Writing Changed My Career After The Military — What’s Your Vehicle For Success?

Transition
Photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga

Like many veterans exiting the military, I went back to school. Unlike most of my military peers who earned law or business degrees, I earned a history degree.


“History?” people would ask, “What will you do with that in the real world?”

My answer: “You mean with the diploma? Nothing. The research, writing, and presentation skills I learn? Everything.”

Though I love reading history, just learning about the past was never enough; I also wanted to learn a marketable skill. I wanted to learn how to write with velocity and punch. I wanted to explore radical ideas and then record my own ideas on paper, and if possible, do it with style.

There was one glaring problem, however, and my former commanding officer said it like only a Marine major can: “Capt. Hinman,” he barked, “You suck at writing.”

After acknowledging the obvious, I walked out his office door and left the Marine Corps soon thereafter, determined to one day write like a pro.

Before I left the Marines, I applied to graduate school. And after some tough rejection letters, one school “sort of” accepted me thanks to a 70-year-old, no-nonsense professor who sympathized with my military background and was willing to overlook my low Naval Academy grades.

“Okay, Hinman,” he said across a 15,000-mile phone call to Bahrain, “When you return from deployment, you’ll enter my academic boot camp and before the history department officially accepts you into our graduate program, you must earn a 4.0 in the fall semester.”

I knew his rules: Earn a 4.0 and go. Once I began school, I executed my two-year writing improvement plan. Every day, I read, scribbled, and typed in an empty, glass-encased study hall tucked inside the library’s basement. At a large rectangular desk scattered across with books, I wrote morning, day, and night. With words garbled together and clarity nowhere in sight, repetition and my wife’s encouragement were all I had. Every morning, I walked down the library steps, and each evening, I walked back up. Through it all, over and over again, I discovered one concrete fact: Writing wasn’t hard, it was painful.

Like any challenge met head on, my practice began to pay off. As I laid it on thick, etching one draft after another, my confidence and ability as a writer grew. And despite the pain and frustration, or maybe because of it, I’d never felt more accomplished in my life. And after two dense years in school, I graduated with a 4.0, a master of arts in history, and … no job. So I did what any unemployed former Marine living in Los Angeles might do: I became a bodyguard.

Bodyguard sounds a bit simplistic; however, I did join an executive protection and threat assessment firm as an entry-level protector and soon began protecting at-risk families at their homes in Beverly Hills. A year later, I started traveling with and protecting clients around the world. It was exciting work, yet I never stopped writing.

On my off days, I’d hit the local Starbucks armed with ear plugs and Bose headphones. I’d buy my caffeine, sit at one of those tiny Starbucks coffee tables, and just write for hours — no pressure, no deadlines, just expression. A few months into my new career, I redirected my efforts and began writing about security and protection topics, and soon posted my work on the firm’s internal intranet. Eventually I caught the eye of a senior executive who asked me to write a new recruitment strategy to hire military veterans. After that, the CEO asked me to manage the recruitment and selection division. As time passed, I found myself writing more and more for the firm. I wrote talking points for our recruiters and guidelines for our interviewers. I designed the layout and wrote the language for our careers website and even authored a few addendums and forewords for security-related books. After a while, my personal brand became “the guy who writes.”

Three years into my career, I was promoted to director, and I still continue to write — often for online publications like this one and often from that same corner Starbucks. For me, I’m living the dream: I’m paid to write.

All that being said, I encourage every transitioning veteran to determine their own vehicle for success (or personal brand) and get paid to do what you love most. What will your vehicle be? Here are some potential action words that can propel your career to the next level:

Where will your vehicle for success take you? Pick an action verb that ignites your personal brand. When you do choose your vehicle and turn the ignition, I urge you to step hard on the gas and accelerate your career.

In this June 16, 2018 photo, Taliban fighters greet residents in the Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Associated Press/Rahmat Gul)

While the U.S. military wants to keep roughly 8,600 troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban's deputy leader has just made clear that his group wants all U.S. service members to leave the country as part of any peace agreement.

"The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand," Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote in a story for the New York Times on Thursday.

Read More
U.S. soldiers inspect the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020. (REUTERS/John Davison)

In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.

Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.

Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"

The next day was different.

"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."

Read More
A U.S. military vehicle runs a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria near the Turkish border town of Qamishli (Video screencap)

A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.

Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.

Read More
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

Read More
A cup of coffee during "tea time" discussions between the U.S. Air Force and Japanese Self-Defense Forces at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 14, 2018 (Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

Survival expert and former Special Air Service commando Edward "Bear" Grylls made meme history for drinking his own urine to survive his TV show, Man vs. Wild. But the United States Air Force did Bear one better recently, when an Alaska-based airman peed in an office coffee maker.

While the circumstances of the bladder-based brew remain a mystery, the incident was written up in a newsletter written by the legal office of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on February 13, a base spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.

Read More