- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

You Know Transportation

by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Northern California College of Construction

Return to Mar/Apr 2013 Issue

transitioning military hired for operations management In doing research for this column, I ran across the following:

I provide the Nation’s warfighters of all services what they need, when they need it, where they need it.

That phrase is part of the motto and creed of the U. S. Army’s Logistics Corps (Army Logistician, PB 700-07-04, Volume 39, Issue 4). Although the words belong to the Army, it would not take much tweaking to make it apply to the logistics mission in all branches of service. Furthermore, change a few words and a logistics company in the private sector could adopt it as a corporate mission statement. It seems appropriate to share it with you given that the theme of this month’s issue of Military Transition News is transportation.

Transportation is a component of logistics, and logistics is a classic example of operations management. Regardless of your branch or military occupational specialty, that is good news. Why? Suppose I ask you to ensure a group of people is well-trained and well-equipped. Give them a clear understanding of the mission and the tools. Provide for their safety. Carry out the plan and complete the mission. Sound familiar? I thought so. For many military personnel, that is a pretty good description of their jobs, and it describes what business refers to as operations management.

With these similarities, it should not be surprising, therefore, that more than half of transitioning military are hired for operations management in some form when they leave. Although the bottom line changes (profit versus war fighting/readiness) and you may learn new systems, methods, technology, vocabulary, and organizational structure, the operations management tools in your toolbox are already honed and ready to be applied.

Caution - the term “operations management” is both descriptive and convenient, but relying on it too much can get you in trouble. ‘Operations’ could mean logistics, combat, supply, support, covert, humanitarian, peacekeeping, procurement, and more. And almost everything you have done in the military has had something to do with ‘Management’: personnel, money, supplies, acquisition, projects, missions, planning, supervision, leadership, allocation, priorities, timelines, deadlines, crisis, and paperwork, just to name a few.

Putting those two words together and using them to describe what you have done and/or may want to do might be convenient, but in doing so you may also come across as vague or uncertain with respect to your true objective. One way to mitigate this risk is to focus in on a segment of operations management that is specific enough to convey both your skill set and also hit the hot buttons of a job opportunity. For many military personnel, the field of logistics is a logical choice.

There are many military specialties and occupations for which it is hard if not impossible to find direct civilian counterparts or equivalencies - Infantry officer, F18 pilot, armorer, air defense, submariner, cryptographer, and others. However, the news is better for those military personnel who know something about logistics, which is almost everyone. Some of you are trained and certified military logisticians with experience in supply, quartermaster, transportation, acquisition, contracting, inventory, purchasing, pre-positioning, airlift, and replenishment. Even if your military occupational specialty, branch, or designator falls outside of those fields, you still practice logistics every day. Acquiring, accounting for, moving, allocating, and employing resources is what you do for a living. Those resources are numerous and varied: equipment, materiel, personnel, consumables, rolling stock, foodstuff, ammunition, medical supplies, fuel, weapons, money, construction supplies and more.

One of the most important and predominant activities within supply chain management is transportation. Jobs within the transportation industry are relatively plentiful, and hundreds of companies in that industry are pre-disposed to hire veterans and transitioning service members. Look at the companies that are featured and advertise in this issue. Many of these companies are looking for specific transportation-related skill sets and training that they know the military has provided. Others are focused on general leadership and management talents, knowing full well that you can be taught the specifics and technical side of the industry.

For example, I visited the employment opportunities page on the website of one of the companies featured in this issue and found job openings in the following disciplines: warehousing, pricing, estimating, customer service, supply chain management, shipping, inventory control, freight forwarding, procurement, sales, drivers, mechanics, forklift operators, billing, collections, information technology, contract negotiation, and program management.

Assuming that the military version of operations management is one of your strengths, you should consider seeking out the civilian version as a way to launch your new career given that transitioning military are hired for operations management positions often. As I have emphasized in previous Career Coach’s Corners, you need to work both hard and smart. It would be smart to consider the transportation industry for reasons mentioned above. It would be smarter still to focus on companies that have already decided to focus on people like you, such as those that appear throughout this issue.


Tom Wolfe is contributing editor & columnist for Military Transition News and author of ‘Out Of Uniform: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition.’

Return to Mar/Apr 2013 Issue