Posted on Sep 1, 2019
SGT Cavalry Scout
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I plan to serve either four or five years on active duty after obtaining my bachelors. I have a passion to continue serving in combat arms and would like to branch armor or infantry; however, I sense that transitioning from a combat unit to working as a Mechanical Engineer will be difficult. I am a little worried I will not be as proficient in the intellectual skills necessary to fulfill this role. Does anyone have any advice on the transition from active duty to the civilian life? Thanks in advance.
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LTC Jason Mackay
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Edited 1 y ago
SGT (Join to see) couple things.
1. Start building a professional network, this is how you get work, start with people you went to school with.
2. Study for and pass the FE exam so you can start working on your PE license. Any engineering work you do, get the reference and experience documented. See the NCEES site or the state you'll work/license in. Your hurdle will be design experience.
3. Figure out the area you want to work in and get certifications in that area like LEED. Stay current in the field while you are on AD.
4. Much of Engineering is about solving problems and making stuff happen. Culturally this is to your advantage. A project manager at our local utility company was a Cav scout and we got along great. I was a customer stakeholder. Bring that mission first attitude.
5. Civilian organizations are more "civilized". Few have had to crap in a hole, share a tooth pick with a battle, shoot at someone etc. watch your language or you'll be a HR frequent flyer. If people have a problem with you, they won't generally take it up with you... HR again.
6. People will become interested in your back story. Don't tell the same stories over and over.
7. Join professional organizations like American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The member publications will help keep you up in the field. Go to local chapter meetings to build network..
8. See if the DPW on post will let you assist with a project in some capacity in you off time.
9. If you are thinking about commissioning try and branch engineer so you can build PE experience time.

I transitioned and went back to civil engineering, via engineering management doing facilities maintenance. There were some really rough days and weeks, but as an entry level engineer you'll be ok. Keep a good attitude.
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Capt Daniel Goodman
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Here's minimum what you'll need, OK? First yr, standard physics, with FULL calc, both halves, differential and integral, AS WELL AS std inorganic 1st-yr chem, WITH LABS FOR ALL, OK? Second yr, differential eqns, then vector calc, which is typ calc 3 in most schools, also full modern physics WITH LAB, a WHOLE 2nd yrs, NOT HALF, OK? Third yr, linear/matrix algebra, complex variables, control systems...at some point, 2nd or 3rd yr, engrg mechanics (all schools use Beer and Johnston, trust me, the big blue Bible), as well as strength of materials...then, too, math methods in physics, using Boas or Arfken, Boas is easier, Arfken is rougher, though they're undergrad texts, they can be used as grad texts, however, they'll keep you going learning enough math physics technique...you'll need coursework on lasers, as well as electro-optics...you'll esp need numerical methods and/or approximation techniques...you'll also want signal processing, for data acquisition from wind tunnels, which are still used, I assure you...then, too, a good deal of chaotic nonlinear dynamics, catastrophe theory, differential geometry, point-set topology, modern algebra of groups, rings, and fields, function theory...you'll also want a good deal of particle physics, electromagnetics using Johnk (EE) or Jackson (physics), and statistical physics (which is just about the single hardest area in physics)...that's why I'm suggesting materials science for you, you'll get a WAY more current, diverse background, than doing straight mech/aero...look up also chassical dynamics using Goldstein, quantum mechanics using Anderson and/or Merzbacher...you want the REAL thing? Trust me, I'm GIVING you the REAL thing, honest, OK? And if you can do more chem, that'd also be good, incl analytic chem, organic, spectroscopy and ind instrumentation, incl mass spectrometry, IR, UV, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques, all of which are used in destructive as well as nondestructive testing (NDT)...if you can manage some ultrasonics along the way, that'd also be a big help, it's highly germane, esp for such testing approaches for structures, OK? There's way more, however, that'll give you at least a rudimentary clue, OK?
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