This Soldier’s Transition Serves As A Roadmap For Other Vets

Justin McCarty in Iraq, 2005.
Courtesy photo

A few key decisions made all the difference for Justin McCarty, a former soldier now living in San Francisco. He grabbed opportunities as they were presented, accelerating the successful transition to a rewarding post-military career. McCarty, 30, now works in operations for a fast-growing startup. There he applies everything he learned in the military, college, and at previous jobs.

Transitioning from the military can be daunting. Many veterans, particularly those who enlisted, have a hard time navigating the complexities of the civilian world. Is my hometown the best place for me or is it smarter to get a fresh start? Should I go for an education, then get a job? Or take a lower paying job while going to school? These are difficult questions to answer, and it can help hear from others who have walked the path and have some wisdom to share.

Justin McCarty (right) in Iraq, 2005.Courtesy photo

McCarty did not wait on anyone else to tell him that he needed to excel. “I was able to hit the ground running and get after [school and work] quickly after getting home,” he told Task & Purpose. This attitude helped him move up the ranks, then transfer to Cornell University, and then jump from finance into tech startups.

McCarty joined the Army in 2005, leaving his home town of Rockford, a small city in Illinois, and spent 18 months on active duty and another four in the reserves as an infantryman, including a tour in Iraq. According to McCarty, this time overseas gave him perspective on his life. He spent a lot of time thinking about what he wanted to achieve after he got out of the military, he said.

“I remember flying over Ireland on our way home after a twelve month deployment,” McCarty recalled. “Something about the rich green of the grass really resonated with me after so much time in the desert. I think back to that moment a lot.”

Related: How One Marine Went From The Corps To His Dream Job With A Top Fortune 500 Company »

After transitioning to the reserves, McCarty channeled his energy into academics. He attended Parkland College, a community college in Illinois. His sights were set much higher, though.

“I didn’t know where the bar was set to get to a top tier school, but I knew a 4.0 GPA would give me the best possible chance,” said McCarty.

Turns out, he was was right. McCarty earned a spot in the transfer class at Cornell University.

Switching to finance after graduating in 2010, he took a job with Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“I knew a stint on Wall Street would be a great place to build my analytic skills,” said McCarty. “Plus I would get a chance to learn how the business world works.”

After three successful years at Bank of America, McCarty, moved on to Goldman Sachs to take on even more responsibilities. But despite the larger salary he wasn’t happy. Something was missing.

“I had this moment of clarity where I realized that I was repeating the same deal over and over,” McCarty recalled. “I could do this for 20 years, then look back on my work and wouldn’t see the impact on the world that I was hoping for.”

Driven by this need to find a deeper purpose, McCarty took a huge risk and switched to a new career in technology. Through some friends he was able to make contact with people who were hiring at Uber. There, he found a good job in their operations department where his banking skills could be used.

The decision proved to be a good one. McCarty was able to enjoy his work more, learn new skills, and find the time to get married. He also helped start UberMILITARY, which is now responsible for helping over 25,000 military personnel and veterans make money as Uber drivers. The benefits are clear to McCarty.

“Moving to tech let me be a part of companies that are changing the world for the better, and this is what I am looking for,” he said.

He didn’t stay still, either.

McCarty recently moved to another job after several years at Uber. He still works in operations, but now in a more senior position at Sprig, a food delivery startup.

“Every day is a different challenge,” he said. “You must be able to think differently, and pair that with a ‘get shit done’ mentality. Fortunately that is something that most veterans share. The ups and downs of college or the corporate world are nothing once you’ve sat on your rucksack for hours in the rain because some Humvee broke down. Nothing fazes you after that.”

The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.

Then the rhythmic clapping begins.

This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.

"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.

"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."

Well, I feel better. How about you?

On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.

"We do not know where they are," James Jeffrey told members of Congress of the 100+ escaped detainees. ISIS has about 18,000 "members" left in Iraq and Syria, according to recent Pentagon estimates.

A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."

"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.

President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.

"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."

The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."

Trump said that "small number of U.S. troops" would remain in Syria to protect oilfields.

Kade Kurita (U.S. Army photo(

Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.

"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.

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Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.

Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.

Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.

There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.

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The Minot Air Force Base main gate (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force is investigating reports that an airman consumed marijuana while assigned to one of the highly-sensitive missile alert facility (MAF) responsible for overseeing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

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