In hindsight, one of the things I miss the most about military service, is the camaraderie. In particular, when independently- acting individuals, which all civilians are, go successfully through the crucible that begins in boot camp or basic training, that shared experience is indelibly stamped on one’s character. Sit three individuals from three different eras and three different branches of the military, and quite soon all will be talking, laughing and swapping tales as though they knew each other for decades.
From boot camp, individuals are shaped and reshaped into a highly-effective team in their units, in field operations and exercises, in ships or aircraft, armored vehicles or in combat squads. There is a common jargon and understanding that comes from overseas assignments, difficult environments, passable chow, and either adrenaline-pumping action or numbing boredom.
And one day, it all comes to a end. A final enlistment concludes with retirement, and with the hanging up of the uniform, so end also the phone calls from your peers or your “reporting senior” (the officer you report to). Also, the periodic transfers, carefully-written evaluations, frequent deployments, and daily Physical Training ( running along the beach at 5AM) – and periodic assessment – are left to others.
Sadly, unless the now-retired military member obtains employment in a profession closely allied to the military, the camaraderie of the Chiefs’ Mess: the traditions, courtesies, and respect that a Chief Petty Officer has earned in the naval service are only weakly understood by a civilian employer and less so by your never-serving civilian supervisor.
Fortunately for many of my friends in uniform, a transition from military life to a civilian career or self-employment went smoothly. Bringing the same focus to task accomplishment, a university degree, or a business resulted in continuing success.