- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Medal of Honor Recipient Excels in Civilian Job and as an Author

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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Tucked in the steep Kamdesh river valley of eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. Army’s Combat Outpost Keating provided soldiers with none of the comforts of home. But it was their duty to defend the isolated terrain as if it were their own, and on the morning of Oct. 3, 2009, they did just that.

The actions of Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha that fateful day earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. By the end of the 13-hour battle for Outpost Keating, 50 Army soldiers had prevailed against nearly 350 Taliban insurgents, with Romesha playing a central role. The battle was the first for which two living Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor since the Battle of Ap Bac in 1963 (SSGT Ty Carter also received the award).

It may be no surprise to those who have known combat firsthand that Romesha’s outlook on that mission - one of duty and optimistic stick-to-it-iveness - carried through when it was time for him to look for a civilian job. His open-minded approach to his first entry-level role swiftly propelled him into promotions at an oilfield construction company, KS Industries, LP.

KS Industries was so wowed with Romesha’s job performance Ð and Medal of Honor designation Ð that management gave him a sabbatical to pen a book, released this May. Entitled, “Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor” (Dutton/Penguin Random House LLC), the book is Romesha’s first-person account of the deadly battle.

Here are Romesha’s tips on finding your way into a new civilian career and making the most of opportunities.

During your job hunt:

Have a “Plan Z.” The economy was slumping when Romesha exited the Army in 2011. He had been trying to get a job with the Department of Energy, in a role similar to his military occupation. ”I could not pass the medical requirements with hearing, and it fell through,” he says.

His brother-in-law, who worked in the oil field arena in Wyoming, pestered him to consider that industry. “He knows I’m not a college type. I’m hands-on trades and mechanical. I can’t learn much out of a book,” Romesha says. “He said, ‘You have common sense and a work ethic. You can go far.’ So when the job fell through, I took him up on the idea. His company had just put in a new shop in North Dakota, and the state had less than two percent unemployment. I thought, ‘Why not head on north?’”

Romesha had 90 days of transitional leave saved up, which gave him time to make sure the job was right for him. “Make sure you have Plan A, B, C, D, plus more. You need multiple options. Don’t wait until the last minute to look,” he says.

Remember that entry-level jobs lead to bigger things. Romesha’s family relocated from Colorado to North Dakota so he could take an entry-level position called “Swamper.” He was the “lowest man,” taking care of a hydro excavator. This high-pressure washer and vacuum allows for non-mechanical digging to find live oil lines.

Romesha was only in that job for three months before managers spied his potential. He obtained his Commercial Driver’s License, and they promoted him to managing five trucks, then promoted him again to his current job, Field Safety Specialist. And he has been off duty for about 18 months writing the book.

“Just get yourself established and get a job first. If you’re picky and choosy, you limit yourself,” he says.

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