Why did you leave the service?

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by vampsoul, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. vampsoul

    vampsoul Candidate

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    I thought it would be interesting to get some retirees on here to explain their reasons for why they retired from their respective services. A common answer I receive to this question is their spouse was not cut out for the military life.
     
  2. ccfletch

    ccfletch Member

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    After 24 years it was time to start a new career before I became too old. It is great to have retirement income and be able to start working on a second career and retirement. Family and I enjoyed life in the Air Force!! Most of that time was spent overseas by choice. We loved living overseas!
     
  3. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Somehow, you just know...

    Statutorily, I could have stayed 30 years. I decided to retire at 26 years, one of the reasons being not searching for a job as a 50+ year old woman. And, it was time. As I racked up the years, I never understood how the decision got made by others senior to me. Then, a number of factors came together, everything felt right, and I downloaded the format for the "request to be placed on the retired officer list."

    The services often help in that decision, as promotion and command opportunity gets harder and harder as the years pass. At some point, the promotions stop, even for flag officers (admirals and generals), and it's time to go home. If one of the driving forces in staying on active duty is that burning in the gut for more command and leadership opportunities, and then that no longer becomes available to you, that's also a factor. I was offered plenty of attractive duty opportunities and could have rounded out to 30 years, but none of them involved the joys and challenges of leading Sailors in an operational environment.

    One of my contributing factors was being in the Pentagon on 9/11. There's nothing like being in a crisis situation to refresh your perspective on what's important in life and get you to thinking about the next phase.

    My husband, who retired from active duty some years before me, knew I was thinking it was time to retire before I did. That was when I decided to paint the interior of our home another color than white. So many moves over the years, so many rental homes with white walls, so many briefly-owned-then-rented-then-resold-homes with white walls for market viability, so many government quarters with white walls -- it was a major indicator that subconsciously, I was not going to move from this particular home. That meant tentative roots were taking hold.

    Moving on also allows the promotion numbers to open up. By law, there can only be a certain number of officers at each rank. If too many officers stick around in one rank, it slows the promotion opportunity for the next junior rank and downward.

    The factors are different for everyone, varying in significance from one person to another. It can be the job itself, career stagnation, health issues of self or family, family desires, staying (finally) in one place more than 2-3 years, desire to try something new... Since none of us are tottering at the edges of our graves in our 40's and 50's after a full military career, most go on to rewarding second careers which may or may not be related to their military specialty. Then there's that third career I have my eye on...

    And yep, I was one of those who was gonna be "three and flee" after my initial obligation. It's a journey full of surprises, and there's no sense in trying to figure out whether you're going to be a career officer to retirement or someone who serves for a shorter period and becomes a former officer.
     
  4. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Bullet left for a multitude of reasons, but I think if he said to name the number 1 reason it would be our children.

    Our eldest had graduated from HS, and regardless of retirement or not we would have been moving again. He went to college out of state, but close to our retirement home. Had Bullet stayed we would have been littering our children around the country/world. They would have never had the ability to have a true home. Retiring meant the 2 still at home might want to call it their home. Eldest calls NJ his home state, he says that because that is where his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins live. He never lived there permanently. VA will never be his home to him. We didn't want our other 2 to have the same opinion.

    Bullet also started to have the same feelings as MJ, he started to want to plant roots...got tired of upgrading a home to sell it and not to enjoy it. Parents get older and you want to be closer to them. Your outlook on life changes and the military goes from being the 1st priority to the 2nd or 3rd. When that happens, it is time to go.

    Additionally, it is not only about the youth being promoted, but your peers start to leave and you realize that when you are the last one standing. When we did Bullets slideshow for his retirement and pulled out his RTU picture for the Strike, there were only 2 people still in out of 16. One had left and rejoined so he was not able to retire and one was Gen Hesterman (he was a Lt. Col select at the ripe old age of 34).

    The thing I will say as a spouse who pinned on Bullet's butter bars is that I went to bed one night as a 1st Lt. wife and woke up as a Lt. Col's wife. It goes by faster than you could ever imagine.

    FYI, I was cut out to be a military wife, I loved it with every ounce of my soul, but 20 yrs later, and packing/unpacking 250K lbs of household goods, I was cooked. There are those who have the spousal push to get out, but then I would say they chose poorly. These spouses knew that they were in the military when they walked down the aisle, to play the card of I want out is wrong if you truly love that military member. I have met many of them and the majority walk in with a chip and unwilling to even try. They actually damage the AD's career because the member will give up the better chance for promotion because they allow the spouse an input in the decision of where they would live. Bullet discussed our PCS options, but my answer was always the same, which one is best for your career? He would answer and that is where we went. I couldn't care less where we lived as long as he loved what he was doing. A happy soldier makes a happy family. Trust me Goldsboro NC was not on my places to live as an NJ city girl! Fortunately he never made me live in Cannon NM or Del Rio TX

    Also, for pilots they want out early and no later than 20 yrs in if they choose to go commercial. Age works against them for becoming a busdriver in the sky. The longer they stay the higher chance that they may have medical issues that will dq them.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2010
  5. devildog55

    devildog55 Member

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    How many years did you serve?

    I want to serve 20 years and I am afraid of the USMC telling me to leave before that 20 is up.
     
  6. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    I "plan" on retiring on 25 June 2011. That will be 32 years :eek: after I took the oath.

    Why then?

    Because the law says that the longest I can serve! :frown:

    Else I'd stay in...

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  7. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    That will be a nice retirement pay check!
     
  8. sprog

    sprog Member

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    Not everyone who leaves the service retires. Indeed, many just decide that it is time to do something else and punch out after the service commitment expires. That was my case.

    Everyone is different on this, but for me, I decided that a military career wasn't what I wanted. I went back and forth on it while I was still active duty (there were pros and cons on each side). In the end, I wanted some roots, and I really wanted to head back to the East Coast permanently after I furthered my education (law degree). I don't regret leaving the USAF at all. It was a great experience, and I will forever value it; however, in my case, it wasn't the right choice for a career. I didn't want to stay in missile operations, I didn't want to move every three years, and there were some aspects of the military culture which were not sitting well with me at the point I decided to leave. People's experience will vary on this, trust me.

    I guess I looked at my time in the USAF like my grandfather's generation looked at military service. In WWII, there were tons of guys who went in to fight the war, and then when it ended, they went on to be civilians and built up the country into what it is today. I found out after a couple of years of active duty that this philosophy is what interested me....the whole "citizen soldier" deal. I wanted to do my bit for national defense, and then pursue my own individual goals. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I certainly have respect for those who dedicate their professional lives to military service, but in the end that choice is personal and wasn't for me.

    Thought it might be good to add that perspective to the thread.
     
  9. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Completely agree with Sprog!

    I have SO many classmates that did their time and decided that they wanted to pursue other dreams and they left active duty.

    And have not looked back! They've continued to excel! Heck, one's on the Forbes "big bucks" list, was appointed by the POTUS to the Board of Visitors, other commissions, etc. And there are SO many others...

    And ALL of them will tell you (I say this because they've said it at reunions) that their success STARTED with the USAF!

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  10. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    I left after 8 1/2 years and it was the second best decision I made. Attending USNA and spending that 8.5 yrs on active duty was the best decision. In my case, I got out at the right time for me.

    My reasons were complex. As an aside (not to blow my own horn), I was doing very well in the USN, had just been selected for promotion, and had my choice of billets anywhere in the world I wanted to go. Instead, I got out and went to law school. So, why?

    First, my expertise (in Intel) was Soviet subs. This was 1992 and the USSR had just dissolved Thus, the need was for folks to respond to the crisis of the month -- Somalia, Rawanda, etc. Those were critically important but not what I'd done or wanted to do.

    Second, slots on CVNs were just opening to women and that was the "hot" billet. I'd been in the 6th class of SA women, the only female officer in my squadron, and now didn't want to do another "first." Time to let the next generation do it.

    Third, I wasn't intellectually satisfied w/my job. I'd spent the last 4 months on mid-shifts photocopying documents for a SecDef brief (you had to be an O-4 or O-5 to do this but they let me b/c I'd just selected for O-4; the ADM (see below) wanted to be able to ruin your career if things went south).

    Fourth -- and this is the most important -- I had the unique opportunity to work 4 Intel officers 8-10 yrs my senior, all of whom were among the best in the USN at the time and all of whom were in my command (b/c the jerk ADM for whom we worked wanted them all to compete vs. each other thus ruining at least 3 of their careers). I watched them. One canceled shore duty to go back to sea so he could spend more time w/his family.

    Overall, I thought to myself, "If that's where I am in 8-10 years, God help me." That was success in my chosen field and I wanted no part of it.

    Money and family played little to no role for me.

    I will say that my military experience has made me much more successful in my second career and, even though I started "late," I wouldn't be where I am today but for my military time.

    The other great piece of advice: "Never look back." I've never spent more than 20 seconds thinking what my life would have been like had I stayed in the USN. I moved on and gave myself 100% to my new career. I remain active with USNA but don't dwell on what "might have been" -- would rather focus on what is and what is to come.:smile:
     
  11. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    Because I wanted to raise a family and go home every night. Besides, I had wanted to go submarines and ended up having to do SWO.

    Unlike usna1985, however, I do sometimes look back. Just last night I had a dream that not only did I go back into the Navy, but that I repeated USNA and was therefore the only guy to ever have TWO degrees from the place. I was then made acting CO of my first ship while still an LT.

    That dream was so bizarre and lacking in reality that I could have sent it to Congress as a bill and gotten it passed! :yllol:
     
  12. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    Okay, this is totally bizarre. Z, what are you doing in MY dream?:eek: Seriously, I've had dreams off & on for the past year that I decided to repeat USNA as an adult (despite the age limits, of course). I can't remember why I go back and the dream always ends w/my second graduation.

    I think the purpose of my dream . . . not to get OT here . . . is somewhat like yours -- to do better this time around. For me, it wasn't academics, it was athletics. This time, I run & run & run so that the mile is no longer a challenge. And I take different courses. Other than that . . .

    Still, I've never looked back. The other day I saw that someone I used to work with -- 2 yrs my senior -- was just picked up for Flag. And I said to myself, "If that's the kind of person they want as an Admiral in [my] community, good thing I left."

    And, I look at folks my age still in (now senior Captains) and think they aren't old enough to be doing these jobs.:shake: But that's it.
     
  13. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    Whatever it is, I hope it's not as one of your plebes! :biggrin:

    Yep, only it's not just USNA, it's USN in general. While I look fondly back on my time in uniform, I am keenly aware of so many opportunities I let go by. Very stupid. :frown:


    LOL. Funny thing, because I think what kicked off my present wave of nostalgia is reading about how an old roommate of mine had made O-5 and was now in charge of some squadron or other. I'd be lying if I claimed I wasn't a little jealous. :redface:
     
  14. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    BOTH OF YOU get your chins in!
    :yllol:

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  15. usna1985

    usna1985 USNA Alumnus

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    Staying OT for just a moment. . . for many years, I dreamed of skipping English class in h.s. and the consequences thereof. I understand that (or a version thereof) is a common dream for college grads. However, I've now morphed to the "repeating USNA" dream and have no idea why it started.

    My only regret about USNA is that I didn't focus more on running. If I'd been a good runner, I would have been a 4-striper. I have no idea why that still rankles me, but it does. No regrets re my USN career.

    For those reading this and thinking Z and I are nuts, the theme is the same . . . give everything you have every day. When you think you're giving 110%, you're probably only giving about 70%. And you won't realize that for a long time and then it will be too late.

    For those considering staying or leaving, don't become a "prostitute." When I was 8.5 yrs in, people said, "Stay for 20." I think you should IF you're enjoying what you're doing. Absolutely. 41 is NOT too late to start a new career. However, if you're ready to move on, don't wait for another decade+ to get the retirement benefits that may or may not be waiting for you.

    My view in life . . . in whatever career you're in, look at successful people 8-10 yrs your senior. Most major organizations don't change; thus, what you see ahead of you is largely your future. If it looks bleak, switch now. If it looks great, go for it.

    And always remember the advice my father gave me . . . Wherever you are is the worst; wherever you're going is the best; and wherever you came from isn't as bad as you thought it was when you were there. Words to live by.
     
  16. goldfarb1

    goldfarb1 Candidate

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    While I only have a few years of life experience, I find this to be very true. Great quote!
     
  17. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    How many of them? :yllol:
     
  18. Zaphod

    Zaphod Founding Member

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    So very true.

    Oh....... and I AM nuts! :biggrin:

    Sounds like what my Statics prof said to us: "There's nothing like the next time and there's nothing like the last time, because the time you're at sucks." :thumb:
     

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