A Green Beret Leaves the Service: How to Ruin Your Transition in Five Ways
by Marshall McGurk
Oh, so you’re getting out of the military? I did it a year ago. Here’s what NOT to do:
- Don’t ask for help. Asking for help is a sign of strength because you are self-aware of your weaknesses. Being the person to bring the help is even better. How do you think Patton’s Third Army achieved glory at the Battle of Bulge? Someone humbled themselves and asked for help. The “I’m a Green Beret and I’ll figure this out” method only works so far in transition. Don’t spend two months trying to figure out a portion of a work project when a one hour discussion with a co-worker will solve the problem. Don’t have a heart attack trying to meet a deadline when asking for a two-days extension is the healthier path.
- Lie…about anything, large or small, personally or professionally. Yes, we’re all driven to do a good job and we want to be the best. You will get walked to the gate if you lie or falsify something. You will ruin your marriage by lying to your spouse. Tell the truth, go on with it. People care, and they care for the right reasons. Don’t ruin it for yourself.
- Don’t have a plan. Flounder away only if you have the time, money, a plan on how to do so. Successful people have a plan, even for their time off. I’m not saying you have to have a career plan mapped out from entry level manager to CEO before transition. Owning a business might be one of your goals. Because you made a plan to be financially and responsibility free, you hike the Appalachian Trail for six months to think about your larger goal. THAT is having a plan.
- Don’t surrender to your larger mission. The Special Forces motto, De Opresso Liber or “DOL” doesn’t end once your take off the uniform. You are a Green Beret; freeing the oppressed is what you were born to do. The Q course did not teach you to be a Protector; it only honed the innate talents. You were born as the Protector, the Prime Alpha. You are neither offensive or defensive, you just simply ARE. Do not attempt to move away from that larger mission because you’ll either a) sell yourself out to a mission (i.e. a company) you don’t believe in, b) the resulting crisis of faith might break your mind and spirit, c) the lack of purpose will leave you destitute. Green Berets have the highest rate of suicide per capita, but we can change that. Embrace your purpose and mission because it never ends. Surrender to it, and let the mission be the journey. It will save your life.
- Go to extremes. I get it. You’re a warrior, a Prime Alpha, a Doer. Become comfortable with “close enough for government work.” Perfection is unattainable. Stability comes through consistent growth and progress, not going full speed ahead into a wall. Get your new life stable, and then be open to opportunities where you can take your skills and talents to the next level.
In the past year I lived all of these points to varying degrees and my transition was blessed more than most. I am incredibly grateful for people and organizations supporting my personal growth to continue my mission to free the oppressed.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this: you are not alone. Everyone who has transitioned has dealt with frustration, anger, uncertainty, pain, sadness and enormous stress. Even men from the toughest units struggle and learn valuable lessons. 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta veteran Scot Spooner details his lessons in the short book, “Your Life.” We’ve also experienced, joy, happiness, self-assurance, self-awareness, peace, gratitude, and serenity. There is immense power within you. You don’t have to like for things outside of yourself. Surrender to the fact you are a Green Beret, a Ranger, a Soldier, an Alpha, a Protector, a Champion for life. We’re with you and you’ll encounter many allies if you open your mind and heart to your mission.
Marshall McGurk served nearly five years with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) after a stint with the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized). He enjoys scotch, cigars, good books, foreign films, and critical thinking. He is passionate about international relations, domestic affairs, and successful veteran transition. He serves in the Army Reserve. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal January 2, 2019.