• Career Fields & Profiles

    Career Fields & Profiles

    Career Fields & Profiles

    Choosing a career in the Military takes careful consideration. Below, start exploring our Career Fields & Profiles section to find jobs that fit your skill set and interests. Each page includes that field's typical careers, required training, daily responsibilities and associated civilian careers. Additionally, be sure to check out our career profiles for a personal look from a service member at day-to-day life in that field.

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Profile: Ed Holloway, Operations Chief, Personal & Culinary Services

Career Field: Personal and Culinary Services

Service Branch: Marine Corps

Like many high school students, Ed wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after graduating high school. He was an athletic, sports-minded individual who loved competing and who was drawn to the idea of representing his country — within the sports arena. He enrolled at the University of Louisville immediately after high school but soon found he wasn’t disciplined enough to stay.

“My heart was into the athletics of it, but I wasn’t into pursuing further education at that time.”

Ed received various materials from the Military, and he was drawn to the idea of the Marine Corps. He took a shine to what they stood for — the values, the physical training, the mental challenges. It reminded him of what he loved about sports and competition. Ed’s stepfather had served in the Marine Corps and his grandfather served in the Army, but his family still urged him to finish school. They felt joining the Marines was a hard-core decision. But Ed made up his mind. It was what he wanted to do.

After taking the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), Ed entertained the idea of becoming a food service specialist in the Military. He spent much of his childhood in his grandmother’s kitchen and worked in food service while at summer camps growing up, so it seemed like a natural fit.

“I knew I wanted to go into a field that would carry over to the civilian world when I left the Military. I knew that.”

After enlisting, Ed went into Basic Training (often called “boot camp”). It wasn’t as physically challenging, due in part to being athletic in high school, as it was mentally. But it was immediately beneficial — being put together with a group of diverse individuals, all working together to accomplish the task at hand, was an inspiring challenge. And, coming from a small town in Kentucky, boot camp also offered Ed a snapshot into the lives of others — where they came from, and what their values were.

I wanted to go into a field that would carry over to the civilian world.

“Everything is based on teamwork. [As a group,] you can only move as fast as your slowest person. So you strive to be able to help someone else out.”

Following Basic Training, Ed had to complete Marine Combat Training — which teaches every enlisted Marine the basic concept of being a war fighter and different combat techniques. Then Ed was assigned to his first fleet and enrolled in Basic Food Service class. With each additional class, Ed realized he was learning skills that could transition easily to the civilian world. But it wasn’t only food service training Ed was receiving. It was an education on things he never expected.

“I grew up in Kentucky… I had been to Indiana and Ohio a couple of times. Now I’ve probably been to over three-quarters of the U.S. When deployed on a ship in the Mediterranean, we hit France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Africa, and I have been stationed in mainland Japan and on Okinawa… that’s an interesting life.”

What in Ed’s mind was going to be a four-year stint is now going on 22 years, bringing him to a senior leadership role as operations chief in personal and culinary services. Throughout his career, he’s been a cook in the galley at sea for six months, cooking for more than 2,000 service members. He’s been in charge of funding and budgets and responsible for a $12 million annual food budget. He’s worked in acquisition, procuring service equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command. He even served as a recruiter. For Ed, the opportunities grew with each passing year. And with each new opportunity, Ed learned more about the Marines, about himself and about what it means to serve.

“As leaders in the Military, our job is to take people as they come in and return them back to civilian life a better citizen for our country. Even if it is just for four years, you leave the Military a better citizen.”

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Profile: James Tiernan, Surface Operations Officer

Career Field: Naval and Maritime Operations

Service Branch: Navy

“When I was in high school, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pay for college. I thought a military scholarship would help get me through that, so I applied for a four-year ROTC scholarship.”

His grandfather had served in the Army in World War II, but James became interested in joining the Navy when he learned about the travel and scholarship opportunities — and when he saw the movie Top Gun.

James attended Norwich University, a senior military college, and earned a three-year ROTC scholarship from the Navy. As part of the program, James participated in everyday academic classes and military training with both the university’s Corps of Cadets and the Navy ROTC unit. During this time, he also honed in on his military career choice.

“The Navy had a program where you got to spend a week in the four areas of the Navy: a week in surface, a week in sub-surface, a week in aviation and a week in the Marines. It really helped determine what you want to do — you get to experience it.”

James was initially interested in submarines but eventually chose to go into the Surface Force, which includes cruisers, destroyers, frigates and amphibious combatants. Upon completing college and becoming a commissioned officer, he headed to San Diego for initial surface warfare training. There, James learned the basic fundamentals of ship life, steam propulsion and how to operate different pieces of equipment onboard. When he completed training, the Navy flew James to Perth, Australia, to meet the USS Fort Fisher — the site of his first assignment.

“When I got to the ship, I was assigned to the engineering department … I was the machinery division officer, responsible for all the equipment in the main propulsion plant that drove the ship.”

After about six weeks at sea, the USS Fort Fisher returned to homeport in San Diego for three years doing the same type of work. During his next tour in Japan, however, he became a damage control assistant aboard the USS Independence, a Forrestal-class aircraft carrier.

If a Sailor [has] needs or problems, I really [try] to help them fix it … Every single person that came through the gates was important to us. 

“I was responsible for damage control on the ship. We would drill and train the crew to be able to respond to a variety of different things — we were pretty similar to a fire department.”

From Japan, James was stationed in Illinois at the Great Lakes Service School Command. During his six-year stay there, he was able to step away from day-to-day ship life and focus on training the Navy recruits and future Sailors. James served as a school director and then as a business management director. In both roles, he enjoyed improving the young Sailors’ quality of life as well as helping them through the personal, family and physical challenges of their military journey.

“If a Sailor had needs or problems, I really tried to help them fix it … Every single person that came through the gates was important to us. We wanted to make sure that every person succeeded.”

When James relocated to Hawaii, he took advantage of a new program that allowed him to work with the Coast Guard. Although he was still part of the Navy, James served as a liaison with the Coast Guard doing maritime homeland defense and security. He conducted a variety of activities to improve operations between the Coast Guard and the Navy on the islands and beyond.

Today, you will find James still serving with the Navy in Hawaii as a surface operations officer. He takes part in anti-submarine warfare and is tasked with monitoring the waters of the Pacific. James also spends a great deal of time communicating with other groups to improve the quality and level of their performance. He works with surface ships and submarines on a variety of training exercises.

James is nearing his 20-year career mark, at which time he will be eligible to receive the Military’s generous retirement benefits. He has no concrete plans for when that time comes but is cognizant of the fact that, with the extensive career background he has gained in the Navy, he would have several options.

“I could walk into a variety of different civilian businesses at a management level … there’s so many opportunities.”

In the meantime, James is simply glad to serve and thankful for the many experiences the Military has afforded him. From helping to pay for his college education, to giving him an opportunity to see the world, the Navy has provided James with a wealth of personal and professional growth.

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Profile: Jeff Joseph, Submarine Readiness Officer

Career Field: Naval and Maritime Operations

Service Branch: Navy

When I was in high school, I decided that I was interested in the Navy ROTC program as a way to pay for school. It was an interesting opportunity to do some things and serve the country. I got accepted to the Navy ROTC program at the University of Illinois. I was a nuclear engineering major, so it was a pretty natural fit to go into the Navy’s nuclear power program.

I've actually served on three submarines — the USS Kamehameha, the USS Buffalo and the USS Louisville. I’ve been serving in submarines for 18 years, and I’ve followed a fairly standard career path: junior officer to department head to executive officer, and now I’m a deputy commander at Submarine Squadron Three in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

It’s a privilege to come to work with guys who are good at their job, care a lot and work hard.

I’m charged with readiness, which primarily involves the material readiness and manning of the submarines. I help the submarine crews coordinate with our maintenance activities here in Pearl Harbor. I make arrangements if they need parts or need assistance to keep them on track with their schedule and with the execution of their mission.

On a day-to-day basis I’m involved in the technical side of the business, whether that be the repair, maintenance and operation of the reactor plant, or the weapons system, sonar, fire control, the navigation — all of the gear on board. So, in order to do that, I have to understand the operational side, too. I have to understand what they need this particular piece of equipment for and how it is incorporated within the boat. So just the understanding of how the ships work, what they do at sea, those are kind of the two big skill sets that I use every day as far as from a technical and tactical side.

I’ve been pretty lucky in my last few jobs to have served with some really great, great people. No matter what they joined for, or what their background is, I think all the Sailors onboard really want to be a part of something worthwhile. It’s rare to find a group of people who are as talented and driven and dedicated to the cause. It’s a privilege to come to work with guys who are good at their job, care a lot and work hard. You don’t find that everywhere.

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Profile: Jeff Payne, Engineer Officer

Career Field: Naval and Maritime Operations

Service Branch: Coast Guard

“I had been a cook in a restaurant, worked in shipyards, done manual labor, a little bit of construction and some other things, and I knew there was more out there … I joined the Military to get a better life.”

By age 16, after growing up with different family members, Jeff Payne took it upon himself to look for a better future. In high school, Jeff’s football coach suggested he consider the Coast Guard Academy. Thinking it was a long shot, Jeff went through the process of interviewing with a Coast Guard Reserve member. He did a panel interview, filled out paperwork and completed the physical exam required by all U.S. military academies. And then, much to his satisfaction, he was accepted.

Jeff won’t deny that four years at a military academy is not like the typical college experience.

“The difference is the amount of work … your days are longer; your days are harder … When you’re there though, you’re very tight with your classmates … especially at the Coast Guard; it’s a very small service academy so you know everyone in your class.”

After graduation, Jeff went directly to sea. This gets graduates out of the classroom and into an apprenticeship/internship role in order to gain true, hands-on experience. As an engineering major in the Academy, Jeff had moved from problems in math books to live practice on the cutters themselves. He was working directly with engines the size of a living room, and, at only age 22, was already responsible for overseeing several mechanics and other crewmembers. This meant Jeff had to both lead and learn on the job.

I’m not here because I just want a degree. I’m here because this is what I do for a living.

“The hardest thing to learn is how to be able to both lead and follow at the same time. Yes, technically, you are in charge of these guys. But these are technicians who have been doing it for a very long time. You’re also learning an awful lot from them.”

Later, after serving as a port engineer for a naval engineering support unit in Florida, Jeff was paid by the Coast Guard to obtain a master’s degree at the University of Michigan. While earning his degree, he and the other military engineers quickly distinguished themselves.

“I need to learn because I’m going to be using this. I’m not here because I just want a degree. I’m here because this is what I do for a living.”

Today, Jeff is an engineer officer responsible for 25 crewmen.

“I’m responsible for the entire ship … for all the systems: electronic, electrical, mechanical, hull, every single thing you can possibly think of on a ship.”

Such responsibility is not without excitement. Whether checking fishing boats for safety, saving illegal immigrants aboard dangerous vessels in the middle of the Caribbean or stopping speedboats carrying drugs or weapons from entering our waters — Jeff’s “typical” day at work is not so typical. Most importantly, his service in the Coast Guard, where he plans to stay for a very long time, has taught him the humility of real leadership.

“When you’re leading those guys … the biggest thing is not being overconfident but listening and paying attention and trying to learn …”

From a kid, on his own at age 16, to an officer with degrees from two prestigious institutions, Jeff has shown what hard work, modest leadership and basic discipline can do to make aspirations into reality.

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Profile: Philip Kiley, Boatswain’s Mate

Career Field: Naval and Maritime Operations

Service Branch: Coast Guard Reserve

“I enjoy leadership positions and taking on responsibility, so boatswain's mate was the perfect fit.”

While most of Philip Kiley's college classmates were enjoying their last few, worry-free years before entering "the real world," Kiley yearned for responsibility. The leader within him, already evident from his roles in student government and as a collegiate track star, needed a place to grow and develop. He knew the Military was the answer; he just didn't know which branch.

“My mom helped me tremendously ... She’s great at researching things, so she would always be on the computer.”

Philip credits his mother with helping him choose the Coast Guard. She spent hours online, viewing message boards and finding out everything she could about being a Coast Guard reservist. At the end of his junior year at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Philip went down to the recruiting office in Providence, R.I. His mom went with him.

“As boot camp progresses, they build you up. You gain confidence in yourself. You gain confidence in your shipmates and your company.”

I enjoy leadership positions and taking on responsibility, so [it] was the perfect fit.

At Basic Training at Cape May, N.J., Philip’s track and field training came through for him. By the time he emerged, boot camp had boosted his self-confidence to a new level. He now felt fully prepared to handle the job he had set his sights on: boatswain's mate. A very versatile role, the boatswain’s mate can perform almost any task connected with deck maintenance, small boat operations or navigation. He or she also supervises all personnel on a ship's deck force and can take the helm of the ship.

Fortunately for Philip, there was an opening for a boatswain’s mate at a Port Security Unit 301 on Cape Cod.

“I had heard about the PSUs before. They sound like a lot of fun. You get a lot of great training, a lot of action.”

Unlike other reserve units, port security units perform 60 drills a year instead of 48. Philip thrived on the extra training. He also signed up for a week at the Coast Guard Academy's Leadership and Management School, where he further honed his skills as a leader and unit manager.

“You know being a small Service, every member is important to get the mission done. You get a lot of responsibility put on you at a young age.”

Looking forward, Philip intends to put his leadership training to good use as he considers his next career move. He's looking at Officer Candidate School, as well as potential opportunities in the intelligence field or law enforcement. One thing is for sure; no matter where his career path takes him, the leadership lessons he's already learned in the Coast Guard will serve him well.

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Profile: Timothy Mays, Sonar Technician

Career Field: Naval and Maritime Operations

Service Branch: Navy

We really don’t talk about what we do as a submarine force. That’s one reason why we call it the Silent Service. But basically I'm a sonar technician, which means we make sure that the ship doesn’t hit anything that makes noise. If it makes noise, we figure out what it is, where it is.

Before I joined the Navy, I had earned my degree in geology. I worked for a little more than a year in the e-business services of a large technology company, so I knew my way around a wide variety of computers. The company and I parted ways, and then I started the process to join the Navy. I wanted to qualify to be a sonar technician because I wanted to get my master’s degree in either applied mathematics or physical oceanography. I think it is the best enlisted job to really get to work with oceanography.

When I went through advanced training, I was taught the basics of sound and how it works in water, how things move in the water and how to calculate the geometries. After you're assigned to your submarine, you learn a lot of the technical details of your system.

I get the sense I’m actually doing something useful.

You're not really a useful member of the crew until you earn your submarine warfare pin — or your dolphins, as we call it. And to do that, you have to learn every system in the ship with a certain degree of proficiency. So just because I’m a sonar tech doesn’t mean I don’t have a basic understanding of how the sub’s nuclear reactor works.

When you are in the submarine force, you're at sea more often than not. You have no personal external communication with the outside world for extended periods, and you can’t see the sun or anything else. All you have is a steel tube with machinery and 130 or more people aboard. You learn how to live with a lot of different people in close proximity. It’s a skill set you develop, the ability to work together in a small, confined enclosure for very long periods of time with the same group of people under high levels of stress.

I figured I was going to do my five years of enlistment and then go do my master’s program and move on from there. But about four years in, a sonar tech exchange program with the Royal Australian Navy started. I put in my paperwork for it, and I actually got selected. I was part of the first group to be fully integrated into an Australian submarine crew. I learned how to view tactics and everything differently. It is so that our two navies can exchange some ideas at the deck plates and have an even better understanding of each other.

Since I already have a degree, I applied for Officer Candidate School and I was selected. I’ll be transferring to the surface warfare community. I don't know where I’ll be stationed. It's still in the future. As a surface warfare officer, the end goal is usually command of your own ship. I know I could probably go back to a big corporation in the private sector, but I’d be largely bored, and I’d wonder about my job’s purpose. Because here I can see the bigger picture and get the sense I’m actually doing something useful.

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Profile: Adrien Cheval, Maritime Law Enforcement Boarding Officer/Response Boat Coxswain

Career Field: Law Enforcement, Security and Protective Services

Service Branch: Coast Guard Reserve

I received an advertisement in the mail with information on the Coast Guard Reserve, which I found to be very exciting, as I had always wanted to serve in the Coast Guard, but I was not aware that there was a reserve branch. I was very pleased to find out that the reserve members work alongside active-duty folks and perform the same exact missions.

I wanted to pilot and navigate small boats, and thus the recruiter pointed me in the right direction to become a boatswain's mate. I took two semesters off from college at Florida State University to attend Recruit Training and the Boatswain's Mate "A" School. The Coast Guard paid in part for my education through the Tuition Assistance Program.

Once I graduated from Boatswain's Mate "A" School, I was assigned to a small-boat station in Jacksonville, Fla., where I certified as a crewmember. I received my bachelor's in computer science from Florida State University and subsequently moved to the Washington, D.C., area. I attended and graduated from the Response Boat Coxswain School at the Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Va. I also attended the Maritime Law Enforcement Academy and graduated from the Maritime Law Enforcement Boarding Officer Course.

Getting paid to supervise, navigate and drive a high-speed vessel to save lives ... is a great privilege.

I recently obtained my Master of Science in information security from Johns Hopkins University, and I am now a computer scientist/electronics engineer. It's convenient to be a reservist and have a full-time profession on the outside as well, as the reserve program is designed to coexist with a full-time profession.

As a reservist assigned to a small-boat station, I support primarily two missions, the first being search-and-rescue and the second being maritime law enforcement. The execution of those missions involves getting underway on a small boat. It is necessary to have certified crewmembers and coxswains to get the boat underway to perform the mission. It is also necessary to have boarding officers to conduct law enforcement. I'm both a boat coxswain and a boarding officer, as I attended the schools and trained hard to obtain these certifications.

I usually check into the Coast Guard Station on the Friday afternoon of my drill weekend. Throughout the weekend, I'll get underway on the water as a coxswain with both active-duty and reserve members to do basic small-boat training, sometimes with another response boat as well for two-boat training. I may also get a search-and-rescue call and save a life or two. I'll also get underway again as a boarding officer to enforce federal law in the maritime domain, to include boating under the influence, criminal law and vessel safety requirements. On Sunday afternoon I'll finish off with some paperwork. Then I'll check out with the station and head home.

I'm in the fifth year of my six-year contract, and I plan on renewing it as soon as I can. I anticipate a 30-year career in the Coast Guard Reserve as a boat coxswain and boarding officer before I am forced to retire. The fact that I'm getting paid to supervise, navigate and drive a high-speed vessel to save lives and to enforce federal law is a great privilege.

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Profile: Christopher Vogt, Canine Handler

Career Field: Law Enforcement, Security and Protective Services

Service Branch: Marine Corps

As early as the age of five, Christopher Vogt knew he wanted to join the Military. Christopher even knew which Service he wanted to join since his father was in the Marine Corps. His father was more than happy to pass along advice and help his son succeed.

"He told me that Recruit Training was the hardest thing he ever did in his life and that if I didn't prepare for it, I would be challenged. He made sure I was ready for it."

After Recruit Training and Marine Combat Training, Christopher began training for the military police (MP). He went to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) school. At the end of MOS school, Christopher went before a board and was selected to be a military working dog handler for HMX-1, Marine Helicopter Squadron.

"In HMX-1, Marine Helicopter Squadron, we are in direct support of the president of the United States. We protect the helicopters and all assets that are involved with the movement of the president. There are only six dogs in the squadron."

Christopher works with an explosive detector dog named Kepie. Kepie is a longhaired German shepherd, and he is six years old. Like all other military working dogs, Kepie began training at Lackland Air Force Base, and then he was sent to HMX-1. At HMX-1, Christopher began to build a close relationship with Kepie.

Working with a dog ... there's nothing else like it. The love they have for you and how they'll protect you in any case — it's unbelievable.

"Once you pick up a military working dog, you first build rapport. You go out there; you walk with them; you play with them. That dog needs to learn you. He needs to trust everything you say, so he needs to be able to know your voice and be able to know what you do and how you're going to react."

Every day, Christopher trains Kepie in obedience and in patrol work. Kepie must know how to interact with civilians who are friendly toward him and those who may be engaging in suspicious behavior. Kepie and his fellow military working dogs also go through physical training (PT), just like their handlers.

"The dogs are just as much Marines as we are, so they PT every day just like us. If we go on a run, they go on a run with us."

Christopher and Kepie travel often as part of their mission to help protect the president. Before the president arrives at a location, Christopher and Kepie patrol the area to make sure that there are no explosives nearby.

As for the future, Christopher expects to be deployed, and he is applying to become a canine handler for a Marine Special Operations Command unit. He is attending college, and he hopes to stay in the law enforcement field, either in or out of the Marine Corps. Christopher is also planning to adopt Kepie once Kepie retires.

"Working with a dog ... there's nothing else like it. The love they have for you and how they'll protect you in any case - it's unbelievable."

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Profile: Takila McCown, Marine Inspector

Career Field: Law Enforcement, Security and Protective Services

Service Branch: Coast Guard

“I really enjoy the military lifestyle. I like moving around. I like meeting new people. I like going to new cities. I get bored very easily when I am in one place for too long, so the military lifestyle really works for me.”

Growing up as the sixth of seven children in Covington, Ky., it’s safe to say Takila McCown has always been a people person. Growing up in such an environment undoubtedly fostered a unique ability to communicate and relate well to others; it also presented challenges, such as her parents’ ability to pay college tuition.

“Without asking, I knew my parents could not even fathom being able to afford college … The Army had come to my school, and I took the ASVAB test and talked with a recruiter who told me about the GI Bill, which I could use for college.”

Excited by the idea of being first in her family to earn a college degree, Takila enlisted in the Army and headed off to Basic Training just 10 days after graduating from high school. This is not to say, however, that her parents weren’t concerned.

“Because I was only 17 at the time … [my mother] didn’t want her baby to leave.”

Takila found Basic Training to be physically challenging but nothing she couldn’t handle. Upon graduating, she began working in the Army as a food service specialist.

“I was a cook in the Army … It was a difficult job … people don’t really remember to tell you, ‘Hey, thanks, that was a really good meal.’ … So, you really have to be customer-oriented … but I really enjoyed it and really excelled at the job I did. I was actually named Cook of the Year for the 3rd Infantry Division.”

In addition to five years of preparing great meals in the Army, Takila also cooked up a family. She had a son and, though thrilled, the combined responsibility of motherhood and training deployments put her college education plans on hold.

In fact, when her contract with the Army was up, Takila took a year-and-a-half off from the Military all together. True to her desire for new experiences and environments, she took a position in the medical industry as a civilian ophthalmic technician. With a husband in the Coast Guard, however, her connection to the Military was never far off.

And then 9/11 happened.

“I felt a strong desire to join the Military again because I felt that’s where I could do the most for my country … I just wanted to be part of something bigger than myself …”

It’s so rewarding to be able to say you serve your country.

Takila chose to join the Coast Guard, hoping that she could be stationed near her ex-husband, which would make travel easier for their child. (Services will make an effort to collocate families, depending on the circumstances.) She also enjoyed the civil service aspect of the Coast Guard.

“[The Coast Guard] is really a Service that is more humanitarian, all of their missions are about helping people in the maritime community, and then they also deal with national defense as well. To me, service is representing your country through positive actions, and in the Coast Guard, I would be able to do that.”

Initially an enlisted member in the Coast Guard, Takila served as a yeoman for a short period, and then at a military housing office, checking people in and out of accommodations. Though she enjoyed such work, Takila yearned for increased interaction with young recruits.

“I applied for a position as a Coast Guard recruiter … because I am so proud to serve for this organization that I wanted to be out there and be the first person that people have contact with that are interested in coming into the Coast Guard.”

Takila’s application was accepted, something she attributes to the Coast Guard’s attention to detail and productivity.

“The Coast Guard is very good at matching people with their desires because when you can do what you actually want to do, you are a better performer. Because you have something invested in that. Because you really want to do it … We can’t always be matched 100 percent … however, there are opportunities to be able to lateral over to the career path that you want.”

Prior to reporting for duty as a recruiter, Takila worked toward the college degree she had always wanted with tuition assistance from the Coast Guard.

“I think my proudest moment was actually completing my degree with the Coast Guard’s help. They paid for the schooling. And I am the first person in my family to receive a college degree, and because of that, I was able to apply for Officer Candidate School and become an officer.”

Upon graduating Officer Candidate School, Takila began working as a marine inspector, the job she holds today. Marine inspectors board vessels and ensure they are compliant with maritime regulations. All ships entering U.S. waters must adhere to these standards to maintain a safe environment for everyone aboard, and it’s a responsibility Takila does not take lightly.

With a college degree under her belt and a career helping others, Takila holds a special place in her heart for the Coast Guard. It has given her both a sense of purpose and a concrete example of what she can do when she puts her mind to the task.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to say you serve your country … and know that no matter where you come from, you can accomplish anything. The Coast Guard has been able to help me realize that.”

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Profile: Gary Hobin, International Relations Officer

Career Field: International Relations, Linguistics and Other Social Sciences

Service Branch: Army

“I served for 22-plus years in the U.S. Army … Now I’m teaching at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. I’m a faculty member here, and I draw on my military experience on a daily basis.”

Gary grew up in upstate New York, a little outside of Rochester. He attended college and focused his energies on one of his passions — history. In fact, he majored in the subject, with the plan to attend graduate school and become a college professor. During this time he became interested in the Army.

“I joined the Army ROTC program as an undergraduate, specifically because [this program] offered certain kinds of extracurricular activities that I was interested in — and I could get those through the Army ROTC for free.”

Most students in ROTC programs serve on Active Duty shortly after graduation, but Gary was granted a two-year delay to attend graduate school to continue his studies in history. Only after receiving his master’s degree did he begin his military career as an infantry officer.

“As a senior officer or a staff officer, you’re providing resources and providing background support — leading men in small units and motivating them.”

Gary appreciated the skills he honed while performing that role, but he soon moved on to serve in a different capacity as part of a psychological operations battalion.

“There are units whose mission is providing the messages and information … convincing people on the other side … to see our side of the story.”

After serving in a variety of infantry officer assignments as a staff officer and company commander, Gary trained to become a foreign area officer, specializing in Arabic and the Middle East. A six-month course at Fort Bragg, N.C., led to a year of Arabic language studies at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. Following that, he was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Jordan to hone his language skills. This exposure to the State Department was the start of his transition into becoming a foreign service officer.

You can do a lot of things and still wear the same branch insignia.

He first attended a general training program in Washington, D.C., for newly accepted foreign service officers, followed by a shorter course that focused specifically on the skills he would need for his first assignment. The entire program lasted about three months.

Gary was then stationed at U.S. embassies in both Syria and Saudi Arabia. His primary job was to analyze political and economic factors in the local environment and help guide strategy based on this information. Foreign service officers play an important diplomatic role, explaining the U.S.’s position on a topic and reporting the host country's position in return.

Working at embassies, Gary also assisted American citizens traveling or living abroad with a variety of issues. Foreign service officers advocate on behalf of Americans who are imprisoned abroad, making sure they receive the same rights and treatment as a native of the country in which they have been incarcerated. And in case of an American citizen who dies while overseas, a foreign service officer will help identify the remains, secure the deceased’s property and contact family members. Diplomatic work also takes place in more social settings, as Gary notes.

“There are usually what are known as ‘representational events’ to attend in the evening: receptions, cocktail parties, dinners — at which the officers of all grades are working, not partying.”

Today, Gary is a retired major and assistant professor of International Relations at the Army Command and General Staff College. Coming full circle, Gary has realized his dream of teaching — though he never expected it to come out of his 22 years of service. Mentoring and instructing majors and other senior ranking officials allows Gary to use both his experiences in the Military as well as his passion for teaching.

“I went about it [in] a very long and involved way. But everything I’ve done has some benefit now — in turning around and being a mentor, a coach, an instructor for these majors who are now going out to be senior officers in all sorts of places.”

Gary’s days are full of instructing, explaining and illustrating what he knows — and what he has learned — with the end result of enlightening others in the Military on what it means to serve. He feels it is his duty to give the next generation what was given to him: knowledge, pride and opportunity.

“If my career does nothing else, it illustrates that you can do a lot of things and still wear the same branch insignia. The opportunities are certainly there.”

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Career Field: Erika K., Intelligence Officer

Career Field: Intelligence

Service Branch: Coast Guard

For security purposes, we are not able to display this service member’s full name or photo.

“I thought switching to the Coast Guard would be a great opportunity to do something more homeland-based and still stay in the drug mission since counterdrug operations are one of the Coast Guard’s primary missions.”

Erica K. is now an intelligence officer in the Coast Guard, but she began her career as a cryptologic linguist in the Air Force.

Before she joined the Military, Erica considered herself a small-town girl from Texas. Although she envisioned something more for herself, her parents didn’t have a lot of money, and her initial goals coming out of high school didn’t extend much beyond the borders of her everyday Rio Grande Valley life.

That is, until, Erica’s sister, who was in the Air Force, told her about the military intelligence field. Intrigued, Erica visited an Air Force recruiter.

“When I saw that they had an opportunity to become a cryptologic linguist, and I was already bilingual — I spoke Spanish — I thought this would be a great fit for me.”

At 21 years old, Erica enlisted with the Air Force and headed off to San Antonio for boot camp, then cryptologic school. Upon finishing, Erica went straight to work as a linguist in San Antonio, Texas. She rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a reporter who compiled reports that detailed crime and narcotics activities.

And the promotions for Erica kept coming. She became a lead analyst, leading the direction of written reports. After that, she was selected to coordinate the training of about 350 linguists. And between it all, Erica also went back to school, receiving a Community College of the Air Force associate degree in Applied Science, along with an Associate of Arts degree.

With two degrees under her belt paid for by the Military, Erica was just getting started. She applied to the National Defense Intelligence College in Washington, D.C.

“I was accepted into that program, which is considered the Harvard of intel schools, and received my Bachelor of Science in Strategic Intelligence. I later also received a postgraduate certificate.”

It was while at this program Erica became friends with a Coast Guard classmate who informed her that the Coast Guard was in need of intelligence officers.

The Military opens so many doors. It just opens your eyes.

In 2005, Erica was accepted as an officer via direct commission into the Coast Guard. Although Erica decided to move from the Air Force to the Coast Guard, she did not need to go through the Coast Guard’s boot camp. Instead, she participated in the three-week direct commission intelligence officer course in New London, Conn., and she made history as the first female direct commission intelligence officer.

Erica quickly collected a number of promotions and experiences. She provided intelligence to admirals as an intelligence watch officer at Coast Guard Headquarters and oversaw up to 15 people as a senior watch officer.

After serving at the National Maritime Intelligence Center and working as the operations officer at the Maritime Homeland Threat Analysis Division, Erica applied to work for the National Counterterrorism Center. She was chosen to help intelligence agencies share knowledge and work together. While serving in these roles for the Coast Guard, Erica still found time to earn a postgraduate certificate in intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College.

“I think this is a great time to be [in the Coast Guard], just because there’s a lot of things going on in the world and especially in maritime.”

Today, Erica is an intelligence officer stationed in Washington, D.C., reporting to senior-level individuals in the various military branches and civilian agencies, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other members of the intelligence community. Her role involves an array of responsibilities, on both a classified and unclassified level.

“As an intelligence officer, it’s our job to compile and analyze intel to determine the intentions and capabilities of hostile individuals or groups. I often speak with senior officials, brief them about what we believe is or is not a threat or what we see as a potential direction for terrorists and how we can go about disrupting their activities.”

Every day is different for Erica, which she thrives on and credits for being the reason she plans on staying in the Military until retirement. After she retires from the Coast Guard, she hopes to study for a degree in either psychology or sociology so she can provide counseling to young adults.

Whether it’s traveling the globe to places like Madrid and Mexico City, studying for her latest degree or briefing officials on the latest intelligence situation, Erica values each new experience.

“The Military opens so many doors. It just opens your eyes … you don’t know what’s out there until you try.”

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Profile: Dennis Wischmeier, Force Intelligence Officer

Career Field: Intelligence

Service Branch: Navy

Dennis Wischmeier doesn't sound like someone who had to give up his dream job flying EP-3 reconnaissance missions over other countries. After a cancer diagnosis, however, Dennis had to make an unexpected career change, and the Navy enabled him to shift from a flight career to the field of intelligence.

"After completing chemo and multiple big surgeries, I was declared cancer free.

But Navy Aviation Medicine was hesitant with me flying again so they let me lateral transfer to a new community."

The new position was a good fit since Dennis already had experience gathering intelligence as a pilot. During one mission, he collected a piece of intelligence that was elevated all the way to the president. In that moment, he saw how his daily job directly influenced international politics.

"While we were doing our mission ... we picked up [information] and relayed it back to our command. It went all the way up the chain to the president very quickly ... We picked up this intelligence and it was shot back all the way. That was rewarding."

It's great to know what's really going on. That's what drives me at work.

Now based in Hawaii, Dennis is the second-highest intelligence officer in the Pacific submarine force. He provides critical intelligence to the force commander. Not only does Dennis deliver information up the chain of command, but he also briefs submarine crews who are about to deploy.

"Their job is to keep track of our adversaries. They are the guys who go out there on missions, hoping they never get found. It's great to know what's really going on. That's what drives me at work."

Since Dennis hasn't served on a submarine and has an aviation background, he works hard to build a strong relationship with the members of the submarine crews. His background gives him a different perspective on intelligence, yet he can still see situations from a submariner's point of view.

"I know what it means to go on the front lines. I understand the need to support the people who go downrange. I have to do everything I can do, 24 hours a day."

Although he is busy with his intelligence career, Dennis still hopes to continue his education. He has already earned an M.B.A., and he plans to earn a second master's degree or Ph.D. in an intelligence-related field.

"There are several Ph.D. programs all centered around politics and intelligence. There's also a graduate program where you work for a congressman on Capitol Hill for a year while you get your master's, and then you work at the Pentagon."

Dennis has had some unexpected twists and turns in his personal and professional life. Through it all, he is grateful for the many opportunities the Military has given him.

"I was really excited that, after being cured from cancer, the Military even let me stay because there was a period there where I might have been forced to get out. Instead, I just lateral transferred to intelligence, and here I am. I have a lot to be thankful for."

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Profile: Glenn Holt, Operations Specialist

Career Field: Intelligence

Service Branch: Coast Guard

“It was Thanksgiving, and out of the fog came this very big wooden ship with big sails. It reminded me of the Nina or Santa Maria.”

Despite the fog at the time, the details of that Thanksgiving Day in 2004 remain crystal-clear in Glenn Holt's mind. The ship belonged to a church organization. There were handicapped people on board. And it was sinking fast.

“I was a cutter rescue swimmer ... there were a couple of passengers on the boat that were jumping in the water ... it was pretty rough seas. I jumped in. I rescued a couple of them, and some of my other shipmates did the same.”

Before joining the Coast Guard, now Operations Specialist First Class Glenn Holt was an emergency medical technician. He loved the job. But he was looking for more than a paycheck. Then he met a fellow Coastie in emergency medical technician school, and they started talking. It sounded like the Coast Guard would not only make great use of his first responder training; it also offered a career that would fulfill his pride in his country.

It’s just the honor of serving that keeps me going every day I put the uniform on.

“Before I actually became a petty officer, I was a Seaman on board a Coast Guard cutter for two years ... out of Cape May, New Jersey. And that’s kind of where you make your bones.”

Going to sea actually brought Glenn closer to people back on shore. He points out that the Coast Guard really exists to serve local communities, dealing with environmental protection, immigrant interdiction and drug smuggling. Glenn’s duties at sea directly impacted those back home on solid ground.

Today, as an operations specialist, he plays a leadership role in a wide range of activities and, as a result, is fully knowledgeable about critical technologies, including sea and land-based radar navigation and all communications channels. The modern role of an operations specialist is an accumulation of several traditional jobs such as radio and radar man and quartermaster. As such, Glenn has become something of a jack-of-all-trades — and master of many. In fact, he's likely to be found in the communications room, gathering information and supervising rescue and homeland security missions.

“You just can’t know a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We do a lot of talking on the radios, and we do a lot of the search and rescue planning and execution. So if you're a boater, and you're in there and you radio into the Coast Guard units, we’ll be the ones that are orchestrating the rescue.”

Glenn’s dedication was recognized in 2008 when the Chief Petty Officer Association named him the Enlisted Person of the Year for his superior performance. Two years later, there is still a note of sheepish disbelief in his voice as he describes walking up to receive the prestigious award in front of his command. While obviously proud of the achievement, he is quick to put it in perspective.

“It makes me sleep better at night knowing that I volunteered, I stepped up. I sacrificed my freedoms in defense of everybody else’s. And it’s just the honor of serving that keeps me going every day I put the uniform on. ”

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Profile: Thomas Mahoney, Intelligence Officer

Career Field: Intelligence

Service Branch: Air Force

These days, Air Force Maj. Thomas Mahoney is attending the Army’s Command and General Staff College. He’s one of a handful of Airmen each year who attend a sister Service’s school to learn more about the culture and operations of a different military branch.

Tom has come a long way from the young man he describes as “not what you would call a stellar student.” It’s a transformation he’s been working on his entire career.

As high school graduation neared, Tom realized his academic record would keep him from applying to colleges. He knew he wanted to continue his education, however, and started to look for an opportunity to prove himself. He found inspiration in his family’s military history and then, after speaking with a few recruiters, he joined the Air Force, which he felt was the best match for his goals. During the enlistment process, Tom took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and was matched with a career field.

“I actually scored well enough to go into any of [the career fields I was interested in], but when I was at Basic Training, they gave me an additional test that told them that I was maybe a good fit for going into the intelligence career field.”

Tom served for five years in that capacity, gathering and organizing information to help his commanding officers make important decisions. When his term ended, he felt he was ready to return to academic life and was accepted to Penn State University. He wasn’t finished with the Military, however.

“When I was enlisted, I really enjoyed the intelligence career field, and I watched the officers that I served under, and … I really respected them and what they did, and I thought that that would be actually an interesting way to maybe carry on my career.”

Tom approached the Penn State ROTC detachment with a letter of recommendation from his former squadron commander. After passing the qualifying exam, Tom was accepted into the school’s ROTC program as a general military cadet. He found the experience similar to Basic Training in some ways, but with more of a focus on leadership, history and military customs and courtesies.

Tom also attended technical school, where he studied various intelligence disciplines and prepared to lead enlisted Airmen in his field. Combined with his own experience in the enlisted ranks, this training prepared him for life as an officer — and beyond.

I’m proud of our country and proud of everybody that I serve alongside of.

“What we learn in the Military and what we practice in the Military is really transferable to a lot of civilian careers. You’re learning communication, leadership, management, in addition to all the technical skills that you pick up along the way.”

When Tom re-entered the Air Force as a second lieutenant, he was placed in charge of 30 service members, and the success of their missions became his responsibility. As an intelligence officer, that meant piecing together the information gathered by his team into a coherent picture that could guide future operations. He enjoyed analyzing data and interpreting it, knowing his opinions and insight were valued. Tom also found pleasure in leading a very smart group of Airmen.

“Leading them can be both a challenge, but also very rewarding ... I don’t think there’s any better feeling that you can get out of a job.”

As a major, Tom’s day starts early. By 7:00 a.m., he is often at work compiling information for his commander. After that, he focuses on more long-term initiatives and in-depth analyses of specific issues or events that the commander has identified as concerns or interests to the Military. He also spends part of each day dealing with personnel issues, doing performance reports or making sure his team’s needs are attended to. And that’s just in the office. Tom has deployed recently to Iraq.

“You can usually see the impact that you have when you’re deployed a lot sooner. You know there might be some follow-on actions where it’s very apparent that the information you provided let the commander take some action. So, in a lot of ways, that’s very gratifying.”

From his enlisted term to the present, Tom has never stopped working to better himself and the people he leads — a trait that has led him to his current experience at the Army’s Command and General Staff College. No doubt he will return with the knowledge he has gained there and tackle the next challenge with enthusiasm. After all, that is what has taken him from a young man uncertain about his future to a confident leader. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m proud of our country and proud of everybody that I serve alongside of, and every decision I’ve made along the way, whether it was joining the Air Force in the first place … or coming back in as an officer, I don’t regret any of it, and I’d do it all over again.”

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Profile: Philipa Duncker, Flight Nurse

Career Field: Health Care Practitioners

Service Branch: Air Force Reserve

Capt. Philipa Duncker's father, an Air Force loadmaster, hoped his daughter would follow him into the Military. One day, he asked her if she would like to go for a drive.

"We ended up in a base in Atlantic City, N.J., and I was pretty much being told everything there was about joining the Air Force. Next thing you know, I was swearing in."

Philipa joined the Air National Guard and trained as a medic while attending Rutgers University. Originally, she planned to become a doctor, but her time at technical school made her realize she wanted to be a nurse instead.

"I went away to tech school, and I found that I did love medicine. I wanted to be at the bedside. I wanted to have more patient care experiences."

After graduating from Rutgers, Philipa discovered another opportunity. While drilling at McGuire Air Force Base as a member of the Air National Guard, Philipa heard about flight nurse positions within the base's Air Force Reserve unit.

"They had two air medical squadrons. I looked into it and decided maybe this was the thing for me. I went to an interview, and they welcomed me with open arms and said, 'Whenever you're ready, come on over.' "

When Philipa moved from the Air National Guard to the Air Force Reserve, she also started her Commissioned Officer Training and became a second lieutenant. During this time, she attended flight school, where she trained for the primary duties of a flight nurse. This position involves caring for patients while they are being moved from one location to another in an aircraft.

"When it's time to move that patient and/or patients, there's a team that's waiting on a plane. The job of that team is to monitor the patient and to be ready for any emergency that's going to happen for that patient throughout the transport."

I wanted to be at the bedside. I wanted to have more patient care experiences.

Philipa has been deployed to Joint Base Balad in Iraq as a flight nurse and also as an officer-in-charge of infection control. In this position, she established and monitored the procedures that help keep nursing areas clean.

"Infection control is the same on the military side as it is on the civilian side. It's just that when you're dealing with it on the aircraft, now you're in a big metal thing that's dirty and dusty, and you don't have water storage. So you have to be more vigilant about how you take care of patients and how you take care of yourself on the aircraft."

As a civilian, Philipa is also a nurse, and she has taken on multiple positions in her career. Right now, she is an emergency-room nurse. This schedule keeps her extremely busy, but she treasures the experiences and the friendships she has had through the Military.

"I've seen the world with people who are probably the closest thing to family than my own blood. These are people who have my back all the time, who have seen me at my worst, have seen me at my best, have seen me at my most vulnerable and still respect me and love me for it."

Philipa's future involves staying with her Air Force Reserve family - something she never would have imagined when her father first took her on a drive years ago. She's glad he steered her in the right direction.

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Profile: Ryan McHugh, Pediatrician

Career Field: Health Care Practitioners

Service Branch: Air Force

The Air Force was a natural fit for Ryan McHugh. His father was an Air Force fighter pilot, and Ryan grew up on several different bases. At the encouragement of his father, Ryan joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Being in ROTC made Ryan feel more comfortable at such a large college, and he made lifelong friends. As a bonus for his career, the officer training increased his confidence and his leadership abilities.

"In ROTC, you get some classes on basic leadership and followership ... You get a chance to lead smaller group activities and conduct training of the junior cadets as you become a senior cadet. It's your first chance to really get out there and act as a leader."

After graduating with a degree in physiological sciences, Ryan began fulfilling his service commitment. He went to Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M., to work as a personnel officer for an F-16 fighter jet maintenance squadron. During this time, Ryan applied to medical school and was accepted. Not only did he get in, but the Air Force would also pay for all of his training and education.

"If you want to serve in medicine, that lines up nicely with serving in the Military. You're really doing something for someone else's primary benefit. Sure, you get paid to be a doctor, you get paid to be in the Military, but the guiding light in all that is really to provide for your country and provide for your Air Force."

Today, Ryan works as a pediatrician at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. His work is similar to being a pediatrician in the civilian world, but he notes that there are some important differences.

You get a chance to lead smaller group activities and conduct training of the junior cadets as you become a senior cadet.

"Some of the specific things that being a pediatrician in the Air Force involves are families who are moving pretty frequently, dealing with mom or dad being gone on a deployment or being gone repeatedly for different deployments ... Even just talking about that a little bit with [the kids] is an important piece of what you do as a general pediatrician."

Although he hasn't been deployed yet, Ryan has applied his training in another country. As part of his military residency training, he went to Honduras and participated in a study on anemia for the nation's Ministry of Health. He ranks that trip as one of his most rewarding military assignments.

"I really enjoyed the chance to go to another country and see their culture and have to put on a different hat in terms of how you approach things medically."

Ryan has already enjoyed many achievements, but he is working toward a new goal - becoming a flight doctor. In this position, he will be the one who clears the pilots, the navigators and anyone else on board the plane for flight.

"You want to make sure that you understand how being in that altitude or pulling g's [gravitational forces] or other forces of flight may affect them ... A lot of it is making sure that there aren't any issues that will incapacitate them while they're at their duty in an aircraft."

This role will give Ryan the perfect opportunity to merge his work with his love of flying. He completed private pilot training and now flies a two-seater Van's Aircraft kit-built plane to cities like Colorado Springs, New Orleans and Houston.

"The other thing I really enjoy about flying is the technical challenge ... You're never going to be perfect and know everything. You can always learn more and more and get better and better as time goes on. That's a very rewarding experience."

Learning more and more has been a theme in Ryan's life. By taking advantage of the Military's educational opportunities, Ryan has been able to reach new heights as a doctor and a pilot, and he will continue to carve out an Air Force career that is all his own.

To learn more about serving as a physician in the Military, visit Medicine + the Military.

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Profile: Shawn Tulp, Critical Care Nurse

Career Field: Health Care Practitioners

Service Branch: Army Reserve

When he enlisted in the Army Reserve, Shawn Tulp didn't plan on becoming a nurse. He grew up as an Army brat, and he knew that he wanted to serve, just like his father. He didn't have a set career path, however. Then his recruiter mentioned that Shawn could become a practical nurse in the Military. Both Shawn and his mother were intrigued because they thought nursing would provide Shawn with many civilian career opportunities.

"It was actually my mother, the wise sage, who said, 'If you get training like that, not only can you use that in your civilian life to provide an income for yourself and a career path, but once you have something like that, no one can ever take it away from you.' "

Shawn followed his mother's advice and began training for a nursing career. While taking nursing classes at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., and the University of Phoenix, he also took the Army medic course and the Army's practical nurse course.

"When I finished my first degree in college, one of the other officers in my unit told me, 'Hey, why don't you put in your packet for a commission?' I took her up on the offer, got all my paperwork together and submitted it and before I knew it, I was all of a sudden a newly minted second lieutenant."

Nursing and I just meshed, and I have to thank the Army for that.

Shawn has deployed twice, once to Landstuhl, Germany, and once to Afghanistan. At Landstuhl, he worked in the intensive care unit (ICU). In Afghanistan, he was the commander of a surgical element, where he took care of service members, Afghan civilians and members of the Afghan Military.

"When you go on deployments, you're all in. You're gone for a year. You'll endure hardships, you'll endure rough times but you'll also endure good times. You'll make strong friends, and you'll learn about yourself, not to mention that you'll advance your practice as a nurse farther than you could ever imagine."

Now an operations and training officer, Shawn works for the 437th medical company, based at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, Calif. He sets the training schedule and helps prepare field training exercises for the ground ambulance company. Training other Soldiers is the aspect of the job that Shawn enjoys most.

"They feel like they're getting something out of it that will help them down the road when they're called upon to deploy again and perhaps have a Soldier's life in their hands."

In his civilian life, Shawn is a flight nurse who cares for patients while they are in transport. He works with patients who are being flown in helicopters from one hospital to another, or he helps move patients from the scene of an accident to the hospital.

"I'm able to bring a lot of my experiences from flight nursing directly over to this ground ambulance unit to help teach them about patient care scenarios or help train their medics to a higher standard."

Soon, Shawn will begin a master's degree program for nurse anesthesia at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz. The funding for Shawn's studies will come from the GI Bill and the Military's specialized training assistance program. Once he gets his degree, Shawn hopes to return to his Army Reserve unit, where he will continue to build a career in the field he loves.

"Nursing and I just meshed, and I have to thank the Army for that. I never would have gone in that direction had that not been offered to me as a career option."

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Profile: Kenny Rogers, Armor Assistance

Career Field: Environmental Health and Safety

Service Branch: Air National Guard

When he graduated from high school, Kenny Rogers wanted to enlist in the Military because he felt it would be an honor to serve his country. He wasn't sure which branch to join, however, so he talked to his parents about it. His father suggested the Air Force. After spending some time with a recruiter, Kenny was convinced that the Air Force was the right branch for him, especially after he found out that he could work as a weapons loader.

"The job sounded really, really cool. And being that young, I was taken into it. I can't say I've made a bad choice. I enjoy what I've done, and I enjoy the folks in this career field."

Being a weapons loader involves working on a flight line and loading munitions onto military aircraft. This position calls for attention to detail, a willingness to work as a part of a team and an ability to work effectively under pressure.

"There are multiple levels of day-to-day operations: getting the aircraft ready and making sure that they're 100 percent ready to go, getting the munitions onto the aircraft and ensuring that they're up correctly and safely, and accounting for those munitions. Safety is the name of the game."

Kenny began his training in the field at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. Later, he was stationed in Germany and the Netherlands, and he deployed to Italy and Iraq. After 10 years with the Air Force, Kenny and his family decided to return to Maryland, so he requested a transfer to the Air National Guard, where he could serve close to home.

Safety is the name of the game.

Unlike most members of the Air National Guard who serve part time, Rogers is currently serving full time at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Kenny's full-time position within the Air National Guard is not common, but it shows the range of opportunities available within the Air National Guard.

"Once my four years are up, I have the option to put in to extend here, or I can go back to an Air Guard base that has a job opening that's out there."

In his current capacity, instead of working on the flight line loading weapons, Kenny helps manage others and answers questions about munitions policies and procedures.

"I have about 40-plus units that I deal with across the United States, and there are plenty of people out there that have a question. I deal with policies that are established. If you read it on the East Coast, it may be read differently on the West Coast."

Although Kenny is spending a little more time at a desk in his new position, he appreciates the new challenges that come with the job. Whether he works indoors or on the flight line, he plans to stay in the Air National Guard and keep rising in the ranks.

“My ultimate goal is to make chief… it’s a good steppingstone, and it’s great résumé material.”

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Profile: Nakeisha Hills, Chief, Contingency Planning & Force Readiness

Career Field: Environmental Health and Safety

Service Branch: Coast Guard

From a young age, Nakeisha Hills of Passaic, N.J., had lofty goals. In grade school, while most kids her age were concerned with going to the mall or simply getting by, Nakeisha was busy mapping out her future. She wanted to be able to help her mother, a single mom, pay for her and her two sisters’ educations. Through talking to teachers and high school students, Nakeisha discovered the Military could help her achieve that goal. So, as a first step, Nakeisha joined the Navy Junior ROTC program when she entered high school.

“I stayed in [the Junior ROTC program] for the entire four years I was in high school … By my senior year I was actually the person in charge of the entire unit.”

While Nakeisha excelled in the Navy Junior ROTC program, one of her instructors, a retired Coast Guard helicopter pilot, discussed her post-high school options with her.

“My instructor mentioned to me that the Coast Guard was a lot smaller and that women had no gender exclusions as opposed to the other Services.”

Her instructor also mentioned that the Coast Guard was seeking recruits from diverse backgrounds. As an African-American woman, Nakeisha found this information interesting. She began researching opportunities with the Coast Guard, as well as colleges.

In collaboration with a recruiter and college advisor, in the fall of 1990, Nakeisha enrolled in East Stroudsburg University and, in the summer of 1991, attended Basic Training as a Coast Guard reservist.

“[Boot Camp] was scary … I wasn’t a good runner. I was a swimmer, but I wasn’t a lifeguard-level swimmer. So I was kind of fearful … but I knew that it was something that I wanted more than I feared.”

Overcoming those fears, in addition to fulfilling her personal commitment, made graduation an emotional experience.

“I finally was able to tell my mom that I wasn’t going to be this financial burden to her … I would have my own salary … I would be able to help her.”

I was determined to complete [boot camp].

Nakeisha served as a Coast Guard reservist while finishing her college degree. She drilled one weekend each month at Governors Island in New York, working as a yeoman at Support Center New York.

Upon finishing her degree, Nakeisha attended Officer Candidate School. Becoming an active-duty officer was something Nakeisha always knew she wanted because it would mean increased leadership, salary, experience and training. That’s not to say, however, that going into Officer Candidate School didn’t make Nakeisha nervous.

“It was nerve-wracking, again, because I was no Mark Spitz [Olympic swimmer] … But I was determined to complete it.”

Nakeisha’s determination and commitment carried her through Officer Candidate School and, ultimately, a military career currently in its 18th year. Today, Nakeisha serves as the chief of contingency planning and force readiness at the Coast Guard’s Sector Delaware Bay, facilitating emergency response preparedness. She and her staff maintain plans that incorporate Coast Guard assets and all of the resources other local support agencies bring to the table.

“Primarily we are the unit’s arm of outreach to other agencies … like the New Jersey State Police or Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection … so that we can collaboratively respond to an incident on the Delaware River and Bay.”

It is a career Nakeisha finds both rewarding and practical. Through the Coast Guard, she is able to serve her country, and at the same time, take advantage of unique military benefits such as job security, excellent health care and tuition assistance. In fact, with the help of the Military’s Post-9/11 GI Bill, Nakeisha is currently obtaining her master’s degree in strategic communication. It’s an education she plans on applying during her extended military career. Not only did the Coast Guard allow Nakeisha to go above and beyond her commitment to financially help her mother, it also satisfies her desire to play a role in something larger than herself. That’s a role Nakeisha hopes to play for a long time.

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Profile: Joshua Yarbrough, Combat Engineer Officer

Career Field: Engineering and Scientific Research

Service Branch: Army Reserve

Joshua Yarbrough almost joined the Air Force right after high school, but he changed his mind when he received a college scholarship to Louisiana State University in Shreveport, La. He started coursework, but he decided he needed more money to pay for college. As a result, the Army Reserve began to look more attractive because the benefits could help him finish college. Joshua could also serve part time, close to school.

"The benefits of the Army Reserve finally got me to say, 'I want to do this, and I want to see about going active, but I want to try it before I go full in.' "

Joshua decided to join and started his military career as a human resources specialist in Louisiana, and he stayed in that position for two and a half years. He continued to work on his college degree while serving in the Army Reserve. Once he had enough credit hours under his belt, Joshua applied for a commission before he completed his degree.

"I had to go to a board in Little Rock, Ark., and sit in front of three colonels and explain to them why I should be an officer, despite the fact that I hadn't finished college. Apparently, at the end of the day I sold them on my potential."

When Joshua became an officer, he also changed his field from human resources to engineering because he wanted a more combat-related career. He began to train as an officer in the Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC), and then he went on to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for his engineering officer training.

It shows you what your limits are and shows you how to exceed them.

"A general engineer is responsible from vertical to horizontal. A vertical engineer officer focuses on construction of buildings, plumbing and electricity. Horizontal does anything from route sanitation, which is keeping the routes clear of trash and debris where the enemy can hide improvised explosive devices (IEDs), to building and paving the roads. Combat engineer officers focus on a broad spectrum of mobility and counter-mobility, as well as serving as infantry as needed."

After working as a horizontal platoon leader, Joshua is now a first lieutenant and a combat engineer officer based in Conway, Ark. His unit is responsible for route clearance, which involves looking for and removing IEDs and mines.

"We conduct threat reductions. We drive a bunch of up-armored vehicles, and we patrol routes at about five miles an hour. We look for IEDs and try to engage and destroy them or disable them so that the forces can continue to conduct operations."

Joshua has not been deployed yet, but he drills regularly for the Army Reserve while maintaining his civilian job as a product process manager at a large electronics store. Although his work for the Army Reserve and his civilian work are different, Joshua has developed time management skills that help him succeed in both positions.

"When you are doing something, set up a business rhythm, set up a training rhythm and stick to it. If you are going to join the Army, if you are not physically fit to begin with, it's the same thing. You just have to build the rhythm and just stick to it. If you can get a strong rhythm, it will carry you where you need to go."

As for his future, Joshua plans to stay in the Army Reserve and continue earning promotions in both his civilian and military careers.

"You'll learn more about yourself joining the Army than you would have ever thought. It shows you what your limits are and shows you how to exceed them."

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Profile: Luis Gonzalez, Trainer at Officer Candidate School

Career Field: Education and Training

Service Branch: Army

Toward the end of college at the University of Florida, Luis Gonzalez realized it was time to make a decision about his future. He began to consider joining the Military as an officer. His father was a finance officer in the Army, and Luis thought being an Army officer would be the best career path for him.

"I really started to try and put things together, to figure out what I wanted to do. I ended up looking into the Army. I enjoyed my major, but I didn't want to take that any further. It didn't seem like something I wanted to get a master's degree in."

Once he knew that he wanted to join the Army, Luis began to research Officer Candidate School (OCS), which trains individuals with college degrees to become officers. Next, Luis talked to a recruiter and went before a board to be approved for OCS. After that, he shipped to Basic Training, where he soon found himself in a position of leadership.

They see you as a leader, as a role model.

"They see you as a leader, as a role model. You get put in that position really quickly. Eyes were on me, and I had to continually do the right thing and try to find out what 'right' looked like."

Immediately after Basic Training, Luis reported to OCS in Fort Benning, Ga. While at OCS, he decided to apply for a job as an OCS trainer, where he could guide those who were going through what he had just experienced.

Luis interviewed successfully to be a trainer at OCS, and now he works with officer candidates who will become second lieutenants in the Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard. As an executive officer for Echo Company, Luis helps make sure that platoon trainers have what they need, and he mentors new officer candidates.

"Officer Candidate School is here to mentor and develop leaders for the future Army in all 16 basic branches. There are roughly about 160 candidates per class. With a limited number of instructors, we really have to do what we can to get that one-on-one time with the candidates because they're all looking for it."

Next, Luis will become a platoon trainer, where he'll be working with officer candidates even more closely. Not only will he teach the candidates military customs and courtesies, but he'll also be teaching them the leadership skills they'll need to manage other Soldiers, such as patience and advance planning.

One of Luis' proudest moments happened when he was commissioned at his OCS graduation. His father, who retired shortly before Luis went to Basic Training, swore Luis in.

"To be able to stand on stage wearing our Army service uniforms and with him giving me the oath of commissioning, that was a proud moment ... I'm glad to say I'm following in his footsteps."

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Profile: Jeff Saville, Chaplain

Career Field: Counseling, Social Work and Human Services

Service Branch: Navy

“I wanted to work with a broad range of people from a range of religious traditions, not just my own denomination. I also wanted to be able to travel and work with young people, and I knew that the Military afforded those opportunities …”

Having already received his Master of Divinity degree, Jeff Saville was working as a minister in Florida when he decided to consider the Military as a way to follow his religious calling. For Jeff, the Military offered a chance to step away from a standard Sunday worship and work with a dynamic, constantly evolving and mobile congregation.

Jeff began his joining process by speaking to a Navy recruiter. The recruiter put him in touch with other Navy chaplains, who answered the many questions Jeff had. He liked what he heard and decided to join. Soon after, he went to a training facility in Newport, R.I., where he began his military career at the Navy Chaplain School. Almost immediately, Jeff got his first taste of the religious diversity he was looking for.

“The chaplains that come [into the Navy] are from a very, very broad range of faith backgrounds. Among Christians, there are well over a hundred different faith groups. We also have Islamic chaplains; there are a number of Jewish chaplains and even one Buddhist chaplain in the Navy.”

The Military doesn’t train chaplains on how to preach their own faith. This ability is presumed. Instead, these faith leaders are learning how to operate in the Military, “so that we can function as staff officers like any others.”

I wanted to work with a broad range of people from a range of religious traditions.

Upon completing Navy Chaplain School, Jeff was stationed in Gulfport, Miss., where he split his time between in-port training and various deployments. During those first two years, he traveled to Spain, Somalia and Guam. Whether on base or at sea, a large part of Jeff’s job involved making himself available to the men and women who need an ear, a voice or a helping hand.

“We do what we call a ministry of presence, where I just go around and see people and ask them how it’s going — how their wife is doing, has the baby arrived yet? It’s kind of like taking the pulse of the morale.”

When not “ministering by wandering,” Jeff was also engaged in the traditional role of preaching. Over the course of his 18 years in the Military, he has provided services from a tent in Somalia, a library-turned-chapel aboard a ship, a chapel in Spain and an ancient church in London — just to name a few. He has visited 33 countries in total, and whether through leading worship, counseling personnel and their families or fostering cultural religious exchanges, he has made a notable mark in each.

Jeff has worked directly with the community as well. For example, he has helped the Navy create relationships with local schools and school children in San Diego. When his ship came to port, individuals like Chaplain Saville and other Sailors would “go into the local classrooms to tutor students or to supervise playground activities, etc.” Their efforts were recognized with a Navy-wide award for the ship.

Currently, Jeff is stationed in San Diego as a fleet chaplain.

“I’m supervising chaplains. I provide a portion of their training before they deploy. That way these religious ministry teams of chaplains and their enlisted assistants know what to do and how to work together as a team when they go forward to the Western Pacific or the Gulf.”

Looking forward, Jeff plans to stay in the Military continuing to make a positive impact on Sailors and Marines. Whatever the future holds for this good-natured and knowledgeable chaplain, one thing is certain — his time in the Navy has been meaningful and satisfying to himself and the many people he has served.

“My work, my efforts, teamed up with other people, have made a positive difference for American service members and their families and to the citizens of our partner nations. Those are things that will never change, and I feel great satisfaction in knowing that my time [in the Navy] was well spent.”

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Profile: James Kemter, Engineer

Career Field: Construction, Building and Extraction

Service Branch: Army

“My dad was in the National Guard … that sort of sparked the initial interest to serve.”

While still in high school, James Kemter of Columbus, Ohio, debated between enlisting in the Military immediately after graduation or going to college through a ROTC program. Ultimately, he chose to join the Army directly from high school, but not before giving careful attention to the decision.

“My dad was very adamant that before I was going to join the Army or any Service … that I talked to all of the Services, that I was well-informed as to what my options were.”

James was also clear in his own mind that he wanted to choose a skill in the Military that he could take with him into civilian life.

“When talking with a lot of people [in the Military], there was a common theme that came out, and that was, if you’re going to go into the Military, try to get yourself a job set that you can use [after serving].”

With that in mind, James hoped to qualify as an interrogator in military intelligence, hoping to translate his training into a civilian career in law enforcement or intelligence services later. The next step was Basic Training, and naturally James was nervous at first. However, the experience wasn’t as scary as he had feared.

The Military allows you to really figure out who you are.

“I remember the drill sergeants were very professional. They were firm, but they were fair; they gave you a task and a purpose and expected you to do it.”

While at Basic Training, James was selected to attend the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in Fort Monmouth, N.J., where he would train to enter into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His original plans were evolving in ways he never could have foreseen when he enlisted as a high school senior in Ohio.

“I went up to West Point for four years, and that was an unbelievable experience.”

While at West Point, James chose an engineering commission, and upon graduation, stayed in the Army, where his experience and education grew with each passing year. Initially, he traveled to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri to attend the Engineer Officer Basic Course. Then he traveled to his first duty station — Fort Lewis in Washington state. As a lieutenant, he led a 30-man platoon disabling land mines and engaging in small construction projects.

After three years in Washington, James returned to Missouri to attend the Engineer’s Captain Career Course during the day and earn the first of his two advanced engineering master’s degrees through evening classes. He stayed at Fort Leonard Wood for a while, where he became a company commander before heading off to Gulfport, Miss., where he was responsible for the training of carpenters and masonry specialists. He eventually received his second advanced degree in engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology back in his home state of Ohio.

During his career, James has led major construction projects around the country, from erecting barracks to building a 10,000-square-foot structure from scratch. He was even called in on several restorations of historic buildings at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. His team was able to bring the buildings up to modern standards while retaining their historical features.

As a project engineer, James’ primary job was to keep his contractors on time and on budget. He assigned work and did daily reviews to ensure plans were being followed and specifications were being met. In addition to granting him skills that would directly apply to any civilian construction management role, this experience also gave James an immense sense of satisfaction.

James’ career has also included a six-month deployment to Afghanistan, where he was building major projects, barracks, roads and headquarters for Army and Afghan agencies. At age 34, he was the sole person responsible for 55 projects worth over $300 million.

“Just seeing the quality of life of a really poor nation — third-world nation — get improved was something that made you really feel good. Be it building a road or getting a police station built in places they’ve never had a police station … just seeing the overall prosperity … start booming because you just turned a little goat trail into a road that a car can actually drive down.”

From a high school kid in Ohio to a West Point grad with two additional advanced degrees in engineering, James has made much out of his military experience. The Army has given him every chance to challenge and push himself. These educational qualifications and on-site experiences will translate well into a number of civilian career options made possible through military training.

“The Military allows you to really figure out who you are and figure out how much adversity you can take, to know your limits. It lets you challenge yourself and figure out where those limits lie.”

And, for Maj. James Kemter, the Military has shown him that there is no limit to what he can achieve when he puts his mind to the task.

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Profile: John Brown, Assistant Public Works Officer

Career Field: Construction, Building and Extraction

Service Branch: Navy

I was born and raised in Newport News, Va. Coming out of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. I just knew that I wanted to get away from home and explore. I took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and scored pretty well. So the Air Force contacted me, offered me a job and I took it — it was the start of my life essentially.

Once I had finished boot camp and other training, I was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California. I was an aircraft mechanic, so basically I helped maintain heavy-cargo aircraft. They’d come back in from flying, and we would do whatever kind of maintenance and repair was needed to get the aircraft ready for its next flight. I deployed to Germany in support of the first Gulf War doing the same type of work and also spent some time in Japan. I loved my job, but after four years and at 22 years old, I decided to get out of the Service and try something different.

For about 10 years I tried a lot of different jobs: bartending, working on civilian aircraft, opening up my own business for a while. But none of that gave me the sense of accomplishment I found in the Military. So I got more serious about what I really wanted to do. I finally realized that civil engineering was my calling and decided to major in it.

I was finishing up the last semester of school when the Navy contacted me. A recruiter told me about the civil engineering opportunities in the Navy. I did some additional research and found that it fit exactly what I was looking for. So at 32 years old, I re-entered the Military and joined the Navy as an officer.

Interesting enough, my first assignment in the Navy was back at Travis Air Force Base. This time, however, instead of working on aircraft, I was the assistant resident officer in charge of construction. Civil engineering basically involves designing, building and maintaining your roadways, your airports, utility systems, buildings and bridges — anything the public comes in contact with. So for two years I dealt with managing construction projects on base. During that time, I was responsible for about $40 million worth of construction, so I got a lot of good experience in management as well as contracting. (On the civilian side, you’ll be lucky to see that in your first 10 years!)

Everything has been working great for me.

My next job was with the Navy Seabees in Gulfport, Miss. If you’ve never heard of the Seabees, they are construction battalions (CBs) for a large part of the Naval Construction Force. In the Seabees, we don’t serve on ships. We don’t fly airplanes. We don’t serve on subs. We’re “dirt sailors” because, although we’re in the Navy, we work on land. The Seabee area of responsibility ranges from humanitarian and disaster recovery efforts to wartime contingencies.

In the middle of my assignment in Mississippi, I was deployed to Iraq for seven months as part of a Seabee engineer reconnaissance team. While there, our job was to assess bombed-out bridges, roadways, buildings and camps and provide information to decision makers, to say, “OK, can we rebuild this? Can we repair it? Or do we need to tear it down?” One of the most interesting things we did, however, was in support of the first democratic elections in Iraq in January of 2005. We built some of the voting booths and provided security so people in the town could have a safe place to vote. We felt like we made a major impact.

Once back in the states, I became the East Coast assertions officer. Basically, I traveled from Maine to Puerto Rico talking to college students and professionals about the Civil Engineering Corps. I did that for 18 months. And now, I’m at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va., where I’m an assistant public works officer.

In my current position, the level of responsibility has definitely increased. I’m now focused on the 10,000-foot view of the base. I need to have my hands wrapped around what’s going on everywhere in regards to planning and construction, so I can report back directly to the public works officer and commanding officer of the base.

I am leaving for my next assignment this summer. I’m going to the University of Florida for graduate school. The Navy is giving me a year. So, I’ll be completing the civil engineering program down there.

I’m about seven years out from retirement, since my Air Force time counts as well. One of the great benefits of the Military is I can serve for 20 years and be eligible for retirement for the rest of my life. And what we do in the Civil Engineering Corps is the same thing that city planners and city public works departments do across the country. So when the time comes for me to eventually step out of my uniform, I should have no problem getting a job on the civilian side.

Everything has been working great for me in the Navy. I’m here to tell you that the government takes care of the Military very, very well. So, here I still am today.

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Profile: Steve Opalinek, Facilities Officer

Career Field: Construction, Building and Extraction

Service Branch: Navy

“If you look back in my senior year, the Military was the last place I was going to go. I just wasn't really thinking about the Military right then … but it started to look better and better.”

Steve Opalenik remembers a time when the Military was the furthest idea from his mind. Growing up and attending high school in Western Pennsylvania, Steve had picked up some skills as a draftsman — the first hint of a career in civil engineering. Upon graduating, he decided to move to Atlanta, Ga., and try out his skills in an engineering firm.

“I moved cities, but still found myself in a rut. I started talking to recruiters and found that [in the Military] I may find something bigger than what I was doing …”

Steve had a younger brother who went into the Air Force a couple of years earlier and who was very positive about his experiences in the Service. Steve started talking to recruiters and found that the Navy seemed to fit his personality and his individual interests best, so he enlisted.

“I came in as a carpenter. I worked with the recruiter. He was able to get me to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station), and we worked it out to where I had a field I was interested in. I had been a draftsman and had some engineering background, so coming in as a Navy CB (Construction Battalion) — it was what I wanted to do.”

I feel like the guy that carries  the torch, the proud American.

Each CB team (commonly known as Seabees) employs up to seven different kinds of workers, including builders, steelworkers, construction electricians and mechanics. Steve’s experience and interest in engineering helped him in his schooling and training — and his passion helped him succeed.

“I went up through the ranks pretty fast, and that is one of the things I am particularly proud of. I started out as an E-1 and made my way up … it was merit and hard work.”

After about seven-and-a-half years in the Navy, Steve made chief petty officer and worked in that capacity for a while. After that, he was assigned to work at the Naval Academy. During this time, Steve was able to go to college off duty and earn his associate degree as an architecture technician. Soon after, he became a limited-duty officer (commonly known as a Mustang). This means he was selected for commissioning based on expertise and leadership he possessed and was not required to have a bachelor's degree like a traditional officer. Leadership felt natural to Steve, and he realized he had a knack for it.

“I get to provide some vision as far as where we’re going five, 10 years from now, and [I] participate in different projects to identify everything from warehousing to what kind of waterfront facilities we need. I am kind of the engineering voice to all that.”

Today, as lieutenant commander for the Civil Engineers Corps — Steve’s responsibilities are far-reaching. With as many as seven squadrons being served, Steve is the sole facilities officer for the Maritime Expeditionary Security Group Two, so every day is varied. Whether it is planning new construction or reacting to an impromptu change in a mission — Steve is the one to go to in order to get to the heart of engineering and making it happen. It is his responsibility to look forward, determining which facilities need to be built and how those needs will evolve in the future.

Steve takes his responsibilities seriously and knows he is an integral part of something bigger. He also knows his next promotion will bring even greater responsibility, as he begins preparing other Seabees to carry out missions around the world. It’s something that separates him from many of his peers — in a good way.

“You know, when I go back home, I feel different from everybody sitting around me, and they look at me different than everybody sitting around. I feel like the guy that carries the torch, the proud American. I just feel I have to be that person.”

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Profile: Dexter Nunnally, Signal Officer

Career Field: Communications Equipment Technicians

Service Branch: Army

“My parents were going to have to pay for my college as well as my sister’s. Around the same time, my father was taking care of his mother with Alzheimer’s. So I [joined the Military] to ease the financial burden and pay for my own education.”

In a selfless act, Dexter Nunnally, from Atlanta, Ga., began his career in the Military to help his family. He was a sophomore in college at Morehouse University when he decided to put school on hold and enlist in the Army to take advantage of the GI Bill benefits, which would eventually pay off his student loans and remaining future tuition.

“I was enlisted for about four years before I found out about the Army’s Green to Gold Program … it’s another way for enlisted Soldiers to receive officer commissions other than Officer Candidate School.”

The Green to Gold Program allows enlisted service members to temporarily leave Active Duty to study full-time and receive a college degree. In exchange, each Soldier returns as a second lieutenant and serves an additional term (term length varies based on each individual agreement). The program enabled Dexter to return to Morehouse University to complete his degree at no expense to himself. This was a tremendous help to his family.

While enlisted, Dexter served as a signal Soldier. Upon completing his degree and becoming an officer, he chose to stay in the Signal Corps. The Signal Corps is responsible for military communications and allowed Dexter to acquire hands-on leadership training as an armor officer in Korea. Eventually, he became a platoon leader in a signal company to gain more experience in equipment training, cable placement and other communication technology. While learning these skills, Dexter was also practicing leading others.

“In the 11th Signal Brigade, I had about 290 Soldiers that I was responsible for.”

After successfully demonstrating his leadership ability to his superiors, Dexter was selected as one of 20 officers to attend the Captain’s Career Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. A year later, he interned at the Pentagon.

I had about 290 Soldiers that I was responsible for.

“I got an idea of how the Army and Department of Defense actually function and a better idea of the big picture …”

During his time at the Pentagon, Dexter worked with the communications staff while simultaneously obtaining a master’s degree — paid for by the Army — from Georgetown University.

Upon graduating, Dexter was deployed to Afghanistan.

“There, I was responsible for the communications network for the commanding general and making sure that he had communications with his headquarters at all times. So that was a very unique challenge.”

After redeployment from Afghanistan, Dexter was subsequently deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division. He served with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, where he was responsible for the entire brigade communications network.

Looking back, Dexter was particularly proud of his service and leadership in the combat zone.

“One thing we can be proud of was that we didn’t lose any Soldiers during the deployment because communications were down. That was a crowning moment of my career so far.”

Today, Dexter is a student at the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., as part of a 10-month training program. His next assignment is to United States Northern Command as a joint staff officer.

Dexter’s 20-year anniversary with the Army is right around the corner, and with it, the option to retire with full benefits. However, he is not sure he is ready to stop serving quite yet — if he does decide to return to civilian life, plenty of opportunities will be open to him.

“As a signal officer with my background, I could go into any private industry and work as a systems administrator. Having commanded a company as a platoon leader, they will look at my management skills obtained from those positions.”

With two degrees paid for by the Military and direct leadership and communications experience as a signal officer, Maj. Nunnally is a strong example of what the Military offers service members: a chance to not only learn and succeed, but to lead future generations toward the same goals.


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Profile: Jay Taylor, Satellite Operations Officer

Career Field: Communications Equipment Technicians

Service Branch: Navy

“I wanted to be a highway patrol officer in California. In order to get the experience I needed to get into law enforcement, I decided to join the Military.”

Jay Taylor took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test in high school and performed pretty well, but he wasn’t ready for military life at the time — at least not yet. He decided to go to a community college directly after high school, which was soon followed by two years as a missionary. At that point, inspired by an interest in law enforcement, he was ready to join and chose the Marine Corps.

“My brother had done four years in the Marines. I talked to him ahead of time and knew what his experience was like. I pretty much knew what I was getting into.”

The single most important thing I’ve learned is initiative.

After Recruit Training, Jay was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, where he attended school to learn about the military police career field. He was then assigned to Camp Pendleton in San Diego County as a corrections officer. Soon, however, Jay was looking for a new challenge, and he started training as a network specialist, where he learned how to troubleshoot computer problems throughout the base network of more than 40,000 users. It was quite different from his previous role.

“I knew that if I wanted to stay in the Marine Corps, I wanted to be an officer. So I switched over and decided to do the MECEP (Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program) so I could go to college and get my degree.”

Jay chose to attend Oregon State University as a computer science major and enrolled in the ROTC program there. Unfortunately, during this time, Jay started having issues from a leg injury generally associated with running, cycling or weightlifting. He still managed to finish the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School and did so with honors.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done — getting through that in the condition I was in. I managed to make it through and graduate, and I was very proud of that.”

After graduation, however, Jay’s knee continued to bother him. Despite extensive physical therapy and surgery, it became clear that his injury interfered with his ability to perform the job with the Marine Corps. That didn’t stop Jay. With help from his commanding officers, he began the process of transferring to a new Service branch — the Navy. He retrained to become an information professional officer — similar to the work he did for the Marines as a network specialist — and currently works as a satellite operations officer in Point Mugu, Calif.

“I work at NAVSOC (Naval Satellite Operations Center). We fly the majority of the Department of Defense’s narrowband satellites. I am in charge of the operations floor, where we track and control all of our satellites.”

Being an officer, Jay attends a lot of meetings. The morning starts off with an operations meeting, during which the team reviews the past weekend or 24 hours and what is planned for the current day. Jay is in charge of scheduling the personnel on the floor. He goes through who's assigned to what, making sure that people are where they need to be. At the end of the day, he reviews his team’s timecards. Jay is also responsible for performance evaluations and reviewing and signing off on all of the operations checklists used at the Naval Satellite Operations Center.

Jay's military career has provided him with work and life experiences that many only dream of. Having successfully progressed through career milestones in the Navy and Marine Corps, which included outstanding technical training and service in important leadership jobs, Jay understands what it takes to move ahead.

“The single most important thing I’ve learned is initiative. If you take the initiative to solve whatever problems you find [along the way], then you will get noticed, and you will get promoted, and you will be successful.”

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Profile: Jennifer Foley, Electronics Technician

Career Field: Communications Equipment Technicians

Service Branch: Coast Guard

I am originally from Liverpool, N.Y. I went to college, got my business degree and ended up being assistant manager to a couple of retail stores. It wasn’t for me, so I looked into getting into the Military. My parents weren’t entirely thrilled with me when I told them I was enlisting, but they’re proud now.

I’m an electronics technician in the Coast Guard. We’re the ones who ensure that the ship and small boats can safely navigate and communicate with each other. We maintain most of the communications gear, like the VHF radios and the satellite communications. We also take care of the navigation and fire control radars, and the GPS.

I’m part of an organization that goes out and makes a difference in people’s lives.

When you come out of boot camp, you’re a “basically trained” Seaman. You can go anywhere in the Coast Guard. To become an electronics technician, I went to Electronics Technician “A” School, where I learned some electronic theory and how to read schematics. They gave us the tools that we need to go out in the fleet and figure out stuff on our own because, of course, nothing ever breaks the way it breaks in school.

After that, you go to what we call “C” Schools, which are just more advanced training. That’s where you get more equipment-specific. The school I went to was specifically for the fire control radar system. One of the neat things about the school I went to is that there are people from my class on all of the cutters in the area. We can always call each other for support.

Right now, I am based out of Portsmouth, Va. I’m on the Coast Guard Cutter Forward, which measures 270 feet (in length). It’s a medium endurance cutter. We patrol a lot down in the Caribbean and down off the coast of South America. Most of our patrols are trying to stop immigrants or illegal drugs from coming in. But other cutters of our size do fisheries patrols, and one of our cutters just came back from Africa not too long ago. So we have the ability to go everywhere.

When we’re underway, we all have different watches we need to stand. One of the watches I stand is called the Combat Information Center. I basically just keep an eye on the radar and just make sure that the command is informed of anything going on, or if our mission changes, or if I happen to see a “go-fast” on the radar — that’s our slang term for a small boat, less than 50 feet in size, with a really powerful engine. They're generally carrying illegal drugs.

On a mission, we are part of a task force. There are other cutters or Navy ships in the area and also your aircraft support — helicopters or fixed-wing planes — that you communicate with as well. We’re also in touch with the unit that’s in overall command of the area. A lot of times we’ll have translators on board if we’re going into another country’s territorial waters. It can get a little hectic trying to keep track of everything.

When the earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, we were the first United States unit to show up. There were two task forces, and we ended up being the commander of one. We coordinated which areas everybody would patrol, what assets were going in and out, things like that. We even provided radio guard while the Coast Guard and Navy helicopters and planes were airlifting injured people. I’m sure the local people were grateful to look out there in the harbor and see a couple of Coast Guard cutters and realize the world knows what’s going on and help is coming.

I’m not one of the people who goes out on the small boat and actually does the lifesaving or the rescuing. But I’m still part of an organization that goes out and that makes a difference in people’s lives.

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Profile: Travis Robinette, Chief of Operations & Plans

Career Field: Communications Equipment Technicians

Service Branch: Army

I grew up as an Army brat. My father served for 30 years in the Army, so I was surrounded by the military lifestyle. I was actually born in Germany on one of my father’s overseas tours, and I lived in Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri and Wisconsin before graduating and deciding that I was going to pursue an Army career.

I first seriously considered my own role in the Armed Forces when I was in high school. I enrolled in Junior ROTC when I was at an age where I understood more about my father’s work.

I attended the United States Military Academy for a year before transferring to another school and entering ROTC. I was in a program called the Simultaneous Membership Program, which meant I participated with a local National Guard unit on weekends while I was still a student. It put me into a practical leadership role, working with Soldiers while still in school.

ROTC gave me great role models to see how leadership is applied. The faculty was excellent, and I reach out to them periodically. They’re still interested in how I’m doing and what I’ve gone on to do. Those bonds are lasting.

My first job was as a battalion signal officer of a military intelligence unit in Korea. I was the guy that any time a computer broke, they were going to call me to try and get it fixed. And even if I didn’t know how to get it fixed, I was supposed to know whom to call to make that happen. Being an MI unit, they had a lot of top-secret information, so I had to get a higher level of security clearance to work with that material. And, of course, there was the uniqueness of working in Korea, because we also worked with Korean units and supported them. It was very eye-opening as a young lieutenant, being thrown that much responsibility in a country where you don’t speak much of the language.

I’m looking ahead all the time.

From there I went to Germany, where I was in a signal unit and was surrounded by other folks who had some of the same background that I did. At first I was the company executive officer, meaning I was in charge of all of the equipment maintenance and a lot of the administrative running of a company, which was about anywhere from 80 to 100 people. Soon after I arrived in that unit, we deployed for a year to Bosnia. We were a communications relay for all of the other Army bases.

Since then I’ve had various jobs: I was company commander in Arizona for a couple of years, and I worked in England running a communication center for three years. I went back to Germany for another assignment and deployed as part of Multi-National Corps Iraq. All of the experiences that I’ve had have helped me do my current job better because either I’ve dealt with situations or I’ve dealt with specific technologies that are included in what I do now.

In my current position as Army North G6 chief of operations and plans, my focus is the United States. I’m doing the same things I’ve done throughout my career, but I’m doing them for American citizens. When we’re called into action, it’s usually in response to a natural disaster. Last year, I deployed twice to help coordinate the Department of Defense response to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. And if something unnatural were to happen in the United States, like a nuclear, chemical or biological event, we’re part of the forces that are going to respond.

I’m looking ahead all the time. I’ve got a big whiteboard in my office filled with all of the future missions and who’s going to be doing what so we don’t run out of resources. It’s figuring out who’s got the right skills and is available to cover the various missions we handle.

One of the things that I’m personally working on is a master’s degree, as well as various IT certifications so that I can make myself a more valuable member of the team. There are just more things that I’ll be able to accomplish with that kind of education and training.

All of the experiences that I’ve had in the Military are going to make it so easy for me to make that transition to civilian life when the time comes. The work ethic, the people that you interact with, the training you get — even the way of thinking you’ll be exposed to in the Military — are only going to set you up for success.

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Profile: Jacob Poulliot, Combat Controller

Career Field: Combat Operations

Service Branch: Air Force

Jacob Poulliot grew up near San Antonio as part of an Air Force family. He went to Lackland Air Force Base regularly and watched combat controllers in training. When Jacob saw them, he was intrigued and thought that might be the right job for him. Before he went to Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Jacob began researching and training for a combat control career.

"Knowing that I was going into the combat control career field, I wanted to be in the best shape I could ever be in. I talked to people who knew how to exercise, and who knew how to stay in shape. I also talked to some guys who are actually in the career field, and they helped me out."

After Basic Training, Jacob entered the combat control pipeline. The pipeline involves several different types of schools: Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape (SERE); underwater egress; air traffic control; airborne and combat control. During this time, Jacob began learning how to jump out of planes.

It's always changing, and there's always something else to do. So I plan on staying with the Air Force for a while.

"Up in the aircraft for the first time ... you realize, 'I'm really going to jump out.' It's kind of nerve-wracking at that point. The adrenaline's pumping, and you almost don't want to do it, but you know it's going to be cool. It's just a rush of emotions."

Combat controllers go through so much training because they help to clear and secure air fields in hazardous conditions or behind enemy lines. Once they establish an air field, they also act as air traffic controllers, and they guide the planes to a safe landing. Combat controllers are often attached to Army Special Forces teams, Navy SEAL teams or Marine Special Operations Command teams, and they provide additional air power for these teams during battle.

After his training, Jacob was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, for two years. He has participated in exercises in Australia, Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines, and he has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Throughout this time, he has maintained his training regimen so he can be ready for anything.

"We go through a very rigorous training process, which basically prepares us for any type of situation that we could encounter ... It makes us better operators working in every type of environment."

Although Jacob has reached his goal of being a combat controller, he isn't stopping there. He wants to advance in his career, and he is earning his airway science degree so he can be even better at his job.

"It's always changing, and there's always something else to do. So I plan on staying with the Air Force for a while."

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Profile: John Bushman, Field Artillery Officer

Career Field: Combat Operations

Service Branch: Army

“I have never experienced a day in the Army that was identical to the day before. Every day, there is a new challenge, there is a new obstacle to overcome, there are unique opportunities that are afforded to us to go out and experience.”

John Bushman grew up with a strong connection to the Military. His father was an officer and practiced law within the Military for eight years. John’s youth was like anyone else’s — mainly spent playing sports. He graduated from McLean High School in Virginia, and went on to attend the Virginia Military Institute, where he got a full picture of what the Military — and all its branches — had to offer. One roommate was an Air Force ROTC cadet, another a Navy ROTC student.

“The benefit of going to a state-supported military college [is that] you have all four branches of Service, and you can kind of see what everyone else is doing.”

Everybody comes to the Army or to the Military as an individual.

In his junior year, John attended Advanced Training at Fort Bragg, N.C. — an annual training camp for Army ROTC participants. John got to see what artillery members do, what infantry members do, what communications specialists do — giving him a wide range of possibilities to choose from and the opportunity to discover what really resonated with him. Returning for his senior year, John submitted a list of “Top 10” careers he wanted within the Army. His top choice was the role of artillery officer.

“The primary role of an artillery officer is to plan, coordinate, integrate, synchronize and employ lethal and nonlethal weapons and assets to support combined arms operations.”

While this work often takes John into challenging environments, his mission begins long before he sets foot in a combat zone. To prepare a particular unit for future operations, John could supervise training on basic skills such as marksmanship or something more in-depth, like instructing a unit on an artillery-specific weapons system or procedure.

“Everybody comes to the Army or to the Military as an individual. And everybody has their own motivations for joining. They all have their own goals they want to accomplish.”

John is currently attending the School for Advanced Military Studies, where he’ll graduate this spring. After that, he doesn’t know what his next challenge will be. But he knows that whatever it is, it will be an unexpected and rewarding experience. His years in the Military have taught him that.

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Profile: Robert Settle, Amphibious Assault Vehicle Crew Chief

Career Field: Combat Operations

Service Branch: Marine Corps

When he was growing up in Texas, Robert Settle heard about his grandfather's experiences as a sergeant in the Marine Corps. Right after the events of 9/11, Robert decided that joining the Marine Corps and following his grandfather's path would be the best way to serve his country.

"The Marine Corps is a brotherhood, and that's what it really is. There's a misconception through movies that the Marine Corps is this beast, where you're going to come in and you're going to get yelled at all the time. It's not just that. It's a job, but at the same time they teach you how to be a man."

After going to a Military Entrance Processing Station and enlisting in the Delayed Entry Program, Robert shipped to Recruit Training and went to school for air traffic control. While fulfilling his commitment in this position, he realized he wanted to change his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) so he could work with amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs). He asked a career retention specialist about entering a new field, and the Marine Corps accommodated his new career goals.

"Once you re-enlist, you're allowed to 'laterally move' into a different MOS, as long as there is space for new Marines in that MOS."

The Marine Corps is a brotherhood.

Now an AAV crew chief, Robert is in charge of a three-man team. This team operates a 26-ton vehicle, which can hold around 22 service members. The AAV can travel from water to land in order to drop infantry onto a hostile shore, and it can cover almost any terrain, from sand to mountains.

Robert has many responsibilities in this role. He works with a complex vehicle, and he must help keep the other service members in the AAV safe. But he welcomes the challenge of maintaining the AAV and training others to do the same.

"There's one thing my colonel says to me: Horse, saddle, self. You take care of the thing you ride - your vehicle. Then you take care of the gear that you carry with you, and then you take care of yourself because, if you don't take care of the gear, it's not going to take care of you in battle."

Robert, who is based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, has deployed twice - once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, he helped train members of the Afghan National Army (ANA). During this time, Robert also lived next door to members of the ANA, and he got to know his Afghan counterparts.

"While I was training the Afghan army, I got close to a couple of the sergeants that were older than me. ... We would go have dinner with them and just hang out with them. They're people just like us. They just like to have fun."

While in Afghanistan, Robert helped deliver humanitarian assistance to children. Since Afghanistan can become extremely cold, children needed blankets, clothing, shoes and coats. Robert also distributed backpacks and pens to children who needed them for school.

"They cherish pens. Every time I go through a town, they're asking me for a pen. 'Mister, pen! Mister!' I'll pull out a pen and hand it to a kid, and then a whole mob of kids will come over. And it makes me happy. I just hand out all the pens I've got. I run out of stuff to give away, eventually."

Robert is proud of the abilities he has gained in the Marine Corps. After he fulfills his service commitment, he plans to combine these skills with his passion - cars. He is already planning to go back to school, enter the business world and launch a career in auto restoration and customization.

"The things the Marine Corps has taught me that could allow me to run a business would definitely have to be leadership, organization, attention to detail and, overall, how to be a responsible person."

No doubt Robert will work toward his latest career goals with the same amount of leadership, organization and attention to detail that he has shown while serving in the Marine Corps.


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Profile: Amy Allis, Administrative Specialist

Career Field: Business Administration and Operations

Service Branch: Marine Corps

I was living in Smithville Flats, N.Y., when I enlisted in the Marines. I joined because my then-fiancé was joining the Marine Corps, and I wanted to prove I could do anything he could do.

I chose food service at the time because my husband was already a brig [military prison] guard. I wanted a job that would be available no matter where he was stationed. That left me with food service, administration and supply. Food service was my top choice, and it’s what I got.

In 2005, I did what we call a lateral move, and I changed my job from food service to administration, which is normally not something that’s done as a staff noncommissioned officer. In 2010, I was promoted to the rank of master sergeant with fewer than 16 years of service.

I put a lot into work. I always give 120 percent, and I get it done.

Currently, I serve as the senior enlisted Marine on the third floor of the IPAC. IPAC stands for Installation Personnel Administration Center. It handles the administration for all the Marines on the island of Oahu. We specifically handle people that are going on deployments. We also help process any legal issues and promotions, again for the entire island of Oahu. So I’m supervising approximately 30 Marines, making sure that each section is doing what they need to and making sure they are getting their required training.

Right now, we have a very large unit of several hundred people who are getting ready to leave on deployment. It’s my job to make sure that these Marines are taken care of — that the paperwork is ready, that they’re getting all the money they deserve, that if their wife or their children have any problems they can come to us and we can help them.

The 32 Marines who are on my floor — I’m also responsible for them and making sure they’re getting everything out of the Marine Corps that they can, from physical fitness to opportunities to volunteering to required training. They’re learning how to become good leaders so they can help the new Marines who are coming in behind them.

As a matter of fact, this morning one of my Marines is in a competition to try and earn meritorious corporal, which is E-4. So we were working with her last night on all the stuff that she’s going to have to go through today to win that competition.

Because of my upbringing, because of my attitudes and my work ethic and personality, I put a lot into work. I always give 120 percent, and I get it done.

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Profile: Bryan Holtz, Yeoman

Career Field: Business Administration and Operations

Service Branch: Coast Guard

“I went through high school, graduated and got a diploma. I started college, and it was a little rough, taking out a lot of school loans. Money became pretty scarce.”

Bryan’s main focus was to get done with school. He knew he wanted to graduate from college, but working full-time and going to school full-time was overwhelming. Bryan heard of the GI Bill, and knew he could get money for school from the Military. He shared this information with his brother, and they decided to enlist in the Marine Corps together. They spent the next four years as Marines, until Bryan decided he was going back to college and civilian life. He got married and put his focus on his family. For a while.

It’s amazing the things you find out you can do.

“The Iraq war kicked off, and everything started going on. Everything is going crazy, and you feel like you’re sitting on the sidelines, watching. I felt I had to serve my country. So I went back in.”

He talked with his wife and decided to re-enlist — this time in the Coast Guard. Since Bryan was prior military, the Coast Guard put him into a month-long refresher, making sure he still had the military bearings that he was trained in. After the refresher, Bryan was placed into the position of “non-rate” — which means you are not placed in a specific job. You do whatever is needed, and you get to see everything the Coast Guard has to offer before you make a choice as to what you want to do. Bryan decided on the position of yeoman.

“The Coast Guard is great for a family (and work) life situation … I wanted to be home every night to raise a family. As a yeoman, I could do that.”

Bryan went to the Coast Guard Training Center in Petaluma, Calif., to learn the skills for his current job. A key problem-solver, counselor and source of information to personnel, a yeoman assists service members with issues ranging from career moves, payroll, entitlements and incentive programs to retirement options and veterans' benefits. If service members have a question, the yeoman is whom they seek out.

“I love the organized structure here. I love the people. There are just so many opportunities.”

Although Bryan originally joined the Military to further along his college career, he learned what it means to be part of something bigger and realized that volunteering to protect his country was one of the most admirable moves he ever made. He learned about pride, confidence and trust — in himself, his fellow service members and his country.

“It’s amazing the things you find out you can do. After the Military, you’ve got this … confidence. If it’s physical or mental, you think, ‘You know what? I’m going to go for it. I can do it.’ ”


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Profile: James Darenkamp, Chief Staff Officer

Career Field: Business Administration and Operations

Service Branch: Navy

I know this is going to sound funny, but during my high school years, I used to have a poster hanging on my bedroom wall of palm trees with a destroyer in the background at sunset. I always told my mom every time she walked in my room, “That’s what I want to do.” I wanted to see the world and visit tropical places. That’s why I wanted to join the Navy.

When I went to the recruiter to enlist right out of high school, they handed me a booklet that contained all the jobs (ratings) of the Navy. At that time, my first choice was electronic warfare technician because I wanted to know the gear I was going to operate. So I went to Boot Camp, followed by Basic Electricity and Electronics school in Orlando, and then Electronic Warfare “A” School in Pensacola, Fla.

My first assignment was on the USS Camden, where I was an electronic warfare technician. I was just a petty officer third class, so I had to get used to being at sea. I got all my basic damage control and maintenance qualifications, including my in-rate preventative and corrective maintenance qualifications. Back in the day, my shipmates used to call me the “electronic wizard” because I was capable of reading a tech manual and then fixing the gear.

I have fun serving my country.

I went from the USS Camden to a pre-commissioning unit detachment, USS Mahlon S. Tisdale — a guided missile frigate. Upon commissioning, I went on a couple deployments on the USS Mahlon S.Tisdale. After that, I was considering getting out of the Navy and had several job opportunities lined up; however, my senior chief said, “What do you want to do?” I said, “Well, I’ve already been at sea, I want to take a break, spend time with my wife and two sons.” He goes, “Okay, where do you want to go?” So I said, “I’ll take instructor duty at Pensacola, Florida.” I went to Pensacola for three years where I was the Integrated Training Battalion company commander and an instructor for electronic warfare “A” School and “C” School. During that time, I was also working on my bachelor’s degree at Troy University. The good news was that all of my military electronics courses were accepted by Troy University, so all I had to do was take the general studies classes.

After my three-year tour there, I went to the Philippines. At that time, I was the assistant electronic warfare officer for the staff, protecting the electronics spectrum. After my initial deployment, my wife and two sons came and met me there, and our last child — my daughter — was born in the Philippines. Overall, I did several small (three- to four-month) deployments while assigned there, but after two years we moved to San Diego, Calif., where I had been selected for appointment as a limited duty officer. Once commissioned, I went to Officer Candidate School, and then became the electronics material officer, maintaining electronic equipment on the USS Copeland. I only had a small division of 20 people. It was a very worthwhile assignment.

After I completed my tour on USS Copeland, I did a brief tour at the Anti-Surface Warfare Training Center, where I was the enlisted training manager. Basically, I was in charge of all enlisted sonar technicians’ electronics-based and operational-based training. I had more than 200 students to train annually — it was a lot of work, but it was very rewarding.

After that, I did a very brief tour as the electronics material officer onboard the USS Tarawa, and I embarked on the USS Carl Vinson on a deployment to the Arabian Gulf. Following that, I rode many ships: the USS Arkansas, the USS California, the USS Jefferson City, the USS Abraham Lincoln, the USS Stethem and the USS Peleliu. I think I have almost 18 years of at-sea duty and 16 deployments: I attended a joint school in the Netherlands; I took part in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom; I helped build the electronic architecture at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia; I did joint interoperability and electronic work in Israel for a year, which won me the Copernicus Award (given annually for superior performance on the job).

Today, I am stationed in Hawaii and serve as a chief staff officer at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, Pacific, which provides operational direction and management to all Pacific Naval Telecommunication System users. Our area of responsibility entails 43 countries, 17 time zones, and we have four subordinate commands in Japan, Guam, San Diego and Puget Sound. In this region, we're in charge of almost 1,900 people.

As chief staff officer, I report to my commanding officer. My job is to essentially be the best executive officer and do my very best to make the commanding officer look good. I try to be in the office around seven. This is where I catch up on emails, check out my inbox and look over my routine for the day and the week ahead.

Day-to-day, my job includes taking care of all the administrative work, such as updating instructions, overseeing department heads and making sure the daily routine is going as planned. I attend meetings and visit sites. But, basically, my job is to make sure the Sailors, surveyors and contractors have a good work environment.

I’m also having time now to work on my master’s degree. I’m working on my master’s in information systems management and project management. I’m always trying to keep abreast of the current electronics. While I could easily go work for a civilian contractor with my experience, I think the Military is the way to go. And the reason is because I like to keep my mind young — when I deal with these young Sailors, they keep me on my toes. The kids in the Military today are smart — very, very smart — and I have fun serving my country.

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Profile: Lynn Fletcher, Information Management Specialist

Career Field: Business Administration and Operations

Service Branch: Air National Guard

“Well, I’ve kinda always done everything a little backwards, I guess … but I always wanted to try to give back. And I knew that [joining the Military] was one way.”

Lynn Fletcher was not your typical recruit. He was 34 years old when he enlisted, had two children and nearly two decades in a civilian career. But in one very important way, he was like most others with a calling to serve. He wanted to make a difference.

Though Lynn enlisted at an older age, he first explored the Military right out of high school. He was intrigued but chose to work at a local grocery store, save money and go to school for his bachelor’s degree in the evenings. During this time, he also got married. Before Lynn knew it, between receiving his degree, becoming an accountant and moving around to follow his wife’s career as an X-ray technician, he had two children and was in his late 20s. It was in his early 30s, however, when Lynn and his wife decided to separate, that Lynn started re-evaluating his priorities.

“I was thinking through everything that I wanted to still do, and [joining the Military] was one of them … So I looked at the National Guard. Because I thought, OK, I could work full time and still be able to hang out with my kids.”

There’s just so many unbelievable opportunities within the Military.

Upon speaking to a recruiter, Lynn enlisted with the Army National Guard and chose a military career field.

“You get to pick a career field. And if the unit you’re going into does not have that career field, then they give you a different option to choose from or place you in a different unit where that career field is available to you … I ended up choosing [Human Resources] because I was interested in it, and I had worked in the area a fair amount in my civilian job.”

Lynn attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training and then headed home. Because Guardsmen drill only two weeks a year and weekends, Lynn particularly enjoyed the unique balance of civilian work, state service (such as responding to stateside natural disasters or heightened security requests) and federal service.

“There’s Active Duty, there’s Reserve and there’s Guard … We all work for the federal government … But the Guard supports a couple [of] different things. They support not only federal missions, but also state missions as well … [Guard] is really state first, and then federal.”

This distinction holds true for both the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, which proved important for Lynn.

“A friend of mine was in the Air Guard, and he said, “Why don’t you ever think about joining the Air Guard?” … I got to looking at it and did more research, and thought, man, that’s a better fit for me.”

Attracted to the Air National Guard for its flexibility, career opportunities and the fact there was an Air National Guard base in Omaha, where he was currently living, Lynn spoke to a recruiter and made the switch.

“Everything transferred over … I did not have to go to boot camp again. I wanted to stay in the same career field. And I was fortunate. One — they had a spot. And two — I didn’t have to do any additional training.”

At 39 years old, Lynn currently works in the Air National Guard at the United States Strategic Command in information management. His job entails managing instructions and publications used for policy, procedures and processes within the command. It is mostly administrative work and includes reviewing, editing and formatting publications and forms for compliance. Although he likes his work, has a degree and is qualified to become an officer, Lynn identifies with being enlisted.

“I like the enlisted side. I truly feel that the backbone of the Military is the enlisted people. And I’m one of those types of people that like to be in the trenches.”

Lynn’s point of view has also been shaped by a deep sense of camaraderie.

“I’ve met a lot [of] great people. These same people that I’ve met, we’re all in this to serve and do our part. It’s like a brotherhood.”

For this reason, and other benefits such as health care, career satisfaction and the fact Lynn can pass along his Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to his two children, he’s thoroughly enjoying his time in service.

“I just enjoy this life … there’s just so many unbelievable opportunities within the Military that don’t even deal with going over and fighting in a war zone … I have no intentions of leaving my Guard unit.”

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Profile: Carlos Puga, Air Transportation Specialist

Career Field: Aviation

Service Branch: Air National Guard

When Carlos Puga graduated from high school, he started working a series of part-time jobs. He knew that he wanted to go to school and get involved with his local community, but he wasn't sure where to start.

"All I knew was that I wanted to do something that would make an impact in my life and set me up for success."

Carlos' family had a few ideas, and his father suggested that he join the National Guard so he could serve close to home. Carlos did some research online and discovered that the Air National Guard had an installation near his hometown of Camarillo, Calif.

After learning the Air National Guard was even closer to home, Carlos thought that Service branch might be a better fit, so he consulted his older brother, who was an airborne paratrooper in the Army. His brother agreed that Carlos should explore the Air National Guard since he wanted to live near his family. Like the Army National Guard, members of the Air National Guard can be deployed overseas, but they can train close to home until they are needed.

All I knew was that I wanted to do something that would make an impact in my life and set me up for success.

"One of the biggest benefits of the Air Guard that really drew me in was the ability to choose what base I would work through. I can still serve in the Military near home, and then after work is done, I can be with my parents and hang out with my friends."

Carlos attended Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. When he was finished, he trained to become an air transportation specialist, which is his current position with the California Air National Guard.

"One of the most common roles [of an air transportation specialist] is loading the aircraft with cargo. As far as passengers go, we make sure that they are checked in and sure that they have the proper documentation, to make sure that they are eligible to fly."

Besides loading the plane and checking in passengers, Carlos has many other crucial responsibilities. He must make sure that all cargo is packed properly and meets weight restrictions.

"Everything has to be weighed to ensure that the aircraft has a center of balance. For instance, if it's too heavy in the back, the plane could start to tilt back, and it would create a hazard for flying. So it's really to ensure flying safety."

One of Carlos' other responsibilities is maintaining the parachutes that are used in cargo drops. He must gather the parachute, clean it and repack it so it can be used again.

"The different steps to packing a parachute involve untangling lines, folding them a certain way, so that when it starts to deploy from the aircraft, it breaks in a nice, clean fashion."

When he isn't drilling with the Air National Guard, Carlos is a political science major at Ventura College. He hopes to use his GI Bill benefits to attend law school and get involved in local politics. Carlos has found a good balance between his military career and his civilian dreams, and he plans to be a part of the Air National Guard throughout his career.

"The Air Guard has strengthened my leadership abilities. Even in the training, I was placed in a leadership role, and it really helped to cultivate the sense of taking the initiative."

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Profile: James Waddell, Pilot

Career Field: Aviation

Service Branch: Navy

“I’m a third-generation Navy pilot. I certainly felt like I was part of the Navy growing up, even as a child … I’m one of the Navy brats. I have a different perspective on [the Military].”

James knew pretty early on what it was he wanted to do with his life. Growing up in many different states throughout the U.S., one of James’ earliest memories was of playing with little toy planes in his backyard — wherever that backyard was. His dad was a Navy pilot, and James always felt a strong connection to the Military. Still, his family never pressured him to join. He knew he was passionate about the Military but decided after high school that attending college would be his next step. He attended Texas Tech, majored in political science and history and graduated with honors.

“I finally came down to the point where I needed to start making career decisions, whether I wanted to go to grad school or not. Kind of a ‘what else am I going to do with my life?’ I realized I could still be a pilot. I was an aviation aficionado — and it was still an interest to me.”

The beauty of naval aviation is that you never know where on the map it is going to take you.

James was selected for Navy Officer Candidate School after college — an intense 12-week immersion program designed to prepare an individual to assume the responsibilities of a Navy officer. Although James had been around the Military and military procedures all his life, some days during his training he found himself questioning what exactly it was he was doing.

“You’re like, OK, if my clothes are folded eight inches [high] instead of six inches, who cares? But what they’re teaching is attention to detail. Which [later] could be the difference on landing an aircraft on a carrier, where you only have a couple of inches to play with.”

James knew that he was in school to become an officer and a leader in the Military. And he knew his training wasn’t going to stop with Officer Candidate School.

“Once you are done with OCS … you’re not done with training by any means. In fact, in the Military, you never are. There is always something more. For me, that was most evident going into the field I did — the pilot program.”

After Officer Candidate School, James went to Aviation Pre-flight Indoctrination, which was essentially a few months of aviation-related academics. James had classes in engineering, aeronautics, even classes in weather patterns. He then underwent nine months of intensive training in a two-person plane (one instructor, one student). James’ first assignment took him to Sigonella, Italy, and he has been traveling the world ever since.

“[So far], my career as a naval aviator has taken me to no less than 30 countries.”

James’ missions are varied, and one day is never like another. His primary operational aircraft is the P-3 Orion, which can be used to conduct traditional maritime duties, such as anti-submarine, anti-ship and anti-piracy operations. It is also used for counter-drug operations, battle group support and search-and-rescue missions. But this is just one of the many aircraft James has flown throughout his career.

“The T-34 is my favorite to fly. It is an incredibly aerobatic and maneuverable platform, and it is a great trainer for students.”

Currently, James is a lieutenant commander — a rank at which an officer begins to take on more responsibilities in terms of planning and operations. In naval aviation, this is also the rank where one can become a department head. Typically, a department head will lead a handful of junior officers, as well as anywhere from a few dozen to a hundred or more enlisted personnel. Oftentimes, former department head officers will go on to many “joint” jobs, which could include working at the Pentagon.

“The beauty of naval aviation is that you never know where on the map it is going to take you …”

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Profile: Jim Hendrickson, Comptroller

Career Field: Accounting, Budget and Finance

Service Branch: Navy

My job as a deputy comptroller in the Navy is to manage the spending of funds by various groups within our branch. I put together the budget for them, make sure that it’s spent properly and that they don’t exceed it. I also justify or defend their budget requirements, getting them the funding that they need to execute their mission

Being a supply corps officer, when aboard a ship I am accountable not only for the funds, but all the material that we are charged with managing. We’re constantly resupplying. As far as food goes, we typically carry enough for about a month. There are various contracts in place with different vendors, but you have to establish those relationships. So there’s a lot of responsibility that comes along with that.

The best part about being a leader is helping those that work for you in developing their career and their leadership skills themselves.

A big challenge we faced was about a year-and-a-half ago. I was the assistant supply officer onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier, and we were deploying. As we were in our transit to the Arabian Gulf, we went around the coast of South Africa. That was the first time that an aircraft carrier actually made a port visit in Cape Town, South Africa. There was quite a logistics challenge to make that happen as far as the resupply of parts and food. Going to South Africa, where we hadn’t been in quite a number of years, there was a lot of uncharted territory there. We had to build a lot of new relationships that the Navy hadn’t had before. That was quite a challenge that we had to work through.

I’m hoping to go back to sea now that I’m a commander. There’s a selection process to go back and be a supply officer on an aircraft carrier. Hopefully, I’ll be selected to go back to sea one more time. Then, I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity to work with the Army or Air Force in a joint assignment, which will help me to make captain someday. The best part about being a leader is helping those that work for you in developing their career and their leadership skills themselves.


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Profile: Timothy Ussery, Fiscal Chief

Career Field: Accounting, Budget and Finance

Service Branch: Marine Corps

I joined the Marine Corps at 17-and-a-half, right out of high school. From my junior year, I had two jobs that I was working to support not only myself, but my family as well. I wanted to go to college, but at the same time I was a little apprehensive about that four years — would I really be able to handle it?

I was working at a fast-food place, and a Marines Corps recruiter walked in wearing his dress blues. I was flipping burgers, and he came up to me while I was behind the counter, and he said, “Do you like what you’re doing?” and I said, “No.” So he gave me his card, and he said, “I’m not here to sell you anything or to make you change your mind about what you’re doing in your life. I’m here to provide you an opportunity. Call me when you’re ready to sit down and have a chat with me.” I thought about it that night when I got home, and the next day I called him and said, “Hey, I want this.”

I was in the Delayed Enlistment Program for two months, and I had a ship date of late that summer to go to Parris Island. My mom was a single parent, raising myself, my three brothers and my sister. So it was a big thing for me, leaving home and doing that.

When I was asked to pick a career (from those I qualified for), I felt that financial management was going to be the most challenging of all of my choices and one that I can use after retirement. I went through the Marine Corps Financial Management School at Camp Johnson in North Carolina. It was a three-month-long training that included not only the physical aspects of being a Marine, but what I do now on a day-to-day basis.

I’m currently based in Arlington, Va., assigned to Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies — a component of Defense Human Resources Activity, which is one of the 14 field agencies in the Department of Defense. We do a lot to support recruiting and to provide good data to the recruitment commands about what’s really going on in the current world. It’s a very challenging and important process. We need to accomplish the mission and continue to attract young men and women who will defend our country with the highest level of skill.

There’s so much potential to grow in the Marine Corps and in the Military if you just take advantage of what’s offered to you, do your job and do it right.

I deal a lot with contracts, here, for commercials and market research for recruiting and data management. It’s really opened my eyes up as far as financial management goes — including how funds are passed from Congress to the Department of Defense and how to manage money effectively for our commanders.

Things change every day, so I have to stay on top of new laws and new orders or directives. I'm also the liaison between the contracting officer and the contractors. My job is to ensure that the funds are being passed properly and that the contracts are being awarded in a timely manner. I'm there to make sure the paperwork is properly annotated. I do a lot of follow-up phone calls and reports using contracting and assessment data base systems.

In my spare time, I’m a real big advocate of community service and giving back. I’ve been through so much, and I understand that life is not guaranteed. The Big Brothers Program is my way of giving back to the community. I got my Little Brother a Marine Corps jacket he wears to school. I can’t get him to take it off. The director at Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies has been more than helpful allowing me the opportunity to spend time with these kids. I mean, to the point where I was awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.

There’s so much potential to grow in the Marine Corps and in the Military if you just take advantage of what's offered to you, do your job and do it right. I'll find out in July if I'll be selected to the rank of gunnery sergeant. Then I'll start thinking about where I want to go next.

I’m 27 now, but in 10 years I’m going to be retiring — which is hard to say. I can retire at 38 after 20 years, but if it goes to 30, I would love it — I would love to do 30 years!

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Profile: Joseph Kurz, Supply & Logistics Officer

Career Field: Transportation, Supply and Logistics

Service Branch: Army

“My father was a career Navy officer, so I knew what military service was like. And the Army ROTC program seemed like a great way to enter the Service as an officer.”

The son of an officer, Joseph traveled from place to place as a young boy, but considers Florida his home, as that is where he lived when he graduated from high school. As a student at Central Florida University, a friend and recruiter told him about the Army ROTC, which he chose over his father’s Service branch of the Navy.

Still, choosing a military career made his parents very happy.

“My dad is extremely proud that I was following in his footsteps.”

His friends thought he was crazy at the time, but Joseph wanted more out of college. He wanted to feel part of something bigger. As for the ROTC experience, he admits that it was physically challenging.

“A typical day for us was coming together very early in the morning hours and doing some sort of physical fitness training together.”

The rest of the time, he was pretty much like any other college student, though at least one day a week he wore a uniform. The more concentrated military training took place in the summer. For six weeks each summer, Joseph underwent the Army’s precommissioning training, which is similar to Basic Training for officer candidates.

“[ROTC] is kind of like Basic Training stretched out over three or four years. So it’s a little bit at a time rather than something strenuous and stressful [packed into a short period] … I would recommend it for any college student to do it this way.”

Immediately upon graduating from college, Joseph was already an officer. His post-college journey in the Military began as a second lieutenant armor officer cruising around “in a big tank doing live fire ranges.” It was, as Joseph recalls, “a great deal of fun.” But he was also thinking about what he might like to do after the Military, and thus he turned his focus toward gaining skills in supply and transportation logistics. Both experiences — from tank to supply science — were very satisfying.

“I was responsible for 16 people and over 2.5 million [dollars] worth of equipment.”

I was able to do the right thing and make a difference in people’s lives.

His on-the-job training in transportation and supply coordination was equally rewarding and more satisfying than what his civilian peers were doing at the same age.

“I can’t think of any of my friends from college that went out to mainstream America that had such a great amount of experience placed on their shoulders and had the opportunity of leadership positions in such an early age.”

Joseph was able to grow these leadership skills on two separate deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Although very nervous at first, Joseph soon grew accustomed to base camp life in both settings, where, as an officer in logistics, he was often far removed from direct combat. His organization and discretion over which vehicles and devices to bring to the front lines, however, saved lives and made a difference.

“We were bringing in heavy resources that were going to be lifesaving and counter some of the improvised explosive devices ...”

This meant a great deal to Joseph.

“… I was able to do the right thing and make a difference in people’s lives.”

Today, Joseph has taken his military experiences and translated them to a master’s degree in logistics management — an education paid for by the GI Bill. The Army made this dream possible in more ways than just money.

“Having the money to go to school is one thing, but having the time to go to school is something different. The Army afforded me both.”

Currently, Joseph continues to serve in his logistics role. He is also married to a military spouse and about to become a father. But as he approaches his 20th year of service at a very young age, he knows he can retire by age 43 and still receive an income for the rest of his life, as well as all the health benefits.

“For us to both have that military retirement means that when we leave the military service, we’re going to do what we want to do … whether that’s being something like a volunteer with the Red Cross or teaching on a college campus interacting with young kids — and help steer them on the path to life.”

Based on Joseph’s life accomplishments thus far, he’d be a worthy guide.

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Profile: Nathan Grant, Logistics Specialist

Career Field: Transportation, Supply and Logistics

Service Branch: Navy

When I first was thinking about enlisting, I was definitely going through the teenage years, not really knowing what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something business-related, but at the same time I wasn’t too keen on going directly to college. I wasn’t really mature enough to go to college at the time. So I looked at the Military and said, “OK, this is a different way of doing things.”

I joined the Navy and went to Basic Training the following November. They had a storekeeper rating available, so after Boot Camp I went to school in Meridian, Miss. They gave you a general overall overview of logistics, accounting and other business-related fields.

One of the greatest things about being in the Military is that you can have a job, like being a logistics specialist, and you can do inventory for a year. You can go off and do accounting. You can be a purchasing manager. It really gives you a broad spectrum of opportunity within one job.

It really gives you a broad spectrum of opportunity.

On a typical day, I obligate money to different accounts, contact vendors, set up contracts. We manage aviation parts for all the different commands within the flight line, the helicopters and the planes. We also manage official travel and then anything needed to run regular facility services.

We normally have about 20 commands we support directly, and then we do an assessment prior to the start of the fiscal year and ask them what their requirements are. The easiest way to do it is look at the prior history, and when they give us their projections, we will go back and say, “Oh, well, last fiscal year you spent this amount of money.” And then we’ll look at what they’re giving us. We’re using taxpayer dollars, so we’re trying to be cost-efficient and effective with the money.

As my boss always told me, “You can’t be a yes man; you have to tell a guy that’s five pay grades higher than you, ‘No, you can’t get it, sir.’ ” And you have to be able to say that. You have to be smooth and do it clearly and concisely, not making them mad but giving them accurate information. And what I’ve learned is that even if these people really want supplies that are not authorized, they’ll actually respect you in the long run.

When you have a breakthrough moment that takes you to the limit professionally and you succeed, you are so proud of yourself. These experiences make you love what you do for your command, the Military and for your country. And, ultimately, I think if I transitioned out of the Military, I’d probably want to work for a company that had maybe a government contract or had some kind of ties to the Military, so I’d feel like I can continue doing my part.

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Profile: Robert Allen, Supply Officer

Career Field: Transportation, Supply and Logistics

Service Branch: Navy Reserve

Most people join the Military young and then have a civilian career later. I think that’s the difference with me — this is my second career. I finished my first career with a large shipping company. I’d been there almost 10 years and had worked with a variety of logistics providers, so I moved over into the Supply Corps world here in the Navy.

I’m what they call a direct commission officer. They look for folks who already have a master’s degree and who have some experience in the civilian world that the Navy can rely on. I started out as a Reserve supply officer and then recently went to Active Duty. I think it’s been a really good thing because I’m able to leverage the civilian experience that I’ve had in my military position.

When we come into the supply program, we all go through the Basic Supply Course School, which is in Athens, Ga. Reservists take the program through correspondence, with visits down to Athens to take tests. I consider the workload equivalent to getting an MBA online or taking courses at night. It is kind of a challenge, but it really gets you up-to-speed.

Right now, I’m a supply officer at a mixed Reserve and Active Duty command of about 3,000 people. I manage the financials and the warehousing operation. All our supplies — all the things our folks need to work in the field — are issued from my warehouse here in Williamsburg, Va. On top of that, I manage our budget. We’re about a $15 million command, and I make sure our money is properly spent and accounted for.

I enjoy going to work every single day.

I have seven people in my financial shop and 25 in the warehouse, plus an additional 10 contractors who work for our uniform provider. So there are about 40 people working for me, which is a good-sized department and bigger than what I had in the civilian world.

We do a lot of equipment management for the supplies that our folks need when they deploy. The Haiti earthquake was right up our alley. Food and relief supplies — it all has to come off an airplane or a ship. We've also been involved with the mobilized reservists. We outfitted them with all the gear that they needed, and we got them on airplanes and flew them down there. A lot of different people are involved in the chain, and it’s a big logistics coordination effort to get it all done.

My next job will be at a Construction Battalion (CB, also known as the “Seabees”). I’ll be the lone supply officer, so I’ll have lots of responsibility. That group deploys all around the world for different missions, and I’ll be going with them.

The real difference between the civilian management style and the military management style is that, on the military side, we manage the whole person. You’re on duty 24/7, and as managers, we’re concerned about your life 24/7. It’s just a different mindset. It also means that we take care of our Sailors a lot more than a boss would in the civilian world.

When you’re in the Military, there’s lots of support from the community at large and from within the Military itself. You really feel that your decisions and what you do make a large difference on a day-to-day basis. It is something that people can be proud of, and I enjoy going to work every single day.

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Profile: Rodney Denson, Storekeeper

Career Field: Transportation, Supply and Logistics

Service Branch: Navy

Rodney Denson had planned to join the Marine Corps. He enlisted straight out of high school and shipped immediately to Basic Training. But when a minor knee injury sidelined him, he had to leave the Service and spend a year recovering. After he bounced back, he was quick to enlist again — this time, in the Navy.

Rodney went in undesignated, which means he had not yet been assigned a career. He did everything from night watches to miscellaneous repairs as he learned more about Navy life and available jobs. Ultimately, he began on-the-job training as a storekeeper — a role that goes well beyond cashiering.

“You provide technical assistance, you do inventory, you do a lot of financials to make sure you balanced the ship’s budget after our reports… basically you provide all supply functions to the ship.”

At the heart of the supply department, storekeepers order, stock and issue every piece of gear a Sailor uses, ensuring the crew has the supplies they need before a ship leaves port and while it is underway. Rodney began working in a warehouse but soon found himself on the USS Shasta, where he was stationed for the next two years. Then, at his commanding officer’s order, he spent six months aboard the USS Sacramento on temporary duty. It was hard work jumping into a new role, but during the deployment, Rodney achieved a big milestone: He crossed the equator for the first time.

“When your ship crosses the equator [or] international date line, you have to go through a huge initiation. It is part of the Navy tradition… in the beginning, you are a ‘pollywog.’ That’s your name. And the ‘shellbacks’ have to initiate you.”

You provide all supply functions to the ship.

Becoming one of the “shellbacks” wasn’t the only promotion Rodney received around this time. He earned his third-class rank and, with it, new responsibilities. Over the next few years he was deployed, twice, on the USSShasta and USS Shreveport. Then he did a tour at the Harbor Operations Department in Mayport, Fla.

“Normally, you have… seven to 10 storekeepers [on a ship]. But in this command it was independent duty… I made sure that all the crafts had fuel, and then I did one big huge plant and property inventory every year.”

Comfortable in his role and eager to advance to the next rank, Rodney decided to give himself a competitive advantage. On the advice of one of his chiefs, he began training as a craft master, learning to operate the various vessels that came into his port. His new qualification soon came in handy.

“All the ships that came up and down the East Coast had to do anti-terrorism training [in Maple, Fla.] ... my team simulated like we were terrorists and we were warding off attacks by small boats. And we had to do extensive training daily on that to make sure that we gave the ships the best simulation possible.”

With his new skills, Rodney didn’t stay in one place for long. He was sent for a six-month deployment in Stuttgart, Germany, filling in for a fellow storekeeper. He had barely returned home when his commanding officer deployed him again — this time to Afghanistan. This pattern continued for a few years, as Rodney alternated between domestic assignments and overseas deployments, traveling to Bahrain and then throughout South America as part of a Special Operations team.

“My role again was logistics. I had to make sure that all the cell phone contracts were paid, the housing contracts were paid, the transportation contracts were paid. Everything that you could think [of] for covert operations that needs to be paid through supply, I did it.”

Rodney again embraced the experience and tried to learn everything he could. Daily Spanish lessons improved his ability to communicate with local suppliers. After 16 months he was ready to come home and receive his next assignment. But shortly after returning to Miami, Rodney was injured in a serious car accident, again changing his fate. No longer able to work with Special Operations, he found himself in a Navy Expeditionary Logistic Support Unit, outfitting other deploying servicemembers.

“Seventeen people work for me. I pretty much know which commands are coming that need to be trained or what we are actually doing to support the mission forward… there are so many different type of roles here that you have to do.”

Rodney isn’t ready to sit still yet, however. He recently volunteered to deploy on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise and hopes to make chief before retiring after 20 years of service.

“It has been almost 17 years now, and beautiful things come to an end. So I just want to ride it in style, and they used to call the [USS] Enterprise the ‘carrier with class.’ So I just want to go out on a carrier with class.”

With a career as full as Rodney’s, it is hard to imagine him doing it any other way.

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Profile: Steven Tener, Company Convoy Commander

Career Field: Transportation, Supply and Logistics

Service Branch: Marine Corps

“A lot of the members of my family and church thought that I was going to be a leader of men. They’d always tell me that when I was young. So I kind of had my mind set up on the Military from a young age.”

Growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich., Steven Tener was always looking for a challenge. He pushed himself throughout high school playing football, and when it came to enlisting in the Military, his attitude was no different.

“I wanted to be challenged physically and mentally, so that’s why I chose the Marine Corps.”

Steven visited with a Marine Corps recruiter and, two weeks later, was on a plane to San Diego, Calif., for boot camp. During the 12-week training process, he was selected to be a squad leader and put in a position of leadership right away. Steven had selected a career in infantry, so upon graduating from boot camp, he headed to Camp Pendleton for two months to attend the School of Infantry. From there, he was stationed in Hawaii for three years and then Michigan. During that time, he also took part in several deployments.

“My first deployment was to Okinawa, Japan. It was a unit deployment program. We basically just did different training exercises and acted as a quick reaction force to anything that would’ve happened in the Southeast Pacific.”

Some of Steven’s other deployments include traveling to Korea, where he earned a Korean Defense Medal; to the Philippines, where he helped provide security from terrorists; and to Iraq, where he served as a combat replacement in the re-attack on Fallujah — otherwise known as Operation Phantom Fury. But Steven’s experiences with the Military weren’t always about combat.

I pride myself on being dedicated to the Military and serving others.

“When stateside in Michigan, I was training reserves. I was also able to volunteer for four years coaching youth football and baseball in the community, as well as mentoring juvenile delinquents — kids in the system. That’s how I earned my Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal … through the volunteer work I did with the community.”

Today, Steven is serving as a company convoy commander in Afghanistan. In charge of a mobile unit that maneuvers throughout areas of operation, he juggles a variety of responsibilities: clearing roads to make sure they’re safe for local and military travel, moving equipment or personnel from one location to another, escorting emergency ordinance operations and monitoring enemy movement. He is in charge of four Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, approximately 15 Marines and four heavy machine guns. Though Steven and his men are armed for combat, they haven’t seen much thus far but feel prepared for it if and when they do.

“I definitely feel completely trained. We usually do about six or seven months of training before each deployment. They call it a work-up. You do all kinds of different training to prepare you for what you’re going to see once you get in a country, and I feel my guys and I are ready.”

Steven also credits his experience in feeling prepared. He’s coming up on his ninth year serving in the Marine Corps. He hopes to get promoted to staff sergeant this year so he can try his hand at leading a platoon, but regardless, he plans on making the Military a career.

“I just think that the time I’ve spent in the Military has been invaluable to me, in building my characteristics, building my moral fibers and becoming an adult.”

At 29 years old, after already traveling the globe, leading men in combat and mentoring underprivileged children, Steven Tener is certainly wise beyond his years. And luckily for the Marine Corps and citizens he currently protects, Steven is just getting started.

“My main goal right now is to do a full 20 years of service for the Marine Corps. I pride myself on being dedicated to the Military and serving others.”

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Profile: Jordan O'Hearn, Intelligence/Communications Division Leading Chief

Career Field: Information Technology, Computer Science and Mathematics

Service Branch: Navy

I was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I was just a typical teenager. I never necessarily wanted to join the Military in the very beginning because I thought, honestly, that it was only for people who couldn’t get into college. I had pretty decent grades, and my parents said they would pay for college. But at that time, I was more interested in partying and knew if I had gone to college, I probably would have wasted my parents’ money.

I talked to my high school ROTC instructor, and he told me, “Well, basically, what you’re saying is you lack discipline. In the Military you get a constant dose of 24-hour discipline and living to a higher standard. You should try it for four years.”

So I enlisted in the Navy — it seemed to be the perfect fit.

After attending Boot Camp at Great Lakes Recruit Training Depot in Illinois, I went to Pensacola, Fla., for “A” School. “A” School is where you learn the basics of your trade. So I spent about four months learning how to be a cryptologic technician. I was number three in my class so I got to pick my orders. I picked Hawaii and reported in June of 1997. Once there, I helped support all surface fleet (destroyers, carriers) intelligence communication channels by setting up networks and defending our major assets against hackers.

After three years, I received orders to work supporting submarines in Pearl Harbor. It was a completely different field of work being on a sub, so it was a lot of additional hands-on training.

I get to do missions that civilians could never do. And every day is different. I just really enjoy my job.

After Pearl Harbor, I was assigned as the leading petty officer of communications on the destroyer USS Chung-Hoon. About three years into my tour on the USS Chung-Hoon, I got handpicked to be one of the first members of a special Navy unit that was helping to counter improvised explosive devices in Baghdad. I was responsible for planning missions for my 170-member battalion. At first it was scary, and definitely challenging, but I successfully completed 46 combat missions and left with a Bronze Star — it was a proud accomplishment.

Once back, I went to the Naval Maritime Forecasting Center, which does all the weather forecasting for the Pacific fleet and over in southeast Asia. I worked there for about a year and then got promoted to chief petty officer and moved back to Hawaii. I am still there, and I am in charge of all the communications for the Pacific fleet submarines.

A typical day for me consists of making sure all the communications channels are up, as well as planning support for ships and subs going on deployment. I also deal with new communications equipment we are getting installed. I have a division of 17 Sailors who report to me when they are on watch, and then I brief my chain-of-command.

Currently, I enjoy being a chief. As a chief, you’re the first-line leadership for your junior Sailors, and my ultimate goal is to become a command master chief. As a command master chief, you have a large role in shaping today’s Sailors, including how they get trained. It’s sort of like a teacher and a technical expert wrapped into one. I have been in the Military for about 13.5 years now, and if I make master chief soon, I will probably end up staying in more than 20 years.

It’s amazing the opportunities being in the Military provides. Even before we get out, we have civilian recruiters approaching us. As a leading chief, since I deal with managing people, I could roll into any civilian managerial job. I’ve done a lot of work in cyber protection, and civilian information security is huge these days.

But being in the Military, I get to do missions that civilians could never do. And every day is different. I just really enjoy my job.

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Profile: Pedro Guimaraes, Information Systems Technician

Career Field: Information Technology, Computer Science and Mathematics

Service Branch: Coast Guard

Many civilian law enforcement professionals begin their careers in the Military. It’s less common for a civilian police officer to enlist but, in Pedro Guimaraes’ case, that’s exactly what happened. While Pedro loved his job as a communications officer on a New Jersey police force, he felt called to serve his community — and his country — in a different capacity.

“The Military gives you everything that you need,” he says. “And the only thing that they ask is that you defend its country and its people. It just feels very honorable to be able to do that.”

Pedro, who was born in Brazil and moved to the United States at age eight, did some research online and spoke to recruiters from a few different Service branches. It was his brother-in-law, however, who talked to Pedro about his own experiences in the Coast Guard and convinced him it might be a good fit. Indeed, there was much about the Coast Guard mission that appealed to Pedro.

“The Coast Guard’s entire mission is based on assisting people. [The] Coast Guard’s always training for search and rescue … and I found I’d be able to do more for my country.”

Although he already had a bachelor’s degree, making him eligible for officer positions, Pedro chose to enlist. His ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test scores qualified him for any available job of his choosing, and Pedro was inclined to follow his love of computers into the information technology field. But first, according to Coast Guard policy, Pedro had to spend some time as a non-rate, which is someone without a specific career designation.

“You’re either working as an engineer, assisting with engine repair and stuff like that, or you’re maintaining the ship … being a non-rate gives you the opportunity to observe all the different rates, which helps you decide which one is right for you.”

It’s very humbling, and it’s very rewarding. It just makes you feel like you're ... doing what’s right.

Pedro learned a lot during that period, and the experience confirmed that the Coast Guard was where he wanted to be. He then enrolled in “A” School, where he trained to become an information systems technician. Through a combination of classroom time and hands-on training, he learned to maintain computer, phone and other communications systems onboard a cutter. He also discovered how Coast Guard IT differs from IT in the civilian world.

“While we’re underway, being part of a cutter means that you have to be part of a damage control team, so that if something were to happen, everybody on the ship has a job. My shop, we’re in charge of setting up fire pumps that are going to feed the fire system in case the power goes out … We also stand watches … It’s an operations specialist watch. We’re manning the radars, listening to radio calls coming in and out of the ship, monitoring the classified network.”

Aside from these additional responsibilities, Pedro found another big difference from working in an office building: regular headcounts to make sure none of the crew has fallen overboard. It’s a constant reminder that this is no ordinary job. The tight space aboard the cutter is another. Pedro has made many close friends while underway, but he does sometimes long for the privacy of home. When he needs space, he spends time reading or working on side projects in his shop, and when he’s ready to be social, there is always someone to watch a movie or play PlayStation 3 with.

Overall, Pedro has found his Coast Guard experience very rewarding. He has been able to serve his country while gaining skills in a career that he can continue to work in, should he return to civilian life. That will have to wait, though, since Pedro plans to serve a full 30 years — the maximum time allowed. And, once in a while, he is reminded exactly why he is driven to do so.

“Being in uniform and just being out in public, sometimes you have people that will come up to you, and they just thank you for your service. It’s very humbling, and it’s very rewarding. It just makes you feel like you’re … doing what’s right.”

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Profile: James Hornef, Submarine Maintenance Manager

Career Field: Mechanic and Repair Technicians

Service Branch: Navy

Before I came to the Navy, I had one year of college experience and had entered the civilian work force for about two years — at one point I had my stockbroker’s license. But I was engaged and getting ready to marry, and I saw a high level of turnover in that career field. I didn’t think that was conducive to a family life, so I was looking for something more secure.

I had researched the Military as a high school student and decided to revisit it. I went into a recruiting office, sat down and said, “I’m looking for a career path. I’m looking for some technical training. I’m looking for something I can use on the outside,” and the Navy recruiter mentioned the nuclear engineering program. It was a great program with a lot of education and training — and the signing bonus at that time was pretty good, too. So at 21 years old, I enlisted with the Navy.

I started in Orlando, Fla. The entire training pipeline was about 18 months, and it was a little bit of everything. Once I completed that, I went to the USS Columbia, which was a new construction submarine in Groton, Conn. As a nuclear operator, my job was to help build, test and accept the systems to provide electrical power and make the ship go. Once it was complete, I took her to sea as part of the crew.

After five years on the submarine, I started working at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command as an instructor teaching nuclear-operator students. Right about that time is when I applied for the Limited Duty Officer program. When I’d initially joined the Military, the idea would be that I’d come in, serve my enlistment and leave. But as it turned out, the Military was a pretty good fit, and I enjoyed the opportunities within the Navy. So I decided to expand my horizons by taking a direct commission. I became an officer in April 2001.

Joining the Military opens up other opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.

After teaching students, I went to work on a submarine stationed in Italy. My wife and children came to Italy, too. I spent about two years there. I was responsible for supporting nuclear repairs on deployed submarines to the Mediterranean. From Italy, I was then stationed at a submarine squadron in San Diego, Calif., for three years, where I was responsible for the maintenance and operation of San Diego-based submarines. My job there, primarily, was scheduling preventative- and corrective-maintenance to the submarines.

From San Diego, I was relocated to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and reunited with the first submarine I ever worked on, the USS Columbia. She was going through a major overhaul. So my job this time, with my maintenance background, was to come and fix her (Navy ships are built, and then a certain amount of years later they’re scheduled for an overhaul). I finished up on the USS Columbia and am currently still in Hawaii on shore duty. I work for the commander of submarines and am responsible for the maintenance operation of all Pacific Fleet submarines — between 34 to 45 subs.

There is still some interaction with boats in my current job, but the majority of my day is spent around a desk as a technical expert. I act as the liaison between the corporate portion and repair of the submarine and the fleet operators. I’ll go to different submarine ports and work with the leaders in that port as a representative of the commander, and through my experience and technical expertise, determine what’s in the best interest of the overall fleet.

I will be eligible for retirement in May of next year — but my plan is to stay in the Military as long as I can. I’ve risen through the ranks and gotten to a point where I really enjoy what I’m doing. Being able to work with the Sailors — help mentor them — is something that I’m not going to find outside of the Military, even though I’ve been solicited by several civilian headhunters. And that’s just scratching the surface.

The fact of the matter is that today’s Military is a highly trained professional organization. Just coming in and getting started opens up other opportunities that you didn’t even know existed.

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Profile: Jessica Cruz San Roque, Utilitiesman (Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist)

Career Field: Mechanic and Repair Technicians

Service Branch: Navy

I am originally from the Philippines. I decided to join the Navy when I was 20 years old. My first chain-of-command, which was Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, helped me obtain my citizenship, which is something that I have always wanted to do.

I am a U.S. Navy Seabee — not too many people know who we are and what we do. We are known as the Navy’s construction force. Some call us “dirt Sailors” because we don’t usually go on ships. My actual rating, or job, in the Navy is utilitiesman second-class. I deal with heating, ventilation and air conditioning and plumbing. I enjoy my job because I like to work with my hands. I also like the challenges it brings, whether it is troubleshooting or new construction where I am able to see the finished product of what I am working on.

I love the sense of adventure.

My particular “A” School was in Wichita Falls, Texas, at Sheppard Air Force Base. There for the first module, we learned how to troubleshoot heating, ventilation and air conditioning, learning the fundamentals of how heating, ventilation and air conditioning work. After that, we learned about plumbing. For me it was a really great learning experience, before I became a utilitiesman — I didn't even know that there were different types of plungers. I actually graduated at the top of my class.

During my second command, Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303, I was able to participate in what Seabees are also known for — noncombatant construction projects that help countries around the world. Spreading humanitarian aid, I was able to visit countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru, where we renovated schools and churches for the host countries.

I am currently stationed at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit 2 in Little Creek, Va., where we support about 1,180 divers and explosive ordnance disposal technicians. The department I’m assigned to is Facilities, where a handful of Seabees maintain the unit’s facilities.

I will probably have an opportunity to be attached with some of the Navy divers and the explosive ordnance disposal technicians when they deploy. Places they deploy include Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever they want to send us. Sometimes, we don't know what we will be doing until we are actually tasked, but we constantly train for it. We actually learn a little bit of everything. Being a Seabee is an amazing field because if you decide you don't want to stay in the Military, you can always use the trade that you learn outside in the real world and get paid for it.

I work full-time, and then I go to school full-time after-hours — my command has been really supportive of me going to school. They've worked with me to ensure that I have everything that I need to continue my education, not to mention the Navy pays for my tuition for college. My actual goal is to become a nurse, and, hopefully, in a couple of years or so, I will be commissioned as a naval nurse corps officer. I will be doing patient care, either at a Navy hospital or again wherever the Navy decides they need me to be — that could be here in the U.S. or overseas, which I don't mind at all.

I love the sense of adventure. I love knowing that I don't have the typical 9-to-5 job. Some days I can be working doing construction; other days I can be out in the field or at the range working on my marksmanship, and one day I can be deployed. I get paid to do something I enjoy.

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Profile: Ryan Trammell, Construction Electrician

Career Field: Mechanic and Repair Technicians

Service Branch: Navy

“I didn’t really have a direction in life. I was just sitting around, spinning my wheels and getting into trouble.”

Ryan Trammell grew up in Normal, Ill. He played high school football for a bit but found himself making poor decisions outside of school and getting involved with the wrong crowd. His father served in the Navy for four years, and his mother’s side of the family boasted at least five service members, so Ryan knew a little bit about the Military. Since he felt his life was at a standstill, he made a decision to follow in his dad’s footsteps — and he joined the Navy.

“Me and my dad talked to [the military career counselor] about the jobs I qualified for. He gave me three jobs, one of them being a construction electrician. I jumped at that. My dad has a construction business, so I thought, ‘Yes. That’s what I want to do.’ ”

Ryan had worked with his dad on and off in construction. For him, the Navy was a great way to get training for a job, learn what he needed to learn and get out and work for his father. Ryan was adept with construction knowledge but knew very little about the electrician side of things — until his Navy training started.

Service to me is defending the greatest country in the world.

“You become a jack of all trades. When I go out on a project, I do anything from building forms and walls to pouring concrete. Once it comes time for the electrical work, I install lighting systems, repair generators, even power up a site. We’re working on power lines, high voltages, transformers.”

As part of the Construction Battalion (CB, also known as Seabees) team, Ryan works with other skilled service members in a team environment, all pulling together for a common mission. And no mission is like the one before, ranging from jobs on U.S. soil to work sites abroad.

“I’ve been to Panama. We constructed a community center there from scratch. We went out to a field, cleared it and put a building up. Another time, I had just finished a field exercise. I returned home, and they told me not to unpack. I was headed to New Orleans and [Hurricane] Katrina.”

Ryan is now going on eight years in the Military. Recently promoted to first class petty officer, Ryan’s next step would be to E-7, or chief petty officer. At that point, Ryan will be considered an expert in the field. And his career won’t stop there because his motivation goes beyond personal growth.

“Helping people who can't help themselves I think is a big part of it. Service to me is defending the greatest country in the world.”

“You know, in five years, I will be a chief. And I am determined to do that. I am going to make that happen.”

A lot changed for Ryan in a relatively short period of time. From feeling directionless and hanging with a tough crowd, Ryan now has two viable, enriching paths ahead of him. He could stay in the Military and make a career out of it, or he could choose to start his own business as an electrician — two options he never thought would be possible, at one point in his life.

“You know, I turned my life around. I ‘grew up’ real quick while in the Navy, and I turned my life around.”

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Profile: Demetrius Cheeks, Staff Attorney

Career Field: Legal Professions and Support Services

Service Branch: Coast Guard

"I did some research. I talked to some recruiters, and I joined the Air Force Reserve. My plan was to be away at boot camp before the grades came home."

When Demetrius Cheeks graduated from high school, he was mature enough to know he still had some growing up to do. He enrolled in a local college, but he wasn't cutting it. His first semester's grades were due to arrive in the mail, and his parents were not going to be pleased.

“A kick in the rear end, basically ... that's what the Military did for me.”

Cheeks decided to join the Air Force Reserve. That was in 1995. Several college degrees later (including his law degree), and now a lieutenant in the Coast Guard, he has indeed matured into the role — and career — he believes, were his true calling all along.

I'll stay in as long as they'll have me.

“What attracted me to the Coast Guard's program was, simply, their missions which [are] completely different than any of the other Services. It was more oriented to helping and that sort of humanitarian-type ideal that they have ...”

You can hear the appreciation in Lt. Cheeks' voice as he recalls assisting in the rescue of a small boat full of refugees during his Coast Guard operational days. He remembers all his fellow law school students, who went off to work in the corporate world, and says he has seen things they will never see.

“Whenever we have environmental law cases and we sanction a company or ship or [make them] change their practices to preserve the environment, ... you know you've actually done something to improve something that day.”

One week, Cheeks may be working on an environmental law case. The next, he could be advising his senior officers on administrative law or potential actions in a criminal case. Regardless of the type of case he's handling, he never forgets whom he really works for.

“When I am in court asking for a certain sentence from a judge, it's the government that I am representing. So you don't want to screw it up because it's not just you; it's the United States of America ...”

With a wonderful wife and children and a rewarding legal career, it's not surprising that Lt. Cheeks hasn't felt the need to think about what comes next.

“I like my job, and my family loves it as well ... I'll stay in as long as they'll have me. If they want to keep me around, I'll stick around.”

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Profile: Jason Stovall, Paralegal Specialist

Career Field: Legal Professions and Support Services

Service Branch: Army

I attended the University of Texas, in Austin, pursuing a degree in aeronautical engineering. I had to work part time, which was very difficult because a lot of employers want you to dedicate the majority of your time to your job. They don’t understand that you’re in college and that’s what you’re really focusing on. So I decided to take a break and take some time off to gather my thoughts.

Since I have family that has been prior military, it was suggested to me that I think about joining the Military. That was the first time I considered going into the Military. I felt like I wanted something different than just the regular routine.

I enlisted in the Army in March of 2005 as a combat engineer, with plans to go into Special Forces. I got my initial request for assignment, Hawaii, which was great! While I was there, they offered me a variety of opportunities to go to school and advance my career before going to Special Forces. Unfortunately, during the physical training portion, I injured my knee. Luckily, I was given an opportunity to continue to serve my country and was told I’d have to switch jobs.

You get limitless opportunities to learn and experience so much more.

I chose paralegal specialist, and the Military sent me back to school in Fort Jackson, S.C. They trained us in writing legal memos for attorneys, doing legal research and transcribing. They touch on everything that you would possibly come into contact with in the paralegal field, whether you’re a court reporter, in criminal defense or in criminal prosecution. That’s because every time you change duty locations, the possibility of changing job specialties is there also.

I am always training to improve myself as well. Just because I’m a paralegal doesn’t mean that’s the one and only thing I’m going to do for the rest of my life in the Military. If I have to get deployed, just knowing my job and duties as a paralegal isn’t always going to be enough, so knowing how to react to emergency situations is a must.

As a paralegal, an average day usually consists of preparing legal documents for the attorneys I work for, investigating or interrogating some of the witnesses that we have for court, scheduling appointments and researching law.

In court, my job is to make sure that the facts come out and that everybody receives a fair trial. A military court-martial is very similar to a civilian court hearing. We go through the same process. If I were to do my job as a civilian paralegal, I would feel confident enough to be able to do it just as well or better because it is so closely related.

The most important value that I’ve learned in the Military is integrity. Integrity is a value that a lot of people lack because many times they aren’t able to be responsible for what they do and who they are. Just by joining and being in the Military, you get limitless opportunities to learn and experience so much more.

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Profile: Michael Kuhn, Military Police

Career Field: Legal Professions and Support Services

Service Branch: Army

"I’ve never really thought of working in the business world. I like the fact that ... I was part of something bigger and not just working for profit ... like I was working towards a higher purpose ..."

To understand Army Maj. Michael Kuhn's family history is to understand Army Maj. Michael Kuhn. His father's uncle had fought as an infantry sergeant and was a prisoner of war in the European theater during World War II.

So it was no surprise when the major entered the ROTC program in college. Between his junior and senior years in college, he attended the ROTC Advanced Course at Fort Bragg, where he was evaluated for his military career potential and, eventually, given his first choice of branches: the Military Police Corps. He was particularly drawn to the idea of combining law enforcement with the demands of everyday soldiering.

It’s kind of like being able to be on the good side of history.

“Working with the Soldiers — being kind of a cross-section of our country — you kind of get, well, you get the best of the best.”

As a member of the military police at Fort Lewis in Washington state, Kuhn's daily responsibilities included reviewing military police reports, planning patrols and assigning his team to the appropriate neighborhoods. He likes the fact that, in the Military, an individual is judged on his or her merits. He also likes that there’s always someone available to offer help and support. That's another reason why he stayed in.

“You know it’s kind of like being able to be on the good side of history.”

One of Kuhn's proudest moments came during his deployment to Iraq, where he was part of a military police brigade assigned to provide security for the first democratic elections since the invasion in January of 2005. How often do you get to help write history? He speaks with equal pride of another overseas deployment to the Egyptian city of Sharm el Sheik on the Sinai Peninsula. While there, he and his battalion were responsible for ensuring the terms of the Camp David Peace Accord.

Currently attending the Army’s Command and General Staff College, Kuhn is eager to see where his next move will take him. His first choice is Germany. Followed by Hawaii. Or maybe back to Fort Lewis, Wash., where he met his wife and where they've talked about buying a home when he retires. No matter where his career takes him next, you know his deep commitment to history and democracy, not to mention the memory of his great uncle, will follow him there.

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Profile: Steve Rogacki, First Lieutenant, Cyber Operations

Career Field: Cyber

Service Branch: Army

When asked if he considers himself a nerd, Steve Rogacki laughs. "Yeah, if anyone here doesn't, they're lying to themselves," he says.

"Here" is the headquarters of one of the Army's Cyber Operations Brigades, and while they may be "nerds," these nerds are keeping information safe while maintaining freedom of action in and through cyberspace.

Most days, work doesn't feel like work.

While the nature of cyber operations is complicated, Steve can boil it down. "I hunt for people who wish to do harm to the United States on the Internet," he explains. "I'm part of the team that goes in and tries to find them and stop them."

To be successful — and because his unit is relatively new and growing fast — Steve helps build the unit from the inside.

He creates systems and tactics while also conducting operations, literally using his own brainpower to solve problems. "If you want to be on the forefront of building something, you have to try something new," he says. "We say, 'If you're not doing something for the first time, why are you doing it?'"

In the cyber operations arena, the Military is at the forefront. And Steve sees a big difference between what he's doing and what's going on in Silicon Valley. "Industry is doing cool stuff to further industry, investors, profits and money," he says. "We do cool stuff and it is to protect people, for national defense. That's pure. That's what makes us unique."

Steve's interests aren't all that different when he takes off his uniform. "One of the best things about working in the cyber branch is that my work so closely mirrors my love of technology, innovation and engineering. Most days, work doesn't feel like work," Steve says. In his downtime, he likes to host hackathons in his apartment and create things with a 3D printer.

"The biggest benefit of the Military? The satisfaction. The feeling of empowerment. Being able to decide what I think is right and then just go do it," Steve says. "I wouldn't feel as fulfilled anywhere else. I couldn't have as much of an impact anywhere else." 

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