Editor's Note: This is the first of a ten part, monthly series where a transitioning Veteran tells his or her story. Enjoy, reminisce, hopefully laugh a little... in this episode, Steve tells us how he weighed that tough decision many of us make to leave Uncle Sam for other pastures.
So... the best place to start is probably to give you some background on who I am and where I’ve been. I entered the Army early in 2013 as a brand new Engineer Lieutenant after doing ROTC in college. I did not take the ROTC scholarship and had a short three-year active commitment. My active career has been spent exclusively at Fort Bragg with an Airborne Engineer Battalion. I am married and my wife has a professional career. We do not have any children. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Army, and I would absolutely do it again given the chance. I have good relationships with all of my leadership, past and present, and I would like to be clear that their actions or leadership styles were not contributing factors to my decision.
I should preface my decision process by saying that I never intended to make the Army a career. I initially saw myself staying in long enough to make Captain and complete a Company Command, but that was about as far as I thought I’d want to stay.
Time went on, life happened, and I learned about the Army and my future in it. I came to realize that it would be many years before I even had the opportunity to get myself into the Company Commander queue. It seemed to me that most of the battalions had a surplus of engineer officers, lieutenants especially, and there was already a backlog of captains awaiting a command. The idea of eagerly preparing hundreds of PowerPoint slideshows until a slot finally opened up didn’t quite resonate with me. As an Engineer officer, there are external opportunities with the Corps of Engineers or as a Special Operations Group Engineer, but these positions are an option only if your availability happens to coincide with the person leaving the position. In other words, a serious amount of work needs to be done in order to find a position that lines up with your timeline and is a positive career move, especially if you’re targeting a specific location.
This extensive wait for a command slot and the alternatives in the interim are my second reason for deciding to leave (I know, one comes first, but I’ll get to that).
The larger, and far more important reason presented itself to me everyday in the form of my wife’s hour and fifteen minute one-way commute (reason number one). Her field of work dictates that she is at least somewhat close to a large metropolitan area, exactly where every single Army post isn’t, except for maybe Fort Stewart. As I looked ahead to the next several years of my Army career, I saw two major PCS moves, one to CCC at Fort Leonard Wood (2 hours from St. Louis), and another to an unknown post for my next duty assignment. The odds of a reasonable commute for both of us were not forever in our favor (Hunger Games shout out). I know how much she sacrificed in supporting my career in the Army, and I decided that it was the right time in my career to return her support by moving on.
So there it is, the factors influencing my decision. One family, the other, future career prospects. As I stated earlier, my leadership in no was had a negative impact on my decision, and I did not make my decision to ‘get away’ from poor leaders.