I planned to go into law enforcement. After an early detour in rocket launching, I became a data guy instead. I followed my passion, and it paid off. I hope my story transitioning from a military to a civilian career inspires you to follow your passion.
After high school, I pursued a degree criminal justice. But in that post-9/11 period, I knew I also wanted to serve the nation. I put higher education on hold and in March 2002, joined the U.S. Army as a 13M, a Multiple Launch Rocket System crewmember.
I completed basic combat and advanced individual training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, learning how to operate and maintain rocket systems. At Fort Sill, I was permanently assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st and the 14th Field Artillery Battalion. Our team's main task was successful fire missions. I liked troubleshooting, resolving technical issues and collaborating with my peers. I developed a knack for leading complex, data-intensive projects.
I returned in 2003 from a deployment to Iraq and spent two more years on active duty in increasingly information technology-centric roles. In 2005, I left active duty, switched my military occupational specialty, and joined the Florida Army National Guard as a 25B, Information Systems Operations Analyst.
I served for six years with the National Guard, including four years on Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) duty at the National Guard Bureau with the Army National Guard G6. I worked in a variety of roles, all related in one way or another to information technology. I had discovered what excited me.
When I transitioned out of military service in 2011, I began my civilian career in IT at CSRA, a Virginia-based consulting company, and later spent three years at Hewlett Packard. While there, I led a 30-person team helping the government modernize and transform its technology services. (This is much harder than handling rockets!)
I arrived at ManTech in 2016, first as a program and project manager and now as an executive director of operations in our Innovation and Capabilities office, where I lead over 50 direct and indirect staff in collaboration with more than 100 cross matrixed members. If you’re interested in careers at ManTech, you can search openings here: https://rly.pt/3Noeebk
By 2017, I was well into my career, but I still wanted to finish college. Even though the military provided me with critical IT training and experience, a higher education would help to advance my professional development.
American Military University was the perfect place to earn my degree, which is in information technology management: https://rly.pt/3gWXsUk
AMU understood me — a military Veteran working full time while raising two young children with Theresa, my amazing wife. AMU allowed me to take courses online, which gave me the flexibility to learn while balancing a busy schedule. I could take classes after work, and still have time to take Kayla, age 7, and Jackson, age 3, to school and to playdates.
And despite my years of real-world experience, AMU’s program of study reinforced the founding principles of IT and computer science. I developed a better understanding of the “why” behind certain principles and how they work. The military instilled in me a desire and drive to finish my degree. My education at AMU sharpened my overall knowledge of IT and prepared me to reach new heights in my career.
Everyone’s military and post-military experiences are unique. But we all face degrees of risk. As you think about your educational plans and your transition to civilian life, it is OK to accept a measure uncertainty. And it is OK to change plans. Only you know what’s best for you and your family and what’s going to motivate you long term.
Dig deep, discover what excites you, and I’m confident that success after service will find you.
• Search ManTech job openings at https://rly.pt/3Noeebk
• Find GI Bill information: https://benefits.va.gov/gibill
• View my educational pathway: https://rly.pt/3gWXsUk
The views and opinions expressed here are solely from the author and do not reflect the opinions of any organization in this piece.