Well, I believe there is a direct correlation. When you go through ACAP, or TAP, or whatever your branch of the military calls transition training, all that information becomes your azimuth. That is what dictates the path you are going to attempt to follow as you transition. Odds are you are not going to remain in the same community where you were last stationed. You are going to move to a location for a job opportunity, for education, Karl Monger 186 perhaps you are going home, or moving to a place you’ve always dreamed of living. Even if you go home, you are now years removed from the community. Your friends are either working hourly jobs or if they went to college, might just now be graduating and looking for work themselves. In any event, the newness of the community is the equivalent of nighttime. You have no idea what you are getting into until you step into it. Spider webs, big trees, ditches—these are the small obstacles you will encounter. You don’t get a job right away, or you have difficulty meeting new friends, money is tight, school is frustrating, the VA is unresponsive, you experience survivor’s guilt, you may drink as a form of self-medication—there are a million obstacles you may encounter. Each of these obstacles has the potential to take you a degree or two off your transition azimuth. How then do you get back and stay on azimuth? What if you had a map that had marked on it the exact location of snakes, big spiders, dangerous holes, as well as great resupply points and rest stops? Well, that map exists in every community, and should be readily available to every transitioning veteran—and that map is another veteran, one who is a “transitional generation ahead.” In other words, he or she left the military a few years ago, completed their schooling, got a job, became established in the community, has a network of friends and business associates, belongs to a Rotary Club or a Chamber of Commerce or a faith-based group (or multiples of these). This person has walked the transition azimuth, strayed from it, bounced back, maybe figured out a new azimuth, and in all likelihood, would be more than happy to share how they did it with you! Common Sense Transition 187 GallantFew calls this veteran a “Guide.” This Guide has a transition After Action Review (AAR), and you need the lessons already learned. GallantFew calls the transitioning veteran a “Future Guide,” because once you’ve accumulated your own transition AAR, we want you to share it with someone following in your footsteps. Imagine if there was an effort in every community in the country to identify veterans willing to be Guides to Future Guides. Imagine if every veteran returning to or moving to a community was greeted by a veteran just like him or her: the same branch of the service, the same military skill-set, perhaps the same deployments or even the same or similar injuries. I believe this network of veterans would grow to become a solid, important part of every community. Instead of veterans fighting unemployment, self-medicating, struggling to deal with experiences and frustrated with the VA, they would be networked, in supportive friendships that challenge, motivate and inspire. How many families might stay together, how many new businesses would start, how many suicides would be averted? In Chapter One, A Tale of Two Rangers, I talked about Steven Barber and his new State Farm Insurance Agency. Steven directly attributes his ability to take a risk on the career of his dreams because of the simple fact that he had an instant network, whereas before he might have taken the first job offered because he had a family to support, and no military retirement to provide a cushion. Karl Monger 188 A few years ago, two Ranger veterans decided on a whim to see how far they could travel from Denver, Colorado with a hundred bucks and what they could fit in their backpacks. They published a documentary of the journey, called Nomadic Veterans and it is available through Amazon and Netflix. Early in their journey, they tried to do it alone and ended up sleeping in a field, hunkering down outside a storage building in a tornado, and didn’t get very far. As soon as they tapped into their veteran network, suddenly they were getting rides; people bought them meals, even plane tickets overseas. Their journey was amazing and their biggest lesson? That doing it alone got them nowhere but as soon as they turned to their network, things began to happen. As of September 2016, our country had been at war for over fifteen long years. I work with veterans who have been off azimuth, trying to find their way alone for years and years. They have burned through relationships, money, they are isolated, frustrated, they drink hard, and they don’t have much hope that their situation will ever change. They have no sense of purpose and believe the best part of their life is now behind them. They are so far off azimuth that it becomes a significant emotional event for everyone involved to establish a new azimuth to get back on track. Sometimes it involves swallowing their pride and admitting they need professional substance abuse help, or post-traumatic stress support. The resources exist to help them start from right now to change their lives for the better. You know by now that I’m a former Army officer, infantryman, paratrooper, and Ranger. When I have a conversation with an infantryman, paratrooper, or Ranger, I Common Sense Transition 189 can challenge them to overcome their obstacles because that soldier and I have been through the same or very similar experiences. We trained at the same places; we probably know many of the same people. I have the emotional or moral authority to challenge them. It’s less so when I work with a Marine veteran. The Marine can rightly say, “You haven’t been through what I’ve been through, so how do you know?” That’s where a Marine veteran, transitionally a generation ahead, can get eyeball to eyeball and encourage, support, and challenge the Marine to start making changes.
More on this in Chapter 11. You can continue the story above by buying the book Common Sense Transition on sale now in hardcover and paperback. All proceeds from the book sales will be going towards GallantFew, Inc, The Darby Project and The Raider Project. Together we will proactively save lives.
Karl Monger is the founder of GallantFew, Inc (www.gallantfew.org). His vision is to reduce veteran unemployment, homelessness, and suicide and to advocate for improved services for veterans. GallantFew accomplishes this by aligning veterans successful in the business world as mentors to soon-to-be veterans leaving active duty; establishing a strong social network that provides professional development, emotional support and physical assistance; providing training and resources for veterans qualified to own their own businesses in the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) federal procurement program; and by educating corporations and agencies on veteran-related employment issues.