Coming Out Of Combat: Trading Fatigues and Boots for Suits and A Tie

When I was a little kid, I was crazy about the military. Every day after school, a few friends and I would storm imaginary fortresses, take turns pretending to be drill instructors, or perform black-ops junk food reconnaissance. I had a long family history of men who served in the armed forces, including my dad. My father was my hero. He never talked much about his time in the service when I was young, but his strength was inspiring.

Out of high school, my Dad and I marched down to the recruitment office and we signed up together. Six months later, I was a certified United States Marine and for the first time – my dad shook my hand. That was one of the most important moments in my life – up there with my wedding day and the birth of my beautiful daughter.

Once I entered the fleet, I advanced fairly quickly. Having a drill instructor for a father, I had practically been training for it my whole life. After eight years, I had reached the rank of gunnery sergeant and I returned from my third tour of duty. My second term of service was coming to a close and now I had a wife and an adorable 5-year-old daughter. I came to the decision (with a little urging from the ladies in my life) not to reenlist.

It’s difficult for a somebody without some sort of military history to understand the culture shock that comes with adjusting back to civilian life. It had been 8 years since I had tried a new haircut. I was 26 years old and my only job experience was in military communications and a paper route from my early teen years. I became quickly overwhelmed and discouraged because I was struggling with finding a direction to go in with my career. What would my drill instructor say?

  • Rule #1 – Applying for jobs is like going on patrol. It may be repetitive, boring and often uneventful – but it is extremely important! When you least expect it, the time to take action will pass you by. If you get side-tracked, discouraged or lackadaisical, you’ll miss your opportunity strike.
  • Rule #2 – Keep up your morale. When you get discouraged or frustrated take a step back, stop thinking about how much job hunting sucks and take a little recreational time to get your spirits up. Nobody wants to hire a Debbie-downer!
  • Rule #2.5 – Don’t go A.W.O.L.! Keep in mind that every moment you’re not hitting the pavement, other people are out getting jobs.
  • Rule #3 – Do your reconnaissance. The more you know, the better you’ll do. Having a good amount of knowledge about the company you’re applying for can help you buffer your resume and also looks really good in an interview.
  • Rule #4 – Never ever run out of ammo! When you’re hitting the city for jobs, bring extra resumes, more than you think you’ll need. If you’re forced to retreat because you run out of resumes, you miss out on job hunting time and potential employment opportunities.
  • Rule #5 – Watch out for the ambush! You may find job opportunities in unexpected places, don’t miss them. Practice interviewing so you’ll be ready for one on a moment’s notice.

Before I knew it, I landed a job as a marketing manager in an emerging business. The job was a piece of cake. As a long-time NCO in the military (remember, that counts as management experience on a resume!), I held command above some of the most difficult people on the planet. With a trained staff of civilians under my command, I was in a position to really help that company fly, and fly it did. To this day, my military training helps me stand head and shoulders above the competition in the corporate world and I hope my brothers and sisters in arms find this article well and that it helps them thrive after enlistment.

John Durfee works for Airsplat, the largest retail dealer of Airsoft Guns and Airsoft Green Gas. John is an Operation Freedom War veteran.