The Emotional Aspects of Transitioning Out of the Military



What No One Ever Talks About - The Emotional Aspects of Transitioning Out of the Military

I transitioned from the Air Force in 2006, after completing six and a half years on active duty. Like many military veterans, I packed a lot of living into those six-plus years. I traveled to dozens of countries and I deployed five times. I also handled a decent amount of responsibility for a 25 year old. I was a shift-leader during my last assignment. I had the responsibility of assessing the tasks at hand, putting a plan into place, and making sure we executed.


But, things changed quickly after I separated from the military. I packed up and moved across the country to a state where I only knew two people. I was unemployed for six of the longest months of my life. It was hard, but not for the reasons I expected. The biggest struggle for me wasn’t financial. I saved a lot of money during my deployments and I knew I could live for a full year without any additional income. My biggest struggle was finding my new identity in the civilian world.


I transitioned from being a leader with concrete goals and tangible outcomes, to someone who had no responsibilities other than finding work. I spent hours crafting my resume, making phone calls, searching job sites, applying to jobs, and doing everything I could to find a new place in the world. I finally found a new job through a mixture of networking, and reworking my resume to better highlight my skill sets.


Starting my new job was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Not just because of the paycheck, which was nice, but because it gave me somewhere to focus my energies. Working again gave me the opportunity to contribute to a team and be a part of something that was larger than myself. This was something I had missed after leaving the military.


If you haven’t made the transition out of the military yet, I encourage you to think about your next steps. Yes, save your money, and get your education or professional certifications. Those will be immensely valuable in the civilian sector. But, also spend some time thinking about the other aspects of your transition. How will it affect you and your family emotionally? Will you remain part of your local community, or like me, will you move to a new state?


Finding your identity in a post-military world can be difficult. If you find yourself struggling, I encourage you to step a little bit out of your comfort zone. Joining groups in your local community can be a great way to meet people and grow your network. Good examples include participating in your church, local or national volunteer organizations, professional organizations, or other organizations that will help you get out into the community and be part of something bigger than yourself.


Your dependents may also struggle with the post-military transition. I would encourage you to include some family activities in your plans, or encourage your family members to get out in the community or join school organizations.


Getting out into the community will help ease the transition and give you back something that might be missing. It will also help you grow your personal and professional network, something that can pay long-term dividends.


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Ryan Guina is the founder of and He is a writer, small business owner, military veteran, and current member of the IL Air National Guard. You can find him on Twitter @ryanguina.