Thursday, September 08, 2005

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I have a ton of buddies who are trying to decide whether to retire or not. I get a lot of calls because I have successfully (mostly anyway) made the transition to the civilian world. A year ago it was an easier answer than it is today. Now there is a massive $150K bonus for those who are eligible for a six-year re-enlistment. Wow! The Tampa Tribune, however, reported yesterday that “the effort has delivered only modest results due largely to bureaucratic delays in implementing the program…” The re-enlistment bonus makes the decision more difficult, especially as it virtually guarantees continued deployment. The truth is that OEF and OIF are less “fun” (if you will) now than at the earlier stages. There are a plethora of rules and regulations now that “Big Army” is in charge. These deployments have lost their novelty to many. I’m sure that not everyone feels this way, but many of my friends do.

But we really need dudes badly. One of the issues is that the pipeline for a qualified Green Beanie can range from seven to twenty months. Therefore, the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) came up with these brilliant SOF Truths.
• Humans are more important than Hardware.
• Quality is better than Quantity.
• Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.
• Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.

All of these are true, but they are a bit hollow as we are working hard to nullify all of these in practice. This pisses of a lot of great operators. Why bring it up? It directly affects the stay-in/get-out decision-making process.

We all believe that we can get out and walk into a middle-management job. I certainly believed it. The number one option that I heard bandied about is contractor work. But, SF guys are pretty bright (with notable exceptions) and can see the contractor writing on the wall. Companies like Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and Custer-Battle are losing their appeal. Not only is the work more dangerous than many realize, but the paychecks have decreased significantly. At the end of 2003 the going rate for a quality contractor was as high as $600 a day. That is over $100K for a six month stint (largely tax-free BTW). This is really no longer the case for the qualified SF guy. If I’m wrong, please let me know.

Know what I tell my buddies? Have a plan. That’s it. Have a plan. Know what you are going to do. Know what your long-term goals are… work on your education… figure out what you want, then work your plan.