have serious implications for people - most notably, difficulty with emotional management. The effects of TBI's aren't very well-known though they can prove to be life-altering injuries. Can improvements be made to help "cushion the blow" for our men and women in service?

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

10 December 2014

Combating ISIS: Have the tables turned?

Recently, reports have come out about Britain's SAS (Special Air Service) running around in small teams basically assassinating Islamic State (IS) militants. While they are doing that, our military is strictly adhering to a combat advisory role. A SAS representative has been quoted as saying, "They can run and hide if they see planes in the sky but they can’t see or hear us. Using so many snipers takes the fear factor to another level too; the terrorists don’t know what’s happening." Clearly they are diminishing the manpower and effectiveness of the IS, and also lowering morale via fear. Are the airstrikes from the U.S. accomplishing the same?

 As our aerial bombardment campaign continues, one can imagine the extreme manpower costs of gathering intelligence, planning air missions, and then the cost of carrying out each individual operation. Sure we have drones, but they still require a pilot, and we also have pilots physically in their aircrafts executing these missions. Having teams on the ground would not only reduce the total manpower commitment, but when individuals gather the intelligence themselves, it tends to be more accurate. 

The “telephone” game comes to mind. Basically, it is a game that shows how badly communication can be altered and distorted if it is transmitted indirectly. It comes to mind because, with all of the aerial bombardments and missile strikes, the collateral damage of such events is inevitable. Mistargeting of facilities, vehicles, and social events that result in a loss of life or property reflect poorly on the United States and all we can do is apologize. If we have our operators on the ground who can see the enemy with their own eyes and have a previously approved set of engagement criteria, would that not eliminate mass collateral damage events? 

For too long, the United States has tied the hands of its military personnel and stopped them from taking responsibility and making immediate choices in moments of need. Our officers and enlisted leaders are some of the best in the world. We are at war with an enemy who follows no rules. Our rules of conventional war, while inherently good, are not always applicable in the quick-thinking and quick-acting environments of the asymmetrical warfare realm. I feel it is time to push responsibility back down to the people on the ground where it belongs.

For any of you who have seen the movie "Tombstone" with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday, this type of tactic should ring to you as clear as day. Most Islamic State personnel proudly display their black banners and “uniforms” which are black balaclava-like facial coverings and typically monotone-colored clothing in OD Green or black. The cowboys from "Tombstone" had their red sashes. Seems easy enough to follow: kill those with a red sash, or in this case, those with a black hood and ISIS banner, within reason of course.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

08 December 2014

How Do You Balance Parenting With The Responsibilities Of Being a Service Member?: Part 2

Recently, one of my mentors got in a car accident, leaving his wife with very young children and that was when I had my “epiphany”. Did I want my children’s last memory of me to be me exasperatingly saying something like, “WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME EVERY MORNING? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE READY FOR SCHOOL?!” or did I want it to be something like what I get to do now, “I am so proud of you! Have a great day! I love you!” I decided on the latter. When your children are young adults you have a lifetime to be their friends, but kids need parents to be parents by providing boundaries and consequences for their actions.  Below are some strategies I have adopted from my military experience, multiple resources, and other successful parents:

1. Basic Training: Start with the small tasks and then work up to more complex ones. I showed “love” to the first two by doing almost everything for them until they were about 10 or 12. They still struggle with doing dishes, laundry, etc. as young adults on their own. My younger guys now have age appropriate chores with rewards, so they learn time management, responsibilities, and consequences. 

2. Training Calendars (what I learned in the S3 shop): I hung a two-month calendar for events in a prominent place in our home. If something is not on the calendar because they did not tell us, then it does not happen. A smaller weekly tracking calendar on the side allows us to have a list of daily requirements that they check off and are rewarded for when they complete all tasks for the week. 

3. Property Management and Accountability (what I learned from the motor pool sergeant):  I put in a cubby system under the calendar. Each child puts their backpack, an outfit, and shoes for the next day in there. We keep library items there so they aren’t misplaced.  In the past, I or my husband would get them up super early and still end up frustrated by the persistent “missing shoe” but now, they know when and where everything is and it is not a struggle.  If the shoe is missing now, it is our fault for not supervising properly. 

4. Leaders’ Recon (what I learned from my first company commander): They don’t watch shows or movies my husband or I haven’t pre-screened.  Watch the shows your kids are watching and look for weak father figures, manipulative mother figures, passive aggressive behavior, kids who can only rely on other kids (not parents or authority), dishonesty, and self-gratification as the goal. When you find these, forbid or block them.  I have failed to do this on occasion and have witnessed behavior and attitude changes after my children watched a specific show for a period of time. When I blocked those shows, there was an almost-immediate positive behavior change.  As parents, it’s disingenuous for us to complain about these “unsocial” behaviors in the younger generations if we allow the “entertainment” community to “parent” our children.

5. Protocol and Etiquette (what I learned from my USMA cadets): They’re writing thank you notes.  Not emails, not phone calls, but the old-fashioned hand-written thank you notes that go in the mail. These mean a lot to people. I did not enforce it with the older ones and have only myself to blame for them seeming to be ungrateful.

6. Toxic Environments (what I learned “not to do” from my first battalion commander): They have a “no yelling” rule.  It started off small but quickly escalated in our home until the “yelling for someone to come to dinner” became yelling at each other for everything.  With the new rule, if you want someone, you have to go to where they are and not yell for them to get their attention. The yelling in my house stopped and a peace we had not otherwise experienced has taken its place. Disagreements became respectful discourse and negotiations—skills that are invaluable as adults.

7. The value of “respect” (what I learned from my first Command Sergeant Major): They have a forbidden vocabulary list.  Before I even had kids, I heard a parent screaming, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!!” at a child; I determined it would be forbidden in my home.  No emotional blackmail is allowed, so to my two year old yelling, “I hate you!” I said, “Well, I love you so you can go to timeout for yelling that at me.” If you are having this issue with an older child, there are some good references for stopping emotional abuse in the home. We do our best not to curse in our home so as to not create a toxic environment and maintain respect.

8. Different bosses provide different leadership styles (what I learned from changing jobs): They are involved in more activities where other adults can guide them.  My first two used to have trouble with constructive criticism, most likely because we did not have them involved with many outside activities. The others are doing more sports, more social activities, and more interaction with non-parents.  But there is a balance to this, as you don’t want to end up just being a “taxi driver” they take for granted. Each can do one activity at a time and once the activity is chosen, they are not allowed to quit and must see it through as a commitment.

9. The Civ-Mil Gap (what I have learned from the last 15 years in DSCA and researching emergency management):  They will be armed to encounter values different from our own. I raised my children with the values that are true to Service values. My first one struggled her freshman year in college, as is the second now, when slapped in the face with a culture that values self over others, cheating over integrity, sexual predation, and sexual/gender/racial biases. I’m determined that the next two won’t have as big a challenge when they leave home.

Final note, no one is perfect. If you fail, lose your temper, or do something you wish you hadn’t, don’t quit or avoid your family more by becoming a workaholic. Use it as a teaching moment and explain to your child where you slipped and then get back on track; with older kids you can even work out mitigation and accountability measures together.  When returning from a deployment or long absence, sit back and learn how the household has been running before slamming down a hammer with lots of changes.

What strategies have you adopted to improve your relationships with your children and prepare them for adulthood?

Comment below or start the conversation 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.

05 December 2014

How Do We Help Our Homeless Veterans?

A recent survey found that an alarming amount of Americans believe most homeless people they see must be veterans. Though that isn’t true, is there a way to change that stigma? And with at least 76,000 American veterans stranded on the streets each and every night, is there a way to better help them?

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

03 December 2014

Why don't we hear more about entrepreneurship as an option after service?

Transition is obviously a hot topic here on RallyPoint. What will you do after you serve? Most transition assistance programs are focused on finding our service members jobs working for someone else. Why do they rarely focus on opportunities in entrepreneurship and business ownership? I believe our veterans are perfectly suited for life as an entrepreneur.

According to a recent study, veterans own more than 2.4 million U.S. businesses. That equals about nine percent of all American firms. They employ 5.8 million employees and have $210 billion in annual payroll. How many of you who have transitioned out of the military have heard those numbers? There are quite a few business owners and entrepreneurs active on RallyPoint (which was founded by veterans Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing).

I had a chance to interview Aaron Kletzing about his experience transitioning from the Army to entrepreneurship. He discussed how his experiences in Iraq helped translate to the founding and running of RallyPoint. The complex and changing environment he faced in Iraq is similar to the complexities and challenges of running a business. Aaron had this advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, "Find a close knit group of people - people that you can bounce ideas off of and you can really trust their advice. Making sure that you have a good crew behind you and surrounding you is really important." You can hear the full interview here:

So my question is: Do you think more should be done to educate transitioning veterans on entrepreneurship?

About the Author:
Scott Fussell is the Founder of CommandYourBusiness.com, which is focused on entrepreneurship in the military and veteran community. Every week, Scott interviews a new entrepreneur from the military community.

Scott is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and served as an officer in Army from 1994-1999.

Comment below or start the conversation 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.

01 December 2014

How Do You Balance Parenting With The Responsibilities Of Being a Service Member?: Part 1

If I could go back and do it again for my two eldest, what would I have done differently and how am I doing things differently for the younger two? There are several things…

Being an Army parent (and I suspect any other Service parent) means answering to a difficult master. Generally, so much is demanded of the parent in Service that the other parent (or another relative) becomes the “primary” caregiver. My own father was a single Service parent of three after my mother passed away from cancer. Experiencing my father’s struggle through the uncharted waters of parenting as a Service member, I thought I had a slightly upper hand when we decided to have children. I researched the regulations and the services provided to parents. I even worked with others who had failed in these responsibilities, but I still wasn’t fully prepared. Based on learning from my own personal issues raising my first two children, here are some things I’m doing differently with my younger two:
  1. I spend more INTERACTIVE time with them:  Kids want your time - not your money, not your gifts, not your constant scolding or correcting. It doesn’t need to be a $1000 trip to a theme park. It can be a $0 walk around the block or 20 minutes on the playground when you pick them up before homework and next day prep takes over.  I try to make special time for each child independently, and encourage my husband to do the same.
  2. I listen to them:  I make a point to engage in honest face-to-face listening after bringing them home from daycare. This gives me the chance to really listen to each child and how things went that day while I’m not distracted driving or doing other things.  With the older two I am learning to communicate better by text, but trying to make them verbally speak to me or Skype me regularly.
  3. I put them first now:  Sometimes it is just not possible to be at every event. For example, I missed my first daughter’s prom, but I arranged someone to do her hair and makeup and a good friend to be there for her. Sometimes in units stuff happens. The unplanned inspection comes down, or the commander gets ticked and does mass punishment. Use your leave. Don’t save it for a rainy day that may never come. Take the long view—the military is at most a 20 to 30-year commitment, but your children are a lifetime commitment. Make sure you have a good relationship with them BEFORE they leave your house.
  4. I teach them what appropriate affection looks and feels like: Tell them you love them every day and hug them every chance you get. Even when “correcting” or “disciplining” make sure it is coming from love and not from anger, and be consistent. After a time-out, I have my child explain what it was that went wrong and then I tell them I love them, hug them, and forgive them. This was not easy at first! The very first timeout session was almost two hours long (watch Nanny 911 for the technique). Now I barely have to put either of the two little ones in timeout!  
Remember, your children will pattern relationships based on the type of affection they get from you! What personal changes have you made to be involved in your children’s lives? What were the more difficult adjustments?

Comment below or start the conversation 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.

28 November 2014

Have We Stopped Caring?

Recently, ISIS released another beheading video - this time, of aid worker and U.S. Army Ranger, Peter Kassig. Kassig had returned to the Middle East and founded a relief organization to help war victims. While working on behalf of the organization, he was captured last year in Syria as he was delivering relief supplies to refugees of Syria's civil war.

Do you remember when the first beheading video came out? It stopped the news. It was everywhere. There were outcries for action and justice. But this time, it seemed like there was very little coverage compared to the beheading of James Foley. Have we already stopped caring? Kassig was the third American to be killed. It seems the American public has already become desensitized to these horrific acts of cruelty. Is this how our society as a whole is going to react in the future? Where is the outrage?

Every day we hear something about ISIS. We know that airstrikes are happening. We know that ISIS militants are committing horrible injustices against humanity, but has America had enough of the Middle East? For so many years the Middle East has been a focus of the news and the American public has tuned it out to a certain degree. The shock value has dissipated in regards to the beheadings and countless other horrific acts. Does that mean we have stopped caring about them?

As the number of military advisors going to Iraq increases, American troops in Afghanistan can now again engage all Taliban fighters, not just al-Qaida terrorists.  American service members fought hard and many lost their lives to free Iraq and now, it is in the hands of ISIS militants. Were all those efforts in vain? There are threats in the Middle East that cannot be ignored and ISIS has made it clear they will not be ignored. One has to wonder if the U.S. will ever truly leave the Middle East in the near future…as of right now, the answer seems to be no. In the meantime, will Americans start caring again?

Comment below or start the conversation 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.

26 November 2014

What Role Does Religion Play Within Our Military?

With members of the military identifying with 98 different religions, it is evident our Armed Forces is extremely diverse. Unfortunately, religious differences sometimes cause feelings of animosity between service members. Are you less likely to trust another service member who does not identify with the same religion as you?

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.