What Will I Do!?
As an active service member wanting to transition out of the military, the sheer idea of leaving to become an individual again sounds amazing. Whether it be four, six, ten or even the full twenty plus years of serving, it can feel like an eternity when you’ve reached the point of wanting to separate. For many, you reach this point while serving where you have tried to make the military work, and it seems that the only viable option you have is to finish up your contract and start a new chapter. For some, this point is reached after applying for so many job openings in your MOS only to never hear back. Others reach the final decision after losing the strong sense of purpose they once had while serving. Any way you look at it, making the decision to separate from everything you’ve known for the past however many years you have been in the military is no easy task.
Once you have begun talking about the decision that you’re going to start the process to separate, you may be met with opposition. All of the sudden, your supervisors try to persuade you to stay in for whatever reason they can think of. “Well what about the guaranteed paycheck every two weeks, or the great health benefits?”, they ask you. The best one I have personally heard is that “it’s really not that bad”. They bring good points, you think back over your years of service and remember all the great times you’ve had. Traveling the world, meeting and working with great people whom you would have never met if it wasn’t for the military. A bond seems to be formed like no other between individuals who have served together. The military has a way of creating truly life-long friendships, regardless of race, religion, gender, social status, or any other factor for that matter. Any veteran has experienced hardship unique to the military lifestyle, such as being far away from family for extended periods of time, or working a 14 hour shift on 4 hours of sleep. With these unique challenges, the strong feeling of camaraderie with your peers can make it tough to want to leave. You start thinking “what will I even do on the outside anyway?”. The secure, well-made blanket that you have had throughout your military career starts sounding comfortable after all.
You find yourself pondering whether separating is the best option after all. Then, as you playback all the good times, you remember some others as well. You recall the concert you had planned to attend for close to a year, only to be told a day or two before that you’ll need to work that day due to low manning. Thinking back, you remember walking into work wondering “what is the flight chief going to yell at us for today?”. Although there is a certain feeling of satisfaction when overcoming the tougher days that don’t seem to end with your peers, you eventually come to realize that you may want a change from the lifestyle. As the time passes, you begin weighing all the pros and cons between reenlisting and separating. The fog eventually dissipates, and the pathway becomes clear.
There are Programs and People That are Here to Help
Completing the Transition Assistance Program gives anyone separating great knowledge on how to navigate the civilian world once again. Prior to the Transition Assistance Program, I can honestly say I didn’t have an exact idea of what I was going to want to do on the outside. Many veterans decide to use the wonderful Montgomery GI Bill and complete a bachelor's degree, which can be vital in starting a career in today’s day and age. Others may have already tried their hand at a small business venture during their military time and decide to go full scale when they separate. A colleague of mine had sold handmade candles during her off time in the military, and is now working on growing that business. Any way you look at it, veterans can certainly be seen as an asset when transitioning out of the military.
Finding a New Purpose Through Skillbridge
Along with the excellent resources provided to soon-to-be veterans, there is also a lesser-known program, Skillbridge. This program can be a beacon of light for a transitioning service member wanting to have a smooth transition into the civilian sector. Skillbridge is a program for transitioning service members that essentially allows them to learn about a certain field they might be interested in during their last six months of service. From learning how to farm to an internship for an awesome company, participating in a Skillbridge program can really move transitioning service members in the right direction. Regardless of what path you’d be interested in pursuing, finding a Skillbridge program that aligns with your interests is something that should absolutely be a thought.
When the decision is made for a service member to transition into the civilian world, it can seem like a daunting task at first. With the right people and resources, it is something that can be an experience full of new knowledge and opportunity. Choosing to begin a new chapter is challenging, yet quite exciting at the same time. Jumping from everything you have known during your military time and throwing yourself into something entirely different comes with hesitation or fear for sure. Not only are you leaving your occupation that you have most likely excelled at by the time you are separating, you’re also leaving your tribe in a way. The fear that things might not work out as you would like can also set in during a veterans transition period. It would be hard to argue against the benefit of real-world experiences found in a Skillbridge program. Along with valuable experience for the “real world”, you will have the chance to meet and work with other veterans within a Skillbridge program. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed from the process of separating from the military and transitioning into the civilian world, just remember there have been thousands of other veterans who have successfully walked the same path. Regardless of your personal worries when transitioning out of service, Skillbridge is certain to make crossing that line between the military and civilian life a whole lot easier.