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#34541 - 11/22/04 03:39 PM From civilian to soldier and back

The following is a question that came into my head during work tonight:

Right, it takes six months in the UK to change a civilian into a soldier and eleven months to change a civilian into a officer. In addition to that you receive specific training for the role you play in the armed forces. Quite a while then.
Yet, when you leave the services all it takes is one step outside the gates to return as civilian.

I've heard little about "councelling" to get soldiers back to the civilian way of life. It makes no sense to me. Can anyone explain?
Sayings like "you dont need to be in uniform to be a soldier" and "once a Marine, always a Marine" are not uncommon to me. Maybe once you made the transversion you can't go back?


#34542 - 11/22/04 05:13 PM Re: From civilian to soldier and back
rbruce Offline

Registered: 05/25/04
Posts: 153
Loc: California
I'm in the U.S. Air Force and there is a lot involved with going from soldier to civilian. You just don't hear about it much outside of the military. As I am currently in and don't plan on leaving in the near future I don't have all the specifics of what happens when somebody transfers from military to civilian life. I do know some of it though, and I hope this helps.

First there is all the paperwork. There is a lot of paperwork for anything you do in the military. Whenever somebody starts to prepare to get out they usually start all their appointments and processing about 1-2 months before they actually get out. There is a mandatory briefing a person must attend about transition assistance. I don't remember the exact name of the briefing though. There are also classes on filling out resumes and job interviews and such. I know there's more, but I've never been through it, and I'm tired right now and can't think straight.


#34543 - 11/22/04 05:25 PM Re: From civilian to soldier and back
brian Offline

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 1468
Loc: Texas
Right, it takes six months in the UK to change a civilian into a soldier and eleven months to change a civilian into a officer.
Wow is that all it takes to be an officer in the U.K.? In the U.S it's 4 years of college/ROTC.
Learn to improvise everything.

#34544 - 11/22/04 05:43 PM Re: From civilian to soldier and back

In the UK you don't need a degree to become an officer (although 90 something percent of officers have them), just A-levels. The majority of officers go in (with or without a degree) and do 1 years complete training in order to earn their commision. A few do undergo "University Cadetships" which is where they effectively get paid to go to University for three years where they are a member of the OTC, URNU, or UAS (depending on the branch) for that time and they get their degree at the end of it and go off and then do the same 1 year course as the rest of them (at Sandhurst, Cramwell, or Dartmouth). At the end of this you would become a commisioned officer, although you would still have to undergo your "to arms training", so for example if you were an infantry officer you would be sent on the Platoon Commanders Battle Course, or as a Warfare officer in the Navy you would be sent off to get your Navigational Watch Certificate and Bridge Warfare Qualification, and if you wanted to serve on submarines you would have to go and do the 5 month "Dolphins" course, so the length of time you actually spend training can be a lot longer depending on your specialisation. But they don't count having a good time drinking at University as a part of the training program, so hence only one year.

#34545 - 11/22/04 07:15 PM Re: From civilian to soldier and back
Johno Offline

Registered: 01/05/03
Posts: 209
Loc: Scotland
There is a saying in the forces that once you are in then you spend the rest of your time preparing for the return to civvi street. If you look at it as a serviceman you are quite well protected from civilian life i.e Council tax, mortgage, having to adjust to a real work environment. You get relitvely inexpensive housing mostly in quite well maintained area's. When you leave the army, your big green safety blanket is taken away from you and a lot of people find it difficult to cope with.
Here's a quick scenario. An Infantry soldier with 22 years in leaves the army, all of a sudden he finds that all his military qualifications and rank mean very little if anything at all. He has to try and find a job that will keep his family with a roof over thier heads and knowing this he will probabally have to take a lower pay rate than he is used to. All the mates he has known for years are now hundreds of miles away, he now has to make new friends in a strange area who have little if anything in common with him.
Thankfully the forces have a good resettlement system that kicks in up to 4 years from your leaving date and good education programs to help servicemen gain civvi qualifications.

Hope this helps

Follow the Sapper

#34546 - 11/25/04 02:00 AM Re: From civilian to soldier and back
Vinosaur Offline
dedicated member

Registered: 03/25/04
Posts: 128
Loc: North Central IL
The US Military used to just let you "walk out the gates" as you put it and you were done. Now a civilian. The government found that a lot of the servicemen and women had a difficult time adjusting to life after the military. So they started a mandatory program to help you transition from Military to civilian life. I left the Navy just over 4 years ago and had to attend this training. It is a week long course (8hours a day) in which you learn about how your military skills could translate to a civilian job, how to write a resume', how to dress for an interview, and how to act in an interview. What kinds of questions you can expect from potential employers, how to get a job, what your benifits from the military will be (if any) and on and on. The one week time frame may not seem like a lot after spending several years in the military, but it does help those that have become "institutionalized". There are a lot of people that have difficulty with the openness and freedom of thought that is allowed in the civilian sector. Hope this helps answer your question.

The phrase "Once a Marine always a Marine" goes to the mind set that Marines must undergo in order to train an individual to charge a position under heavy fire and very poor odds of a positive outcome. While I will agree that some of these fine men and wormen enter the training "gung ho" they are all trained in the most exhaustive manner possible to ensure only the best make it through. Their training is still the most arduous of the U.S. forces for the basic portion of their training. The always a Marine stems from these ideals and beliefs being "drilled" into them over and over again until they become second nature, and this training stays with them for a lifetime.

While I didn't go through any where near this type of training in the Navy, a lot of the info from "Boot Camp" as well as other schools is still with me today. I am sure Chris and others here on the forums will tell you the same. Some things just stick with you forever.
If only closed minds came with closed mouths.

#34547 - 11/25/04 03:41 AM Re: From civilian to soldier and back
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
Grumble grumble, What was that about "letting sleeping dogs lie?" I came home after 6 years when I wasn't allowed to reenlist due to injuries. I went the following Monday to a scheduled job interview at Raytheon, a government weapons contractor. I was in a 3 piece suit, had my own pen (a Parker,) sub contractor referall and a FRESH haircut. I'm in the waiting room across from some Deadhead in torn jeans and a "Paraquat sucks!" T-Shirt. The interviewer asked about my qualifications, talked to mr sunshine about music and hired him, asking to borrow my pen so they could fill out the forms <img src="/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" /> I next went to the Westlake Village Lake Association to apply for the courtesy patrol boat service. They choked when I presented my qualifications- and hired two college students. They were later caught drinking beer and shooting ducks with a pellet gun while a vietnamese grandfather drowned in 3 feet of water. So I enrolled in College. I took a class in american lit. My avowed marxist proff gave us THE OPEN BOAT by Stephen Crane as our first assignment. She had a fascinating interpretation, the position of the survivors mirroring various class distinctions and personality types. I disagreed, explaining how the type of whaling boat in use demanded specific crew displacement for balance and the captain in a position to navigate and command. Chastised, I promptly dropped the course and retreated to a biker bar. After getting kicked out for hurting the carefully cultured ambiance I went to an irish pub. After 4 hours I was intimate in a scheme to run guns to 'the lads'in Belfast. I pocketed $200 USD advance pay to skipper the boat and made a note to shave my beard. That night in my first evening class I met Roya, a stunning Iranian jew. "You have nicely polished shoes. My grandmother taught me to look at a man's shoes and watch and only then his eyes." My watch at the time was a rare, USAF issued Bulova cronometer( thoughtfully removed from a drunk airdale for his safety.)
We had dinner at some moroccan restaurant with belly dancers on the gun money and dated for 4 years. That was my transition to civilian life. No classes, invites from the VFW and my brothers gave me plastic models of C.G. cutters for Christmas the next 3 years. Quoting John Lennon, "Life is what happens while your making plans." <img src="/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

#34548 - 11/25/04 06:28 AM Re: From civilian to soldier and back
AyersTG Offline

Registered: 12/10/01
Posts: 1272
Loc: Upper Mississippi River Valley...
I've been lurking this thread because... hmmm, that's hard to describe. In part, I'm a little wary of your question. Are you somehow concerned that we're turning out maladjusted potentially violent folks into an unsuspecting society? From my point of view, it's the other way around, especially for career soldiers (marines, sailors, airmen - whatever).

I retired from the US Army in 1998. Career spent as a Combat Arms officer, split about 50-50 Infantry and Engineer (I branch transfered during an Engineer shortage). Went home in uniform one night and the next morning began work in civvies running a company. Technically I was on leave for almost the next 3 months (it was legitimate - I had a written legal opinion/"safe harbor" letter), so in a sense I had negative transition time. Other than attending a mandatory one day seminar at some date up to two years before my retirement, that was pretty much it. I do something else now - something I'm more comfortable with.

It was a hell of a rough ride and I don't think there's any good way to smooth that all out. I had a fairly typical delayed culture shock - about 1 1/2 years - and it was the worst time of my life, ever, period. Very indescribable. American society doesn't particularly venerate old soldiers, occasional spasms of guilt aside (Not true of MANY fine people, but that's the flavor of society writ large). Some guys don't make it and some die a few years after retirement of "natural causes", albeit rather before their time. Some guys do just fine. That's just life; deal with it. No pills or shrinks; life's a series of campaigns, so fight the battles and perform the missions.

Enlisted men at that time were getting quite a bit more attention - whether they wanted it or not - but it seemed to me that the entire focus of that attention was the "how to get a job" sort of thing - good, but not perhaps as important as the cultural transition that career military folks really would benefit from. I did not hear anything bad about it from soldiers that I know who attended the training and several told me that it was really helpful to them in a job-preparation sense.

The US Air Force at that time put a huge amount of time and effort into "pre-retirement training" of commissioned officers. Mandatory, to the best of my knowledge. And I heard that it was hugely focused on getting a great job, but that's all anecdotal, so take it with a grain of salt. I suspect, but don't know, that the USMC did little transition training then. Don't know what the Navy did.

I don't know first hand what is being done today so I won't comment on that - a recently separated or retired person would know better.

Every day I make a conscious effort to not be a soldier - an officer - out in the world. It took me a long while to be able to do that, and I'll never be good at it. I am who I am. Every day I miss the Army; miss soldiers; miss the culture I spent so many years in, miss pretty much everything about it. <shrug> I'm not sure any of that is a bad thing.

I served in the Army, yet I truly have far more in common with a Marine grunt I've never met than with everyone else that I know and work or socialize with who has not served in the military, if that makes any sense to you. Can't transition that out of a person. And shouldn't.

That's about it. From here on, my story goes: "There I was, knee-deep in grenade pins, when ..." <img src="/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />

#34549 - 11/26/04 09:56 AM Re: From civilian to soldier and back

Thanks guys for your sharing your experiences. You stories gripped me and had to read on. Resulting in missing the bus to college!

The reason for asking the question is because im contemplating a career in the military and wondered what the procedures were.
An ex-soldier must find it frustrating sometimes having to work with civilians, true?


#34550 - 11/26/04 11:02 PM Re: From civilian to soldier and back
aardwolfe Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/22/01
Posts: 923
Loc: St. John's, Newfoundland
I don't think I ever had any real problems with that, myself. Of course, much of the work I have done since leaving the military has been with a defence contractor, so many of my colleagues are either ex-military or are experienced in working with the military.

Probably the biggest transition for me was the fact that, in a civilian company, you can't tell if the guy you run into at the water cooler/vending machine is a senior VP or works in the mailroom. I really wished that my co-workers would have to wear badges indicating their payscale, so I wouldn't offend them by treating them "inappropriately" (whatever that meant to me at the time). I think I started to get over that when the receptionist asked the president of the company if he'd mind giving me a lift to the airport to save me having to call a taxi, and he said he'd be happy to. <img src="/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> (He was on his way to catch a flight himself, of course.)
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."

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