Don’t Be Afraid To Be A Boot Again In The Civilian World

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A recruit attempts to pull himself over a raised log on an obstacle course on Parris Island, S.C.
Photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink

Most veterans and military personnel remember their first military training experience with pride and dread. Pride in successfully completing their first military experience and dread from being so new and unknowledgeable when they got to their first unit. However, by only remembering the negative consequences of being a “boot,” we forget what being a boot really did for us to make our military career successful.


I remember when I got to my first unit in Korea as a brand new 2nd lieutenant or “Butter Bar.” I was fresh from Infantry Basic Officer Leaders Course and Ranger school at Fort Benning in Georgia and knew enough to realize that I didn’t know anything. When I got to my first platoon, a 4.2-inch mechanized heavy mortar platoon, my training really started when the privates, specialists and NCOs in my unit began training me on all the equipment, weapons and tactics. They taught me how to fire all the weapons assigned to the platoon, licensed me on all the vehicles, and made sure I passed the mortar gunnery exam. For every new unit I went to, I repeated this process with the enlisted and noncommissioned officers who provided me the knowledge that ultimately made me successful in that position. When I look back at my military career, what made me a good officer in infantry and special operations units was this foundation that I received as a boot. Indeed, I think a large part of my success in combat operations was due to the fact that I knew intimately what teams on the ground could and could not do.

Having a successful business career and a successful transition means many times going back to become and succeed as a boot again. Before I started my current job in the railroad industry, I led and coordinated a 30-plus multinational, multi-service special operations planning team in Iraq. When I started with my current company, I was in charge of...me. I was a boot again. So what did I do? I learned the entire range of positions, what each did, how it operated, and how each position achieved success. After that, I was promoted to lead a small team and I repeated the process I learned as a boot in the military. Today, much of my success comes from those early days as a boot where I learned and perfected the basics.

When we look through post-military career job listings, many of us jump straight to senior manager or director positions and miss those entry-level management positions that will make us extraordinarily successful in our future career. Next time, before you apply or interview for a position, check out the CEO, CFO, and COO biographies on the corporate web site. Without a doubt, you will see they started in entry-level positions, learned and perfected the basics, and then moved up.

Related: Here are 7 awesome resources your transition class didn’t offer.

Success in both military and civilian careers can come from being a boot where you learn the skills, culture, and leadership style to be successful. Bottom line: engage and become a boot again in your new career pursuit. Military skills and leadership style combined with a great attitude and a willingness to learn is what defines success from the bottom up and will immeasurably propel your career.

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But the folks at OSD (formerly called Operation Supply Drop), a non-profit veteran service organization that aims to help troops and vets connect with each other through free video games, service programs and other activities, recently found that most of the gamers they've served actually prefer less military-centric fare like sports games and fantasy RPGs.

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Joel Marrable (Laquna Ross via CNN)

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The Air Force vet said she went to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur last year for surgery on a broken foot. But the doctor called it off because the surgical instruments hadn't been properly sterilized.

"The tools had condensation on them," recalled Brys, a 50-year-old Marietta resident. The doctor rescheduled it for the next day.

Now the 400-plus-bed hospital on Clairmont Road that serves about 120,000 military veterans is in a state of emergency. It suspended routine surgeries in late September after a string of incidents that exposed mismanagement and dangerous practices. It hopes to resume normal operations by early November as it struggles to retrain staff and hire new nurses.

The partial shutdown came about two weeks after Joel Marrable, a cancer patient in the same VA complex, was found covered with more than 100 ant bites by his daughter. Also in September, the hospital's canteen was temporarily closed for a pest investigation.

The mounting problems triggered a leadership shakeup Sept. 17, when regional director Leslie Wiggins was put on administrative leave. Dr. Arjay K. Dhawan, the regional medical director, was moved to administrative duties pending an investigation. Seven staff members were reassigned to non-patient care.

The only question for some military veterans and staff is why the VA waited so long. They say problems existed for years under Wiggins' leadership, but little was done.

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Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney takes questions during a news briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2019. (Reuters/Leah Millis)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's withholding of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine was linked to his request that the Ukrainians look into a claim — debunked as a conspiracy theory — about the 2016 U.S. election, a senior presidential aide said on Thursday, the first time the White House acknowledged such a connection.

Trump and administration officials had denied for weeks that they had demanded a "quid pro quo" - a Latin phrase meaning a favor for a favor - for delivering the U.S. aid, a key part of a controversy that has triggered an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives against the Republican president.

But Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged in a briefing with reporters that the U.S. aid — already approved by Congress — was held up partly over Trump's concerns about a Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server alleged to be in Ukraine.

"I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy," Mulvaney said.

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