29 September 2014

Those Pesky Post-Military Jobs

Compare your resume to a car listing on the internet. If you are seeking a car, you have certain criteria to include size, use, function…etc. Ultimately, you purchase a vehicle based on your return on investment, longevity of the vehicle and utilization of its features. If you want low gas mileage, have no kids and don’t own a lot of stuff, you could seek a compact car. If you have a farm, 10 dogs and like to go hunting, the truck or SUV is more suitable.

“Matt, how does this relate to jobs?”

Employers want to get the best bang for their buck.  Your pay is often relative to the amount of business you produce, or your skill level and its impact on keeping business flowing.   How do they find you? With recruiters or job postings. In many application processes, the candidates with the most comparable experience are the ones who get the interview. You don’t test drive bulldozers when your spouse has requested a golf-cart, in other words.  Recruiters and hiring managers are exceptionally busy, so your advertisement (or resume) MUST be the most relevant and attractive.

Attractive doesn’t mean “the most stuff,” like some cars. Attractive means you have exactly what they want. Attractive means you are really able to utilize your skills for the position. A 4×4 SUV isn’t worth the purchase if the 4×4 only works 30% of the time.

Having marketable skills and/or gaining said skills are key. A lot of transitioning military personnel tend to over exaggerate or mis-market their “military-specific” skills. Example: The Army Supply Administrator whose resume is seeking a physical security position. There are many who get out of the military and go after security and law enforcement jobs. It used to be that there were contractor jobs available…but withdraw from Iraq and downsizing operations left those resources a bit more limited. Law enforcement jobs aren’t always available, and have exceptional competition…and police departments are rarely (if ever) searching resume boards.

Weapons handling, military specific jargon, non-professional activities… etc. don’t belong on a resume… even for a security/police job.  Employers want a professional, not an action figure.
A sales team wants a salesman. Were you an NCO? If so, you probably know how to take charge of a conversation, speak to an executive, make an action report, and devise a plan of “attack.” These are things most of your recent grad counterparts likely haven’t done yet. Are you able to work in high stress and fast-paced environments? Guess what, most people (realistically) cannot.

You won’t rule the world in one day. 

What? Don’t go after a marketing job, with a mechanic’s resume. Crazy?  It happens all the time. If you are applying for an entry-level position and your resume says “I want to be the CEO,” chances are you will be passed up. It’s good to have aspirations, but unrealistic expectations of your potential employer will lead to a lack of opportunity for you.

Don’t get deterred when you get shot down. In MOST of corporate America, four or eight years in the military doesn’t automatically qualify you for a corporate manger-level job… It’s just the way it is. Get in the door, prove yourself, and you may get promoted.  NOTHING is guaranteed and there are no entitlements out here.  Your proven actions and successes will speak louder than anything. 

You are coming from a different world and lifestyle, so naturally it will be a difficult transition. BUT there are lots of places and people who want to help you get there. Don’t just settle for halfway. Get out there and be competitive.

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 September 2014

September 28: 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 community.

26 September 2014

How can the VA and DoD close the gap in supporting women in uniform?


As the number of women and their influence in the military continues to grow, so should the armed forces’ attention and care for them. The Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) certainly need improvement in supporting all our service members and veterans, but especially for women. A recent Disabled American Veterans (DAV) report shows service gaps for women in health care, transition services, disability compensation, employment and housing.

Right now, one in four VA hospitals do not have a full-time gynecologist on staff, and 140 of the 920 community-based clinics serving veterans in rural areas do not have a designated women's health provider. The DAV report also found female veterans of child-bearing age were far more likely to be given medications that can cause birth defects than were women being treated through a private doctor. All VA centers should have at least a part-time specialist available to treat female-specific needs.

Addressing unemployment and homelessness is another area the VA needs to create more gender-specific services. Post-9/11 female veterans have higher unemployment rates than male veterans and non-veteran women. Female veterans are at least twice as likely to be homeless as non-veteran women. Establishing transition support catered to each gender would help all veterans face the difficult process. It may be nearly impossible for all regions across the country to create female veteran support groups, but virtual live chat rooms is an option that may be worth exploring.

The DoD needs to also embrace gender-specific support, so women are properly supported before they transition. Many female service members want to get married, start families and be a part of every little thing in their kids’ lives. Committing to the armed forces makes starting a family and establishing a work and life balance very difficult. The military certainly sees the value in having and increasing the number of female service members with more being done to support this front. The Navy has recently started its family friendly policy of giving women a year off whenever they want, without any penalty or change in status. Women can use this time during pregnancy and after. Other military branches have yet to follow this policy, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The fact of the matter is women have different needs than men. They are impacted by military service and deployment differently from men. More gender-specific care needs to be provided across the VA and DoD. This would not only benefit female service members and veterans, but male service members and veterans as well. What areas in the VA and DoD need gender-specific improvement? Does the fact that the military is still predominantly male make it more difficult for the armed forces to cater to women in uniform? How can the VA and DoD establish more balanced services and policies?

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

How can the DoD build and retain a strong cyber force?


The Department of Defense (DoD) and the US Cyber Command are currently in a panic stricken state. And for good reason, because creating 133 teams of cyber warriors by the end of 2016 is looking more difficult. Most of the talented, energetic young lot of the country interested in the tech field prefers jobs in the private sector and very few are inclined to pursuing technology in the armed forces.

The United States deals with many security threats in their dense cyber network every day and if these are manhandled, disastrous consequences can occur. For the maintenance of national security, cyber warriors are required as much as soldiers themselves, except that this knowledge is not sufficiently popular.

So how does the US Cyber Command recruit the cream of the crop and retain it?

Computer experts and IT professionals the DoD wants to recruit need to be incentivized. People with this expertise are generally reluctant in joining the armed forces. This is mainly due to lack of motivation, unattractive incentives being provided, the comparatively less income and  benefit plans, and potentially more stressful work environment. To form a competent cyber warrior force, such factors need to be eliminated and replaced by significantly better offers.

If the US Cyber Command wants proficient computer experts and to tempt the best into taking up the job, it will have to provide certain incentives, bonuses and privileges regularly to be competitive with the private sector. All service branches are already trying to up their game by developing new recruiting tactics, extended service commitments, training programs, retention bonuses and unique career tracks for the cyber career field. For example, the Navy is offering enlistees an instant boost to an E-4 pay grade if they sign up for a cyber warrior job for six consecutive years. Should other branches implement something similar?

To become a cyber expert and keep up with technology trends, exclusive training is required. The special training is very expensive, especially compared to the DoD’s shrinking overall budget. However, continuous training is crucial to bring in and retain top talent. Now, a 24-week course is offered and chosen people are exempted from many steps of acceptance, leading to immediate training. Many cyber experts are thirsty for knowledge and can appreciate any learning opportunities. What else can the DoD do to keep these experts interested?

Cyber experts have to be especially talented because not only do they require computer skills but also immense knowledge of the cyber network of the military, the threats they have to encounter and the confidential information they have to retain. All service members and civilians who apply go through a “cybertest” which determines whether the applicant has the temperament for a military-related cyber job. That way, the US Cyber Command filters out and selects the best people out there. Complemented with a better income, greater incentives and regular bonuses, they may manage to achieve their goal of a highly competent cyber force.

Do you have any experience in the cyber career field in the military? How can the DoD become more competitive with similar private sector positions?

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

25 September 2014

Bringing History and Heritage Back to Units

While driving on post the other day, I was met by a soldier manning a checkpoint. There was a CAC card reader near the soldier’s position. As I have done countless times before I swiped my card and the soldier was notified, via his terminal, that I am an officer. As I drove by the soldier was sitting on his stool and halfheartedly saluted. This left a bad impression on me. Why would a soldier conduct themselves in such a way? I am sure he was trained on military customs but where? Is Basic Combat Training the only place where formal military customs and courtesies are reinforced? Maybe units continue this or they may view that this is best left to the NCO Education System.

I have always noticed that the Marines have a very high sense of esprit de corps. They make a very deliberate effort to maintain the history of not only the Marines but that of the unit. One example of this is the new members of the 5th Marine Regiment being awarded the French Fourragere at Camp San Mateo. There is a formal process in which new Marines are given the award. The newest members of the 5th Marines learn of their unit’s role in WWI and why they were awarded such an honor. This is just one small way to ensure unit history is not lost with the replacement of those in that unit with newer Marines.

In the Army I have yet to see or hear of such an event taking place. In my first unit, we had the French Fourragere but I was simply told to go to Clothing & Sales and buy the green cord. I didn’t think much of it but just another thing I have had to buy for my uniform. I had no clue how my unit received this award or of the sacrifices of those who came before me. This may not be case for all Army units, as some of the more well-known divisions in the Army actively reinforce their history. Also there are events in which the Army maintains their history such as the NCO induction ceremony. In addition, there are units such as the 30th ABCT, formally the 30th ID, which have annual reunions so that current members can interact with its former soldiers that have served as far back as WWII. Yet another would be the Ranger Rendezvous.

I spoke to a prior Marine who is now in the National Guard, and I was surprised that the Marines also instituted a history program in which they are tested. Within this program Marines are also taught recent history such as the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq and the Battles of Sangin and Marjah in Afghanistan while in Boot Camp with the expectation of maintaining such knowledge. Wouldn’t all soldiers, even all service members, benefit from learning more history behind their units? It would instill more respect and pride in their service.

With history we learn of the past. We learn of the feats of those that gave so much for us. We take pride in what we represent. When a soldier looks at his unit patch as a mark of distinction instead of just another patch you will find a soldier that is committed to his unit, the Army and to his country.

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.

24 September 2014

Advise and Assist… Again?

I read an article titled “Dempsey: Half of Iraqi Army not OK as US Partners” and it really got me thinking.  In it, GEN Dempsey concluded only 26 of the 50 Iraqi Army Brigades are capable partners for the U.S.  With that in mind, I do not ever see a time in the future where U.S. elements partner alongside Iraqi elements in training and exercises at JMRC or a venue like that.  What I do see is a step back to the Military Training Teams (MTTs), Border Transition Teams (BTTs), Embedded Training Teams (ETTs), Security Force Assistance Advisory Teams (SFAATs), etc. that were utilized to advise, assist and train the Iraqi security forces.  Some of these were very successful.  Most were not.

I was the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of a Border Transition Team for the 6th Iraqi Border Police.  They were headquartered in Sinjar in northwestern Iraq.  Our team was the fifth team to fall in on this unit.  It was a long year, much like it was a long year for many who deployed and did this sort of mission.  My point is this.  We were the fifth team to train this particular unit.  Were they any more capable of securing their border after a year with us?  I don’t think so.  Were they any more capable after completing a year with the team that replaced us?  Again, I don’t think so.  Evidence is the amount of contraband, weapons, and foreign fighters that move freely across the border between Syria and Iraq.

We now have about 1,600 military advisors on the ground again in Iraq with more being identified.  These folks will not have a “combat role.”  That phrase always gets to me.  Every time you go outside of the wire, you assume a combat role.  To prepare for anything shy of that is inviting disaster.  These advisors are out there with their Iraqi counterparts without the aid of dedicated Quick Reaction Force (QRF), without the aid of dedicated infantry, armor, or field artillery support.  They not only have to be cognizant of the ISIS and the external threat that those forces possess, but they also have to sleep with one eye open because the insider threat is as real as it ever was.

GEN Dempsey said that this is about “training them in protected locations and then enabling them (Iraqi security forces)” so that they can “fight the fight” required to beat ISIS militants back across the border into Syria.  Are U.S. trainers the answer?  What improvements in training aids, or additional resources, will these trainers have that my team and the many others who have done this mission in the past didn’t have?  Would you volunteer to deploy on one of these training teams?

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.

23 September 2014

A 20th Century Army in a 21st Century World

I foresee a military that could be considerably more efficient if it were to embrace technology more fervently. The phrase “Profession of Arms” has been popular in the Army recently, but in my opinion our use of existing technologies falls short of being categorized as professional.

Why are there virtually no Department of Defense (DOD) sanctioned smart phone apps to help us accomplish daily tasks? Where are the apps that allow leaders to manage personnel and tasks? How much more efficient would our force be if every service member had an official DOD approved app on their smart phones that granted them access to their government emails?  Why do leaders not have an app that synchronizes with a central medical appointments system and sends out reminders about upcoming appointments that their subordinates need to attend?

We could greatly benefit from a smart phone app that could walk service members through preventative maintenance checks and services on any piece of equipment in their motor pools. As the app grows, more features could be added, like the ability to report deficiencies directly to the Standard Army Maintenance System – Enhanced (SAMS-E) box. Service members could even snap pictures of the deficiencies that might accompany the reports.

Why haven’t military publications been reformatted for better reading on smart phones and all stored electronically on a DOD server? Instead of waiting years to update regulations, they could be updated instantly and notifications could be sent out announcing the updated version.

S1 operations could be streamlined by allowing service members to upload documents in Army Knowledge Online (AKO). These documents could then be added to a queue and verified before being added to their official military personnel file. Why do service members need to go to S1 to make minor corrections, like updating mailing addresses, on their enlisted/officer records brief? Why is it necessary to go through S1 to update our Soldiers Group Life Insurance beneficiaries?

Why does the military have such an obsession with designing websites for use with outdated software like Internet Explorer when better options, like Google Chrome, exist? 

Have you ever noticed that every military run website is poorly designed, nearly impossible to navigate, and requires numerous, inane measures to access? Do you not consider it a travesty that the best source for service members facing problems using their Common Access Cards (CAC) is a website that has no affiliation with the DOD (other than its owner being an active duty Warrant Officer)? Why do we need to install additional software to digitally sign documents if we can already access various other resources with our CACs? Have you ever sat at S1 all afternoon waiting to be seen to do something as simple as updating your Enlisted Record Brief (ERB)?

For operations not classified as “secret” or higher, why can’t each branch have one website that is easy to navigate, requires no additional authentications once logged on, and houses the majority of things we need for our daily tasks? Why are there so many different websites, with different access requirements? To name a few, MyPay, the Defense Travel System, Army Knowledge Online and Enterprise Email could all be integrated into one central website.

If professional businesses, which are also extremely vigilant in guarding access to information, can manage to easily grant access to something as simple as email, why is it so hard for the DOD to adopt similar options?  The phrase “hurry up and wait” shouldn’t be something we find funny, it should be something we try to eliminate.

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.

22 September 2014

Cultural Considerations in Transition

I remember leaving the active Army after ten years about a year ago. While my brain was busy with all the details of moving, settling in to the new place and making sure all the usual stuff associated with a PCS move was taken care of, there was a challenge waiting quietly to knock me on my fourth point of contact as soon as I walked in the door of my first post-military job.

Corporate Culture is defined on www.Inc.com as “the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature, and is rooted in its goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community.”

In the military this is made very clear to all of us from the day that we first report for service. Our values are on the walls, in our creeds, and stamped into the back of our dog tags – and there are very real legal and social consequences for violating them. When you make the transition into corporate America, culture is not necessarily that readily apparent or present in the workplace - but it plays an equally important role in your everyday efforts as an employee.

As I transitioned into a corporate environment, I was focused almost solely on trying to dress myself (because after 10 years in the Army I really had no clue how to dress professionally), learning my job, and making sure I was contributing in a positive manner to the talent acquisition team I was a new member of. In the midst of all the change, I did not spend any time looking at how the culture was impacting me – and I continued to make decisions based off of the military culture that I was so familiar and comfortable with. While this kept me on the path away from any kind of trouble, it did not do me any favors in learning how to interact with my new coworkers, or line up my professional efforts with the aspirations of the company. I found myself at odds with what was needed in a number of my early business decisions.

The transition from the service and into a new position can be challenging to the point of overwhelming. As you work to become a member of a new team and start your life post-military, here are some lessons I learned about culture and how to be cognizant of its importance:

1.  Culture is almost always tied directly to the business goals of an organization. Make sure that you are taking the time, preferably before you even apply for a position, to familiarize yourself with the company’s cultural tenets and aspirations for the future. By doing this, you will be able to ascertain whether or not that particular business is a good fit for you, and what you want to accomplish professionally (i.e. you prefer to work autonomously, but the company you are applying to places teamwork above everything else – most likely not a great fit.). One of the things that initially drew me to my position was the fact that valuing and understanding Veteran talent was engrained in the company’s culture – something that was very important to me.

2.  Does the culture of the company align with your personal values? This is always something to consider when applying for a new job – you never want your personal values to be at odds with the company you are going to work for. If you believe in what the business is doing and the direction they are going, you are far more likely to work harder and be more productive, which is beneficial to everyone involved.

3.  Above all, understand that the assimilation into a new culture will be difficult. You are leaving the service and in some ways, learning to interact with people all over again. You have to change the way you speak, the way you dress, and the way you interact with coworkers depending on the situation – all of which amounts to an incredible amount of stress and change in a very short period of time.

Be ready to do your homework on the culture of the company you want to work for, and take the time to sit down and make sure you understand what you don’t know about the workplace outside of the military. Ask your peers questions, and make a real effort to learn all that you can in the first 90 days by simply observing the environment around you.

Once you do start to feel yourself fit in, and live symbiotically with the culture and the people around you, the rest of the details tend to take care of themselves.

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.

21 September 2014

September 21: 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 community.

19 September 2014

Obama Moves to Counter ISIS With Free Syrian Army


Just last week, President Barack Obama made an announcement on expanding the military campaign against ISIS, the Islamic State extremist group. About 40 countries have already agreed to provide military support to the U.S. in this campaign in Iraq and Syria. He hasn’t named the countries yet. Obama has stressed he is not looking to put troops on the ground. Our soldiers in Iraq will soon amass to 1,600, but were not sent to fight. Announcements will continue into the next week in New York at the United Nations General Assembly.

We will see how other countries’ support will move the military campaign forward. What’s concerning as the president moves forward with announcements is the divide between him and some lawmakers and military leaders.

The Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, says he might eventually recommend deploying ground troops in Syria if airstrikes were not sufficient to defeat the Islamic State extremists. But Obama clearly does not want to deploy combat troops. General Dempsey may have been talking about a possible contingency plan and some leaders may think the U.S. needs to be more aggressive with strategy, but the lack of alignment is an issue. Obama seems to be focusing on avoiding putting troops on the ground, and some are concerned the focus on eliminating the enemy isn’t strong enough.

Recently, the Senate authorized arming and training Syrian rebels to combat the Islamic State group. Obama says the vote shows the country is united in fighting ISIS and Americans don’t give in to fear.
No one can deny our country being united on fighting terrorism, but the president and some leaders still don’t quite see eye to eye on how to destroy our enemies. Obama says U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets will continue, but he stands strong at not allowing U.S. troops to have a combat role on the ground in Iraq or Syria.

Before the vote, the proposal faced two points of criticism. One was concerns with arming a group whose loyalties are uncertain. It could add to the conflict. Two was the group may not be aggressive enough to counter ISIS. Plus, the public s in general is skeptical and afraid of another long conflict in the Middle East.

What do you expect to come from the recent approval? Will training and equipping the Free Syrian Army be an aggressive enough strategy? How can the president, lawmakers, and military leaders move forward and become aligned?

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