- 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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Article Sponsored by: Heavy Equipment College

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In your new job:

Keep an open dialogue with management. For Romesha, simple conversations with higher-ups paved the way for his promotion to Field Safety Specialist and also to receiving time off to write his book.

In the case of his job promotion, he was attending a meeting to learn about OSHA regulations. He jokingly said, “I’m tired of being out in the cold. What do you have available for a promotion in safety?”

The manager then told him that he had wanted to bring Romesha into his department, but there was a company policy that he couldn’t recruit him away from another team. However, because Romesha initiated the subject, there was nothing stopping this manager from giving him the job.

Even at that, Romesha couldn’t believe it was a serious offer.

“I said, ‘Why me? I’m not the safest guy in the world,’” Romesha recalls. “He said, ‘That is untrue. Your ability to follow rules and regulations, enforce standards, mentor and your attention to detail are exactly what we need.’”

And when Romesha found out about the Medal of Honor award, he decided to quietly share the news with a few select company leaders. They supported him taking time to write a book. “It gives you inspiration to know there are companies out there who would do this,” he says.

The Medal of Honor has definitely changed his life, opening up new opportunities. “Things are not the same for me as they were a couple of years ago,” Romesha says. “I was ‘just a veteran’ before. But having this gives me the chance to explain that the ‘blue ribbon’ is not mine. I was selected to wear it. It shows honor, integrity and sacrifice of everyone who was there. They deserve it just as much as I do, and every American who has fought in past wars and future ones do, too. Being a recipient is an adjustment I’ll never get used to, and I hope I don’t.”

Apply your “combat mindset” to the daily grind
. When he was at Outpost Keating, Romesha and his comrades adopted a “motto,” which they found scribbled on a barracks wall: “It doesn’t get better.” They flipped the negative phrase and used it as motivation. For example, if someone received a coveted magazine from home, they’d say, “It doesn’t get better.” The mindset allowed them to cope with bleak circumstances.

It also propelled Romesha through the battle with the Taliban.

“We might have been outmanned, but we weren’t outgunned. And that doesn’t refer to more weapons, but to more fight in the heart. We had more fight in our hearts than all 300 Taliban put together,” he says.

He suggests that if you feel misplaced in your first job or are struggling with life outside the military, apply that can-do optimism to each day at work. When he was in his entry role as a Swamper at KS Industries, he found that this disciplined approach motivated him to excel, which led to supervisors noticing him and promoting him quickly.

“Have the mentality that yes, life sucks at times. It really does. But it’s on the individual to make the most of it. Make the day the best it can be. It doesn’t matter what your surroundings are. Do your best and your darndest to make it happen,” he says.

Stay in touch with your battle buddies.
One of the biggest adjustments to a civilian workplace is that you will profoundly miss your fellow soldiers, Romesha says. While promoting his book, he has traveled the country to do speaking engagements. If one of his battle buddies is in the area, he makes time to see them. Although it has nothing to do with your job, it will give you the psychological boost to maintain meaningful friendships, he says.

“The camaraderie that was taken away after 12 years - that was scary for me,” Romesha says. “So make time when you get a chance to reunite. There are certain things you can’t replace in life, like those friends.”

Link to purchase Red Platoon:

Heidi Lynn Russell writes about employment and business issues.

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