Is the lack of a peer group social network a cause of struggling vets?

I don’t usually go to Business Insider for deep thoughts. But I think this author might just be on to something.

And then you exit the service.

No more intrusive surprise health and welfare inspections. No more grueling runs and setting your speed to the slowest member of your group. No more morning formations. No more of the countless bureaucratic irritations of military life. Paradise, right?

Actually, for many of us, no.

Gone, suddenly, is the cohesive structure that existed to take care of you. Gone is that strong sense of social security. Gone is the sense that, wherever you go, you know where you fit. Gone are the familiar cultural norms. Gone are your friends from your ready-made peer group, who are just as invested in your success as you are in theirs.

Much of the time the service spends its time intruding upon your life outside the normal duty hours. It’s almost always incredibly annoying. And the enforced close conditions with others can be wearing. But on the other hand, if you stick a group of 18-20 year old men together 24 hours a day, bonds of friendship, or at least shared purpose, are bound to develop.

But I suspect that the main contributor to troubled adjustment to civilian life is something else entirely, and rarely is it because of battle trauma. Rather, when Veterans leave military service, many of them, like me, are leaving the most cohesive and helpful social network they’ve ever experienced. And that hurts. Most recent Veterans aren’t suffering because they remember what was bad. They’re suffering because they miss what was good.

Of course, many Veterans just power through and do fine. Veterans on average have better health and earn more money than the average American. But others fall short of their potential, simply because they’re missing something, and they can’t tell what it is.

I remember that same sense of loss when I got out to go to college. I struggled to make friends with dorm residents and classmates. The shift from working toward a unit mission to a pursuit purely of the self was disorienting.

It’s a cliché that people will say the strongest friendships they’ve ever formed were those in the service. But there’s a reason that cliché has evolved.

What say you?

Why am I a veteran?

I wish I could honestly say I enlisted for all the most noble reasons of patriotism and service to the country and my fellow man.

I didn’t. I had other reasons as well. I wanted the paycheck and the travel and the adventure.

But I did indeed have some sense of obligation to the nation and her people when I joined.

This TED talk has been around a while, and many of you no doubt have seen it. And while the Dutch have their own history, and their own worldview on military might, I think most soldiers can at support this point of view.


Happy 238th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps

The Marine Corps first recruits joined at Tun Tavern, Philadelphia on November 10, 1775. The first recruit found himself before

the bar manager, Robert Mullan. He signed the enlistment, and was instructed to go into Tun Alley and await further orders.
A few minutes pass, when another young enlistee joins him. Sitting on the curb, the second fellow asks the first, “So, what kind of chickenshit outfit do you think this is gonna be?”

Says the first Marine, “Boot, let me tell you how it was in the Old Corps…”

Updates from the Submarine Services

We don’t tend to write much about the submarine service. It’s mostly outside our wheelhouse. Also, the generally well run procurement of the Virginia class ships means there isn’t a lot of headline news to write about.

Here’s a presentation on the  state of the ongoing major programs in the sub fleet.

[scribd id=178787780 key=key-248xt1v2clkhftk332fp mode=scroll]

Is the Navy full?

The economy’s recovery is doing so well, thousands upon thousands of people have simply given up looking for work.

One effect this has had is that many people that previously would have given little or no thought to enlistment have turned to the services in hopes of finding a job, and skills to put to work in the civilian market later.

But the services are also going through severe budget challenges. That means they need to recruit fewer people. Further, there are a lot of people that kinda sorta feel like leaving the service, but take a look at the economy and decide a job they don’t really like is better than no job at all. That is, retention is unusually high, considering the operational tempo all the services have been sustaining.

So where just a few short years ago, the Army(and to a lesser extent, the other services as well)  would issue waivers for enlistment for nominal disqualifications, primarily medical and legal, but also for education, today those waivers are highly unlikely to be granted.

Over the last ten years, Navy Recruiting’s enlisted active duty mission has averaged roughly 37 thousand per year; that is a decrease of more than 13 thousand per year needed during the previous ten years. There are many reasons for the decrease in those numbers, but basically, it comes down to how many openings are expected to be available after the Navy’s retention rates are considered. The Navy’s projected enlisted active duty end-strength for FY 2014 is 265,878 (a number by the way that has been in general decline over the past 20+ years) – the Navy’s retention remains high, and I do not expect the recruiting goals for 2014 to exceed the average, as a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if 2014 sees the lowest recruiting mission the Navy has ever had; low 30K? I am speculating, of course, but based on the comments and emails I have received that describe what seems to be an ever increasing number of folks being sent home from MEPS with the distinction, “Qualified, No Jobs” – it sounds like a pretty large chunk of FY-14’s openings have already been filled. (hyperlinks in original-XBrad)

The plural of anecdote isn’t data, but we know our friend AggieSprite’s eldest has been trying for months to enlist, and the service is in no great rush to sign her up.

Now, you’d think this would make recruiter’s lives easier. Actually… no. What happens for the recruiter is that monthly missions remain roughly the same, but the quality requirements each potential enlistee must meet are raised.  It’s almost like the various accession commands insist the recruiter’s pain level must be maintained at a certain level.

Deep Thoughts On Leadership and Leader Development.

No, not mine. I might have fairly deep thoughts on the subject, but lack an ability to articulate them very well.

But I did stumble across the blog of an active Army officer who does have some serious thoughts on the matter. There are very, very few good Army blogs written by active duty folks. There used to be several, but it seems blogging in the Army is dying. So let us cherish them when we find them.

I was going to post on this piece in The Army Times, but came across this brief post instead.

I’m not sure I still have all of the Army memorabilia that I’ve acquired over the years, but I’ve still kept that note.  I keep it as a reminder that a small act, something as simple as a handwritten correspondence, can let a junior leader  know that his or her service and sacrifices are appreciated.  It probably only took him 10-15 minutes to do it, but it still resonates with me almost a decade later.

To many junior leaders the microcosm of their unit (Brigade and below) is the Army, and if we show them that we care and are committed to them, in their eyes the Army cares and is committed to them.

Read the whole thing, then, of course, start reading the whole blog. I’ve blogrolled him.

Junior Officer Brain Drain?

As the Army slowly disengages from Afghanistan, and in the wake of Iraq, the Army is struggling to draw down its force levels, while cutting its budget, and maintaining a high state of readiness, all while trying to form a clear strategy and mission for the future.

In the midst of that, it is also trying to ensure that its best and brightest junior officers don’t seek greener pastures outside the military. One of the problems there is, those very same officers it wishes to retain are  both those most likely to successfully transition to outside employment, and most likely to chafe under the restrictions of a peacetime army.

Darrell Fawley, one of those  junior officers, shares his thoughts:

The debate about the Army losing its best junior officers between LTG (R) Barno and LTG Hodges on has been followed eagerly by many of my current and former (those that have left the service) peers.  While both have different views on the issue, both regard retaining the top 10-20% of officers as something important for the Army’s future.  As a junior officer who has performed in the top 10% of my peer group and decided to remain in the Army, I’d like to add to this discussion.  While I cannot speak for my entire demographic, I can provide insight.

I don’t believe that the majority of officers that make up this demographic expect the Army to put together some sort of bonus package to retain them.  I’ve never seen statistics on the bonus payments the Army made a few years ago, but I’ve only met one person who took the money that wasn’t already convinced he would stay in the Army.  I believe that most officers that stay in through a captain-level key assignment (generally command positions and primary staff roles) are not motivated by money or tangible benefits.  However, these officers want to feel like they are not just cogs in the wheel.  They have a level of experience way beyond what their superiors had at similar career points.  We are just now seeing battalion commanders who commanded companies in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Further, the complexity of their positions is way beyond that of what it is for their superiors in similar positions in the 1990’s.  These officers want trust, meaningful education and a voice, they want to be able to rise above their peers who perform below them and they want to see the Army progress not regress.

Read the whole thing.