How To Find Meaningful Work After The Military: Focus On Teamwork

The Long March
U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Katelyn Hunter

Here's the 20th and final entry in our contest about finding meaningful work after leaving the armed services. I’ve really liked these. I’ve learned some things. I hereby declare every entry a winner. Thank you.--Tom


The military is a team sport, not an individual sport, and the lowest echelon of this team is the two-person team. While the specific nomenclature of this two-person team can sometimes differ by service branch; battle buddy, shipmate, wingman, or simply brother/sister, these are all byproducts of our fixed, collective, and ‘we’ based military culture. 

I had a team once, my battle buddy. We looked out for each other, whether in combat or in garrison. My battle buddy always ensured that I knew one thing no matter what: ‘I’ve Got Your Back.'

Upon separation from active duty, I had a hard time finding a new battle buddy right away. I had been severed from the daily collective military culture and bond of the two-person team. I could not re-create this bond, but I did find a way to re-connect to it by encouraging myself to find parallels. A parallel can be seen as anything in life that is similar in comparison. Some people say that good parallels have interwoven components of metaphors, analogies, or allegories. I like to simply see them as healthy and positive tools to help ‘re-frame’ your life focus in a new light or perspective. A parallel does not necessarily have to take the form of a physical person or individual. Some possible parallels might include:   

  • Joining a Veterans Service Organization
  • Engaging in a sport/athletic pursuit
  • Finding a student veterans group
  • Volunteering to help in your local community
  • Becoming more engaged with family/friends
  • Thriving in your educational/vocational/professional career
  • Involving yourself in veteran community advocacy
  • Focusing on your favorite hobby/pleasurable activity
  • Getting active in a church/religious/spiritual community

I’ve involved myself in many of the above parallels. Perhaps you have similarly engaged in some, or have found others that I did not mention. 

Involving yourself in as many parallels as possible can help recreate the collective ‘we’ based culture we all lose when we separate from the service.  It is likely not possible to fully recreate in civilian life the same battle buddy, shipmate, wingman, or simply brother/sister that you had in the military.  However, what is fully achievable is finding healthy positive parallels that can re-create a similar sense of community connection where somebody or something is telling you consistently: ‘I’ve Got Your Back.’”

 Marco A. Bongioanni is a licensed mental health counselor who works for the US Department of Veterans Affairs at the Bronx Vet Center.  He is an Army veteran who currently serves as a battalion commander in the US Army Reserve. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

A Coast Guard lieutenant arrested this week planned to "murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," according to a court filing requesting he be detained until his trial.

Read More Show Less
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton

At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.

Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.

They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.

What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.

Read More Show Less
A photo shared by Hoda Muthana on her now-closed @ZumarulJannaTwitter account. (Twitter/ZumarulJannah)

The State Department announced Wednesday that notorious ISIS bride Hoda Muthana, a U.S.-born woman who left Alabama to join ISIS but began begging to return to the U.S. after recently deserting the terror group, is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return home.

Read More Show Less
Heckler & Koch's first batch of M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the employee behind a firearm company's Facebook page decided to goaded a bunch of Marines into destroying their brand new firearms? Now you know.

Read More Show Less

A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.

"That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.

Later, Graham told Shanahan, "I am now your adversary, not your friend."

Read More Show Less