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Aug 09

How to approach the GI Bill

Good morning Mr. Fernandez,

I picked up a copy of your CONUS Battle Drills off Amazon last month and I am currently on chapter six. I just wanted to inform you how I appreciate your efforts and time in the creation of this book and I thoroughly enjoy how it is written – it’s almost as if we are having a casual conversation face-to-face. It’s not bogged down in formality like a military instruction manual.

As I’ve read thus far a lot of the things you have inscribed make sense and actually provide a pretty new and unique experience on things I haven’t really contemplated yet; and the things that I already had an idea or understanding about, your prospective definitely provided a new way for the information to resonate and solidify.

I have a question though if you do not mind: Obviously as an officer you entered the military with a bachelor’s degree (in History you said), but I am enlisted and joined straight from high school. I’ve been in for three years now and have three years left on my enlistment – how would you incorporate going to school in your guide?

Answering your four big questions:

Question 1) My finances are in order.

Question 2) I enlisted to figure out a purpose in life, knowing the military would provide and care for me in whatever capacity was required and hopefully it would provide me with direction, or at least at a minimum some skills that I could transition with later in life. The reason I want to get out after my six years is because I do not particularly enjoy what I am doing now in my MOS and I’ve always viewed the military as a stepping stone to help position in a better financial and skill set holding later in life – I want to move onto something more personally challenging, interesting, and rewarding.

Question 3) I’m a single pringle; location is not a bother for me; I’ve lived in California in the first 18 years of my life and Japan the last three as sea-duty FDNF.

Question 4) Not a fucken clue – and I feel that is something you and I have in common – we both intended (you actually did) get out and were open to anything (granted as long as it provided for your family). I’ve thought about school (which is why I mentioned above that I wish you would of hinted on that for us enlisted folks (maybe you did but I haven’t found it yet), but I’ve also thought about trying to start a business (I think I have a pretty solid conceptual plan), or civil service (such as firefighting).

Anyhow – I hope you have time to reply it would be incredibly appreciated. The book is great and I will continue to read and reread it surely.

Thank you,

Chandler

Chandler,

Thanks for taking the time to write and I’m glad you’re enjoying the book!  It’s funny that you ask this question because it encouraged me to write a post that I’ve been planning on writing for weeks but haven’t made it a priority (sometimes life gets in the way.  Your question as I understand it: When should I get my degree and what should I do?

So I’m going to try and answer your question without really answering it since these next steps are a matter of your own preference, but I’ll try and offer some perspective.

First let’s talk about the degree you choose.  As you know, I was a history major in college.  I was in ROTC and knew that I was joining the military, so I treated my degree as a path to get gold bars.  That was a mistake.  I see it in enlisted guys taking classes so they can get enough points to make rank.  We are wasting this great investment opportunity, and if I could go back and sit down with that 19 year old me who was leaving engineering because he didn’t like it and studying history instead, I would smack him across the face.  Instead of being a history major with an MBA, I could be an industrial engineer with an MBA; job titles and promotions for the latter would come much more easily!

The bottom line is this:  Don’t waste your major.  Consider college an investment, look at hiring trends and pick a major that will open up the most job opportunities in both quantity and quality.  Even if you’re not a huge fan of the course material, the workplace is rarely simulated well in the classroom.  That being said, don’t pick something you absolutely detest because you’re not likely to do well.  The US Military is the premiere leadership organization on the planet, couple that experience with a Bachelor’s of Science, and you’ll be well ahead of your peers.

Now, as far as timing for schooling, that’s going to be up to you.  I’ve seen soldiers go to school while serving and others that used the GI bill to pay their way and became full time students after ETS.  If you’re a single guy with no dependents, going to school full time seems like the better option.  I think you can challenge yourself further and have better results.  If you have a family, trying to get out and live off the E-5 base pay (without all the other assistance that you get while in uniform) is pretty difficult.  Again, it’s up to you.  You know your work schedule and your command climate, if they will support you then go for it.

One final point, if you’re starting a business, you need to consider that it costs a lot of money to do that, carries a lot or risk, and most new businesses fail, so you’re probably going to want another source of income.

Good luck and Godspeed!

Louis

 

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2 comments

  1. Louis Fernandez

    Mark,
    Thanks for sharing! Nice job Airborne! Glad you enjoyed the book, it wasn’t easy opening up and talking about the gritty truths. The stoic combat veteran persona is much easier to maintain. Good call on tuition assistance. Chandler has this link, so i’m sure he’ll see!

    Thanks!
    Louis

  2. Mark

    Hi Louis,

    First of all, congratulations my fellow paratrooper! Not only your book is the closest step by step manual on transitioning from military to the corporate world, it also provides a real life experience that is very much relatable.

    When I got out in 2008, I knew that raising a family and having a military career would be challenging to my loved ones so I decided to ETS. During my 15 months deployment, I have personally experienced how difficult it was to balance your responsibility between your family and your unit.

    I was lucky to build a great relationship with my superiors that they were willing to write a recommendation letter for me. Like Chandler (one of your readers), I didn’t have a college degree when I got out. But equipped with my military experience and determination, I was able to handle working full-time and going to school full-time at the same time. With grit and motivation, I finished my bachelor’s degree in 3 years and transitioned to a better paying job in the corporate world, as a tax accountant.

    Secondly, even though I’m in a better predicament, I still bought your book and read it several times. I’ve loved it so much that I bought another one and gave it to my mentor as a present. Speaking of mentorship, you might want to google ACP Mentorship. This is a great organization that partners veterans with mentors from Fortune 500 companies. It helped me network and assimilate to the corporate world much better.

    Lastly, keep up the great work. You and the rest of of strong minded veterans community are the future leaders of our country.

    All theway! Airborne

    Respectfully,

    Mark

    P.S.

    Please tell Charles to take advantage of the tuition assistance in his base. He could slowly build up his confidence and study habits while he is still in the service. And save his GI Bill when he is ready for his major. Avoid the online/ for profit school. Use the GI Bill wisely by doing research and due diligence. If he is fully committed to getting his bachelor’s degree, he could always start in a community college and then transition to a bigger university for his major. This was the route that I used. Because of this, I only used 1 year of my GI Bill and could still use the remaining 2 years for my Masters.

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