In the final installment of this article series, I’d like to share some of the things I have both learned, experienced, and seen first hand in relation transitioning from the military. The point of this piece is not to provide a check list of things people should and should not do prior to getting out. Far from it. I am simply sharing what I believe to be the key points in the hopes that at least one person may take something away from this.
First of all – and not that this should be a surprise to anyone who has served – but always have a Plan B. This means that regardless of where you are in your military career, you should ask yourself the question of what you would do if you needed to discharge tomorrow. What civilian industry are your skills directly relevant to? Could you walk straight into a job with little or no extra training? What education or trade do you have to fall back on? What network of friends and former colleagues in the civilian world do you have and actively maintain?
Even if you are a career soldier, you may hit a point in your life where this ambition may change. You may suffer a career ending injury. You may want a change of career altogether. Or you may just want out of the military simply because you’ve had enough. I’ve experienced this first hand and also seen it with friends from my unit. Guys have suffered injuries on deployment or in training which means that they can no longer be commandos. Whilst the unit has great support programs to keep injured operators in the unit via alternate placements, the harsh realities of never being able to do the job again are also compounded by seeing what everyone else is doing around you.
Similarly, the personal situations of guys from work are constantly changing which can have a direct influence on their career decisions. For instance, I’ve seen the progression from some of the people I went through selection with who were single and just entirely focused on becoming Special Forces soldiers. A large portion of them have eventually settled down and are now family men. For those that were already in relationships or married, the last decade has proved to be non-stop for them and their extremely understanding spouses.
The winding up of the SOTG commitment to Afghanistan at the end of 2013 also did little in terms of respite or a decreased tempo for SOCOMD. Our government committed us immediately to the fight against the Islamic State which saw a platoon rapidly deploy followed by an entire commando company group (CCG). It very much appears to reflect the rotational basis that we had implemented for Afghanistan which all but indicates another protracted war. It is these types of circumstances which will no doubt get a handful of individuals thinking, and having an alternate plan is key to having options and decreasing the anxiety about life on the outside.
My point here is to reiterate the notion of having a Plan B based around the hypothetical question of what you would do if you had to discharge tomorrow. One of my most favourite adages is Parkinson’s law which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Have you ever been in the situation where you’ve had a couple of weeks off work and a number of tasks around the house to take care of, yet you somehow find yourself running around like crazy to finish them on your last day of leave? Alternatively, have you ever found yourself with one day to complete a page full of things, yet somehow manage to fit it all in?