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Bidding the Corps Farewell

The majority of Marines get out after their first enlistment, so making the transition back to civilian life successfully is essential. Take a look at some of the important things essential to reint (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devin G. Jantzi/Released)

A large number of Marines get out after their first enlistment, but making the transition back to civilian life successfully is essential for these Marines and their families. Having the knowledge of the opportunities available to you as you reintegrate back into the civilian life will help ensure your new experiences are positive ones. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devin G. Jantzi/Released)

Every year thousands of Marines decide to rotate back to the 1st Civ. Div. – otherwise known as the civilian world. It’s ok, not all Marines are “lifers.”

| More: Retired Marine continues service as a teacher |

Many of us decide to give our all for an enlistment or two, then move on to college, a job or other avenues of public service. Whatever your path, the days leading up to your End of Active Service date can be rather harrowing and stressful. Don’t worry. Once again, you’re not alone.

Lance Cpl. Edward Knudsen, a 25-year-old mortarman with Headquarters Platoon, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and a native of Rapid City, S.D., spends the days of his second deployment to Afghanistan balancing armory custodian logbooks. In his precious down time, he delves into thick college textbooks, refreshing his algebra, trigonometry and calculus and studying for the SAT exam. Knudsen worked through two years of college before joining the Marine Corps in 2008, admitting he couldn’t muster the discipline to stay committed to school. Now, three years later and thousands of miles removed from formal schooling in the U.S., he’s gainfully employing his newly acquired focus. Knudsen plans to resume his studies and complete a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering when his active duty service expires in 2014.

Marines who exit the Corps have plenty of options for the future, including pursuing higher education using their G.I. Bill. Lance Cpl. Edward Knudsen spends the days of his second deployment to Afghanistan balancing armory custodian logbooks and in his precious down time, he delves into thick college textbooks, refreshing his algebra, trigonometry and calculus and studying for the SAT exam. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder/Released)

There’s a lot of information out there on the G.I. Bill, finding a job and applying to college. I’m here to touch on a few things that may be overlooked on your quest to reintegrate into the civilian world.

Planning is crucial.

Planning factors into a large part of life in the Marine Corps. We plan for leave, training, chow, nights out and just about anything else. Why wouldn’t you plan for your exit?

The challenging thing about leaving the service is the amount of tasks that need accomplished. Here’s a short list of things that may or may not affect you:

  • Getting your separation and VA physical
  • Applying to college
  • Finding a job
  • Finding a place to live
  • Planning for a pay cut
  • Planning your move
  • Turning in all your gear
  • Checking out with your unit
  • Ensuring you have all your paperwork
  • Trying to stay sane while accomplishing this and more

One thing about stress is… well… it’s stressful. The only thing that comes to mind in comparison is joining the Marine Corps, except you’re losing the structure you fell into.

Fortunately, in recent years the Corps has invested a lot of time and resources into developing the Transition Readiness Seminar that equips Marines with a structured planning process, giving you direction in solving the mysteries of an EAS.

A key portion of the TRS is the Individual Transition Plan. Personally, when I first received the packet and was told I had to do a draft for homework, I balked, “This is the Marine Corps! I ain’t got no time for homework!” After doing it, reviewing it in class and refining it, I realized it’s a valuable tool. It’s easy to brush aside mandatory class work, but the ITP and the rest of TRS are really helpful. Less than two months out, I know exactly what I need to do in order to accomplish my goals.

The opportunities are there!

Contrary to popular belief, there is no set path before you EAS. Grunts don’t have to become police officers, motor vehicle operators don’t have to be truck drivers, admin Marines don’t have to work for Goldman Sachs doing paperwork, etc.

Also, going to college isn’t your only educational option. Some folks just want to work with their hands, maybe do something creative or simply work outside. Well I have some good news!

Skills Marines learn in their occupational specialties often count as on-the-job training as well as give them an idea of interests they may want to pursue in the civilian sector. Lance Cpl. Josue M. Zamora, a metal worker with Engineer Support Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, cuts sheets of metal in the main staging area for units supporting Operation Dynamic Partnership in Shurakay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 9, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena/Released)

Skills Marines learn in their occupational specialties often count as on-the-job training as well as give them an idea of interests they may want to pursue in the civilian sector. Lance Cpl. Josue M. Zamora, a metal worker with Engineer Support Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, cuts sheets of metal in the main staging area for units supporting Operation Dynamic Partnership in Shurakay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 9, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena/Released)

Skills Marines learn in their occupational specialties often count as on-the-job training as well as give them an idea of interests they may want to pursue in the civilian sector. Lance Cpl. Josue M. Zamora, a metal worker with Engineer Support Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, cuts sheets of metal in the main staging area for units supporting Operation Dynamic Partnership in Shurakay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 9, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena/Released)

Skills Marines learn in their occupational specialties often count as on-the-job training as well as give them an idea of interests they may want to pursue in the civilian sector. Lance Cpl. Josue M. Zamora, a metal worker with Engineer Support Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, cuts sheets of metal in the main staging area for units supporting Operation Dynamic Partnership in Shurakay, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Feb. 9, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena/Released)

You may want to consider vocational schools and learn trade skills to be: plumbers, electricians, welders, machinists, carpenters, mechanics, gunsmiths, masons, the list goes on! Typically you need anywhere from one semester to two school years to get a certification or diploma in your chosen field. Not only that, as you make connections you can jump aboard as an apprentice, where you’ll learn on the job.

The thing about trades is they are in high demand, pay well and give you a tangible end result. Not to mention, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill may pay a benefit for those doing on the job training, also known as an apprenticeship.

For Marines who have learned a trade in the service (I’m talking to you mechanics, technicians, machinists, wiremen, welders and HVACs out there), your hours at work already contribute to apprenticeships through the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program, along with any certifications you may have gained. Again, you don’t have to do what you did in the Corps, but if you like your job, you’ve got a head start.

Beyond formal schooling, if you aren’t quite ready for the scholastic circuit, you can join the Peace Corps or any other organization to go overseas and volunteer.

If you do decide to progress in the career field you adopted in the military, federal employment and government contracting may also be a viable option, especially with more formal education. Regardless of your choice, you have many options to choose from.

You can still have ties to the service.

It’s no secret that many Marines exit the service only to beg to be let back in, or transition to other branches. If you’re one of many who miss the service, but want to stay out, you have options.

Organizations like the Marine Corps League, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and many others can give you that sense of esprit de corps you miss from the service.

These organizations also do great things like volunteer, lobby for veterans’ rights and a host of other things. If you are feeling especially patriotic, missing the sense of belonging or just want to hang out with old veterans and swap war stories, this is something you’ll probably want to try out.

Personally, I’ll be applying to the VFW and look forward to joining the ranks of the men and women who left me their legacy in the service, so we can build another together.

Additional Resources:

United Services Military Apprenticeship Program

MARADMIN for TRS

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  • AbroadIQ

    Great article, I have talked to many Marines who are looking to use their GI Bill to study in foreign countries. They should research though it can be tricky, one free resource for Military & Veterans is abroadiq.com

  • tomsarsfield81

    The Marine Corps recommending that retired Marines join the Peace Corps? My, how the times have changed…

  • jok88

    From a grunt who found success in the technical marketing field, let me share a few points to help Marines transition into civilian life. When in your new job, refrain from talking about the good ol’ Marine Corps days – those not in service (most folks) don’t want to hear about your experiences, nor do they care (of course some polite folks will ask, just be careful about “over doing” it). Do your homework – because you have a chance to start over in an entirely new field except now your resume will have a nice, solid item stating you are a Marine (respectable). For me, I choose software marketing because its tough to make complex technologies understandable to laypeople, but also because I can work anywhere for great pay. As the article states, if you’re a grunt you don’t *have* to become a cop – look at the market, lots of great paying IT jobs are out there – learn a new craft entirely!

  • SailorBob

    The Road To 1st Civ Div is much like the Road to War: