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 you do 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.

19 July 2014

Fighting in Your Own Backyard


With the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas unfolding this month, it’s worth looking at the differences between the American and Israeli militaries. America’s relationship with Israel has been a staple of its foreign policy in the Middle East. The two forces have similar goals, allies, and enemies, but there are also many differences.

Israel and the United States have been long-time allies in a region where both powers have engaged in quite a bit of conflict. Israel has faced multiple wars against surrounding Arab nations that rallied together to push Israel into the Mediterranean to reclaim land they argue was unfairly granted to Israel in 1948. 

Israel has propelled itself into the highest ranks of international war fighting with the help of huge amounts of American subsidies. Recently, a resurgence of violence between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Israel has shifted attention back to Israel’s military. That attention begs an interesting comparison between the American and Israeli armed forces.  

America has the most powerful military in the world, yet many Americans do not see its work or size on a day to day basis. There is no mandatory service and the focus of the military for the last decade has been on foreign lands a world away. After the initial months of Iraq and Afghanistan, media coverage dimmed and the relevance of both conflicts to the American public seemed to wane.  

On the other hand, Israel requires men and women to enlist and serve. What is more, it is surrounded by nations that have attacked them at one point in the last 60 years, sometimes multiple at once. Israel is also in constant conflict with Gaza and the West Bank, as overpopulation and food shortages drive Palestinians and Israeli settlers into contested territory.  

Israel faces a reality Americans rarely have. Rockets can literally land anywhere in Israel without the protection of the Iron Dome missile system, and that reality would be causing many more casualties. As an American Soldier or Veteran, could you imagine fighting in your own backyard the way the Israeli soldiers do?

What do you think of Israel’s political and military history, Hamas’ non-compliance with the cease-fire, and America’s role in the region? 

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

18 July 2014

Marine General Blasts White House Foreign Policy


This week a four-star general publicly questioned the White House and Pentagon policy. Commandant of the Marine Corps General James Amos said the Obama Administration paved the way for the emergence of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) in Iraq by completely withdrawing our troops back in 2011.

On Tuesday at the Brookings Institute, Amos spoke negatively about American foreign policy and its pattern over the years. He blamed the White House for the countless other flare-ups around the world and a lack of American presence. Amos said “I have a hard time believing that had we been there, and worked with their government, and worked with their parliament, and worked with their minister of defense, minister of the interior, I don’t think we’d be in the same shape we’re in today.” 

Amos went on to point out the growing misconception among the troops as they see ISIS’s rapid advance in Iraq and the Iraqi Army not defend their land. In reference to Anbar Province falling and the deaths of 852 Marines, he said “It breaks our hearts. They believed that they’d made a difference.”

The general may be retiring in the Fall, but his comments beg the question of whether or not he is out of line in questioning the Commander in Chief’s decisions. The Soldier’s Oath states “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of those appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Many Marines and military will appreciate Amos affirming their sacrifices and questioning the direction of the United States as parts of the world go up in flames. Others will look down on his behavior for questioning his Commander in Chief. 

Was Amos justified in making these comments?  Have you ever had to deal with fellow service members questioning the President? 

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

17 July 2014

DoD May Trade Service Members for Civilians to Cut Costs

70,000 service members could be out of a job over the next ten years. The potential cuts come from the Department of Defense (DoD) tightening its belt to meet regulations.

As part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the DoD has to reduce spending by $500 billion in ten years. Cutting thousands of military jobs and replacing them with civilian positions may be part of the process, because the trade off brings a lot of savings. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports military personnel are paid substantially more than civilian counterparts.

The 70,000 service members would be cut from a total of 500,000 service members in commercial jobs and replaced with 47,000 civilian jobs. The 23,000 person difference is possible because civilians are less likely to relocate, have fewer collateral duties, and have a lower employment cost. Over time, the cuts would save the DoD $19 billion.

The DoD has already converted similar 48,000 military jobs to 32,000 civilian jobs.  

This is just one of several proposed cuts that would really change some fundamental military programs. The DoD may reduce the overall size of the military by dropping ten Army brigades combat teams, 34 major warships, and 170 Air Force fighters.   

There could also be caps on basic pay for military personnel, saving up to $25 billion in the next 10 years. Lastly, TRICARE enrollment fees, deductibles, and copayments may increase, saving $21 billion.  

All of the cuts would have great effects on each of the branches and could really change the way current and future military members develop a career.

Are the cuts a necessary sacrifice to deal with the country's money problems as a whole? Or, will the cuts dramatically reduce the combat readiness of the armed forces?

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

16 July 2014

New Hampshire Opens First Criminal Court for Veterans


This past Thursday, Governor Maggie Hassan and other top judicial and military officials gathered to dedicate New Hampshire’s first veterans court. Many cases involve recidivism, substance abuse, and anger management stemming from stress and trauma experienced during the service. The court’s focus will be on intense treatment programs catered specifically to veterans in order to get them back on track.

The project is 18 months old, envisioned by Jo Moncher, the bureau chief of the state health department’s community-based military programs. Chief Justice Linda Dalianis refers to the court as a tribute to the courage and valor of the soldiers and veterans of New Hampshire. Major General William Reddel says the court is not a get-out-of-jail-free card but a means to fix many of the underlying problems causing the crimes. The court will help veterans as well as thousands of family members.

Some might think a court like this might be a waste of time since there is such a limited population, but the data suggests something different. Diane Levesque, who runs the Veterans Justice Outreach program at the VA Medical Center, says she has an active caseload of 100 veterans facing criminal charges with more than 500 cases since she took over the program in January of 2012. At the moment, at least 260 veterans are behind bars in state prisons.  

New Hampshire is not the first state to adopt this special type of court. Currently, there are 160 of these courts around the United States. Judge Robert Russell founded the first court in Buffalo, New York in 2008 when he noticed an increase of veterans in drug and mental health court.  

There are many questions surrounding the court’s establishment, but it seems like a step in the right direction in setting veterans on track for a productive civilian life. Do veterans deal with problems in ways that deserve a separate court? Do you think separating veterans from traditional judicial proceedings is appropriate? 

Start the discussion here and connect within the military network.

Image Copyright: PO3 Nick Kaylor/ US Navy

15 July 2014

How to Have a Great Interview and Stand Out


Some say going into an interview is like going into a battlefield. Well, luckily here at RallyPoint there is no battle that we cannot handle. Interviewing is hard, it is draining but the reward of getting a job is completely worth it. As with the whole job-hunting process, interviewing takes time and prep work: you want to be dressed professionally, have copies of your resume, and anything else pertinent to the interview. So are you ready?