The A, B, C’s of Military Transition

3 Things to Avoid, 3 Things to Be, and 3 Things to Create for an Effective Transition


Military Transition is hard – it is very hard.  Broadly understood, military transition is when you leave the culture and work-life framework of the military to enter or re-enter the civilian world.  Military transition is more than a job shift.  It is a glacial cultural shift that affects your job, your geographic living location, your sense of what is right in the world, your spouse, your kids, your pay, and your social support network.  Don’t view military transition as only a job change.  Military transition is a life challenge with a job change thrown in.  Military Transition is far more of a challenge than moving and finding a job.


Military Transition is Hard for All the Expected Reasons.  Daily schedules change drastically and the former military member’s day-in-and-out role goes from daily esteem and respect in society to virtual disappearance.  The net effect is that the military members position of esteem and easy public identification (wearing the uniform) within society and the military community has been lost forever.  With the loss of position in the military, the sense of military purpose that drives and sustains military members has suddenly evaporated.  Military transition can also difficult in unexpected ways.  The unexpected challenges come when the golf course, as opposed to the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, cannot deliver that same sense of purpose.  It is also difficult that at the intellectual pinnacle of our profession, we can no longer contribute as much as we would like when we do not feel old.

[Tweet “Transition is challenging and that is OK. @combattocorp”]


The Critical Point In Military Transition Is To Understand That Things Are Very Different And They Will Become Even More Different.  In Military Transition, there is no going back.  Like it or not, it is up to us and our families to now discover, create, decide, and live the next 20 to 30 years of our lives as productively as we lived our first careers.  The difference, freedom, and a mindset of discovery and learning bring the opportunity of change and these differences create the opportunity for an amazing post-retirement life.


Transition is challenging and that is OK.  What matters is how we spend and develop our military transition because that will make us better for decades to come.


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Avoid the A’s – Alcohol, Affairs, and Being an Asshole.  Following transition, it is very, very easy to feel adrift from the personal sense of purpose, dedication, and motivation that drove you for years or decades while in the military.  Translating and keeping the strong sense of purpose that you had in the military and bringing that renewed purpose into your post military career is more vital than your resume, your post-retirement paycheck, or any state tax breaks.  Finding and restoring the sense of purpose that you had in the military is your most important action to take in retirement.


When we do not restore our sense of purpose, then we begin to drift.  When we drift, we begin to become frustrated, cynical, despondent, or angry.  Instead of a purpose to drive us forward, military veterans may look for Alcohol, Affairs, or being an Asshole.  A drink every week is fine, but when we begin to use Alcohol, Affairs, and Asshole behavior to distract ourselves from finding, restoring, and maintaining our post-military service, then we begin to founder.  Avoid all three of these items and post-military life will be much better.



Be the B’s – Business, Budget, and Beyond Fit.  Along with a strong sense of purpose comes from finding and sustaining a business that provides sufficient income to meet the needs of our family.  Military veterans need to think of themselves as a business because business always seeks to grow their income, evolve, and deliver more to their customers.  When see yourself as a business, you start to look for opportunities to improve your career, find new ventures, and contribute.  Continuing with the Business analogy, all businesses have a Budget in order to control and prioritize their spending to their goals.  If your goal is to save for educational expenses, and you spend $100 week on coffee, then you need to reset the budget to fit your goals.  One element that will improve and control the rest of your life is your level of physical fitness.  Your goal is to be Beyond Fit, which is to get to an even higher level of physical fitness than you were in the Military.  Beyond Fit provides confidence, energy, and health to grow you as a Business and maintain the Budget discipline that is vital to meet your goals.


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Create the C’s – Contributions, Community, and Conversation.  For an effective military transition, having items to Avoid and Be is not enough, you also have to Create a new purpose and drive to replicate the loss of purpose that comes from leaving the military.  Creating new ways to contribute to your life is vital.  Contributions should fulfill the sense of purpose you had in the military.  Teaching, coaching sports, writing, involvement in the political process, helping others through a not-for-profit, being actively involved in your faith, volunteering, and starting a business are all ways to contribute effectively.   Leading in your community is vital because leadership must have an active component to help and support other people and their organizations towards a successful outcome.  Community involvement shows that you and your contributions are vital and important to a strong community and the people that live there.  Finally, both Contributions and Community have to be done with others and that requires Conversation.  For military veterans, a sense of Contribution and Community will not be found alone writing in your library with a glass of scotch – you must have conversations and involvement with others in the community to reach that sense of purpose.   Conversations are vital to learn, evolve, and feel strong.


The A, B, C’s of Military Transition are not a “one and done” proposition.  Military transition is a life challenge with a job change thrown in.  These nine items must be practiced and rehearsed daily to maintain a strong sense of military purpose, develop a passion for your new life, and find more ways than you believed possible to contribute.  A good military transition is NOT about finding good enough; it is discovering and creating new ways to be great.  Military Transition is far more of a challenge than moving and finding a job.


Avoid Alcohol, Affairs and Being an Asshole.

Be a purpose driven Business, maintain a Budget, and exercise so you are Beyond Fit.

Create Contributions in your Community with Conversations and involvement.

Chad Storlie

Author, Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and Battlefield to Business Success

USAA Member Community, Blogger



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Chad StorlieChad is the author of two books: (1) Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and (2) Battlefield to Business Success.  Chad’s brand message is that organizations & individuals need to translate and apply military skills to business because they immediately produce results and are cost effective.  Chad is a retired US Army Special Forces officer with 20+ years of Active and Reserve service in infantry, Special Forces, and joint headquarters units.  He served in Iraq, Bosnia, Korea, and throughout the United States.  He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Special Forces Tab, and the Ranger Tab.   Chad is also an adjunct Lecturer of Marketing at Creighton University and Bellevue University in Omaha, NE.  In addition to teaching, he is a mid-level marketing executive and has worked in marketing and sales roles for various companies, including General Electric, Comcast, and Manugistics.  He has been published in over 80 publications including The Harvard Business Review blog, Business Week Online, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, and USA Today.  He has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.