Feb 21

Break the Chain

We don’t need another awareness campaign about veteran suicide.  Plenty of people are aware that every day veterans are taking their lives.  What we need is action, and we need to stop looking around at other people seeing they are going to do something about it.  I started CONUS Battle Drills because I simply could not sit idle any longer while my brothers tore themselves apart.  Today I present #BreakTheChain, an effort to educate veterans and arm each and every one of us to combat this epidemic.  Watch the video below or click here:

 

 

YOU can help #BreakTheChain by getting yourself prepared and understanding the four big questions, YOU can call a buddy today to see how he is doing, and YOU can promise not to quit.  If there were millions of us looking out for each other, working together, checking up on each other, and educating each other, we can stop veteran suicide.

Let’s stop looking to government or someone else, let’s look at ourselves and figure out how we can take care of just one or two people…together we can affect serious, lasting, positive change.

#BreakTheChain

-LJF

 

Click the image below to find out what we’re doing here at CONUS Battle Drills!

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Feb 15

You hired a veteran, but how do you keep him?

According to a survey by VetAdvisor and Syracuse university, a full 65% of veterans leave their first civilian job within two years.  Usually at CONUS Battle Drills we focus on how the veteran can improve their position, but in this case, I want to send a shout out to folks out there hiring veterans and give them some tips.

At first glance, that statistic can deter you from even considering hiring a vet because of the costs of turnover, but there are some significant benefits that these people bring that make them excellent employees.  They are disciplined, on time, courageous, leaders with integrity and incredible work ethic.  They will accomplish tasks at what seems like impossible timelines, and they aren’t afraid to give you bad news, two qualities that are exceptionally rare in the civilian world.  They are fiercely loyal and if they have a problem you can be sure they will tell you about it…and bring a solution as well. I strongly believe you should always look at the veteran community when making hiring decisions for all these reasons, but you have to control that turnover rate.

Make a Career Plan

Before I had even pinned on my Lieutenant bars, I knew what my career would look like from my first platoon leader time all the way to retirement and the key jobs in between.  I could set career goals early on and work to achieve those goals.  Every move I made was calculated towards achieving those goals.  This is something that is greatly lacking in the civilian workplace.  For years I asked my superiors and mentors to no avail, all they ever said is “there is no real path”.  Turns out this wasn’t exactly true.   By picking up little bits of information as I went along, I was able to determine some key jobs titles that I would need to move forward.  So if you have hired a veteran, you need to have a career path of some sorts planned out for them, or be ready to give them some tips and key positions in their advancement.  The job they are in can’t look like a dead end and they need to know that there are future challenges ahead, this will keep them excited.

It also helps to know salary ranges with responsibilities.  For some reason human resources departments try and keep this information top secret which I have never understood.  The lowest private can see what his commander makes every month, and he can look at those salaries and make a determination where he wants his career to go. We come from a place where everyone wears their pay grade and qualifications on their chest, and we can all see how much the other guy makes.  The secrecy with which civilians deal with pay grades and salaries makes no sense, but I don’t want to fight for a promotion or a position if the pay isn’t worth the sacrifice in my opinion, and it’s better to know that before getting the job.

Training

The dismal on-boarding process that I have observed in many civilian companies is incredibly frustrating.  When the military takes someone on, they spend months training them to be a soldier, then more months training them in their initial entry job, then as they get promoted, there are other schools and training they have to go through in order to pin on the next rank.  When they aren’t deployed, they are training, train, train, train, train, train.  Civilians are terrible at training.  If you want to get the most out of the veteran you just hired and experience all the benefits I outlined early on, you have to train them how to do the job; a week of safety presentations and powerpoints is not it.

One way to develop a training plan is to list out the qualities that you are looking for in the job that you are hiring for.  What skills does this person need to have?  What programs do they need to know?  Who do they need to meet?  List those things out and give them to your veteran with a plan on how to have them “certified” in every item within the first 3 months.  This will provide a goal and help you work with them as they integrate.

Establish a Veteran Community

Hopefully this isn’t your first veteran hire, so there should be other folks in your company that have successfully made this transition.  We don’t usually shout from the rafters about our service, so you typically have to get to know us to find out that we have worn the uniform.  As a hiring manager, I assume you know the people around you and can introduce your new veteran hire to some senior veterans in your organization.  I can’t tell you how important this is.  There are questions that your veteran has about the differences between civilian life and the military that you are not prepared to answer.  Meeting someone else also establishes a support network of like-minded individuals.  Many of the questions your veteran has, someone else in your organization has already struggled through.

During our entire time in service, we always had a buddy.  One other man who had our back and we were accountable to each other.  We looked after each other’s gear and health.  We grew up in that world, and entering a different world where our jokes don’t make sense and we don’t have anyone out there looking out for us can feel very lonely.  This is going to decrease job satisfaction, and if there doesn’t seem to be a good career path and we have no idea what we’re doing because we haven’t been trained, then we’re going to find another job.  So establish a veteran community and some way of putting these veterans in contact with each other.

Even after you do all these things, you might still lose some veterans, don’t take it personal.  One of the four big questions I am always telling folks getting out is, “Do you know what you want to do?”  Too many folks get out without answering that question and some honestly don’t know.  Maybe they think they can leave the adrenaline junky job behind but find out after a year or two behind a desk that they can’t find joy in their life without chasing bad guys.  That’s on them, but if you want to take that 65% turnover rate and drop it into the single digits, you need to Have a Career Path, Make a Training Plan, and Establish a Veteran Community.

-LJF

 

Click the image below to find out what we’re doing here at CONUS Battle Drills!

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Dec 13

Veteran Profile: Nick Palmisciano-

Taking on CONUS Battle Drills as a project has taught me a lot of things about myself and the “skills” that I have.  For instance, I am absolutely terrible at video editing.  As you know it’s been weeks since I sat down with Nick for this interview, and in that time I have tried to learn everything I could about splicing and fading video, but it turns out I have zero talent and even less patience to make a half-way decent cut.  My intent was to give you a 5-10 minute version of this 25 minute interview, but after hours of “editing” the first 5 minutes, I had 4 minutes and 38 seconds of video…

That’s a lot of words to explain why i’m giving you the full video, even with my very awkward question in the middle which Nick took in stride.  I learned a ton in just these few minutes, and if you are planning on starting your own business, every minute here will be worth your while.  Also, if you’ve never heard Nick talk about his personal journey, this is very much worth your time.

“And so I started a Hobby”


-LJF

 

Click the image below to find out what we’re doing here at CONUS Battle Drills!

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Dec 10

The 4 Big Questions and Your Transition Plan

Getting out of the military is a huge deal.  You are changing your career, your community, your location, everything.  Not planning properly is a quick way to fuck up your life for years to come.

Here is the chain of failure that I see often repeated among too many veterans:

  • Get out without a financial plan
  • Move “back home”
  • Results in unemployment or underemployment
  • Financial troubles result in marriage problems
  • Marriage breaks results in divorce
  • Relationship with kids is strained resulting in isolation
  • Isolation and depression result in substance abuse
  • Substance abuse and depression lead to suicide

Obviously this isn’t always the case, no problem is that simple, but for many veterans this is indeed true, and we can break this chain if we prepare you for transition, or even after your transition.

Enter the 4 Big Questions

  1. Are you Financially ready to get out?
  2. Do you know WHY you are getting out?
  3. Do you know Where you want to live?
  4. Do you know What you want to do?

If you answer these four questions, you will invariably make a plan for your transition.  If you’ve already gotten out, you can use these questions to MAKE a plan and then work towards it.  If you can take care of the external stressors in your life:  marriage, finances, work, etc, then taking care of the internal stressors like PTSD becomes much easier.  If you get a job tomorrow, that problem is fixed overnight; you’re not going to have the same success wrestling the demons in your mind.

Question 1- There is a ton of information out there on making a budget. Personally, I think Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University was an outstanding tool.  If you don’t want to pay for it, there’s probably a class going on in a church near you.  I’ve never personally met the guy, but everything I learned about finances, I’ve learned from him.  Bottom line is this:  You need to know where every dollar you make is going, and have a plan for every dollar

I really like things presented simply, and Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps are just that:

  1. Save $1,000
  2. Pay off Debt (except the house)
  3. 3-6 month fund
  4. Invest 15%
  5. Save for College
  6. Pay off Home
  7. Give

Question 2- At some point after you get out, you’re going to look back at your time in the military and miss it.  If you have a bad reason for getting out, that thought is going to nag at you.  Bad reasons include but are not limited to:

  • My 1SG is an asshole
  • I hate PT formations
  • The command climate is toxic
  • Fort Polk is a shithole
  • My wife hates the military

That last one sets a lot of people off, but if you love being in the military, and she hates it, you are going to resent her for “making” you get out and that is going to cause major problems in the relationship you are trying to save by getting out.  I don’t have the right answer for you here, sorry, but you two need to talk.

Here is a great write up from Chad on answering this question

Question 3- I know you want to go back home.  You have fond memories of your childhood, and you miss being around your family.  If you can’t find a job, however, going back home is the worst possible thing you can do to yourself and your family.  I have talked about decision gates as a way to find a middle ground here:

12 months out:  I want a job in Athens, GA

9 months out:  I want a job within 4 hours of Athens, GA

6 months out: I want a job in the southeast United States

3 months out: I want a job anywhere in the US

You move to the next gate if you have had no success at the previous one.  Also, get a fucking headhunter.

Question 4- You are starting a new career and a new life.  It’s your chance to do whatever you want.  Seriously, your MOS should NEVER be a limiting factor in looking for your next career.  If you don’t want to do your MOS for the rest of your life then don’t.  Being a veteran, you bring a lot of things to the table that are hard to find in the civilian world, your MOS is not one of them.

In Conclusion

Alright, so you made it through this article, you’re on the right track.  Take this seriously and now go back and click the links provided and read those.  Then go back and answer the questions, and make sure if you’re married that answering them is a joint effort.

Now you have a plan, go execute and congratulations on this next phase in your life!

-LJF

 

Click the image below to find out what we’re doing here at CONUS Battle Drills!

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