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Military retention considerations: "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" (very long post)
Old 04-29-2010, 10:43 PM   #1
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Military retention considerations: "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" (very long post)

With apologies to fans of the Clash, that thread title was a huge 1980s lifestyle anthem.

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Originally Posted by leftbucket View Post
Nords-
I've heard you say before that you wish you had not stayed 20 and I can't help but wonder why. Do you really wish you had left at 10 yrs (I think you've said that before) and gone into the reserves?

Wouldn't you say that your overall quality of life having been able to be retired for the last several years is better because you stayed on for 20?

I'm not in the military, but I think if I hit 10 years (not necessarily 4 like the OP) only serious marriage/family jeopardy would get me to leave before 20.

Again I'm not in the military, but in my own line of work, very few
folks with >5 yrs leave before 20 yrs on any kind of voluntary basis.
The Naval Academy and the submarine force teach "persistence" as a life skill. Think of Tim Allen's character in "Galaxy Quest" ("Never give up! Never surrender!!"), only without Sigourney Weaver.

The problem with persistence is that it's not a multi-purpose tool. We don't always recognize when to stop beating our heads against brick walls and just walk around them.

The phrase "leaving active duty for the Reserves" (or National Guard) is not as self-defeating as it may seem because any 20-year combination of active/Reserve service still keeps you in the pension game. The Reserve/NG pension pays out at age 60 (instead of at age 37 or whenever retiring from active duty) but it's based on the pay scale in effect when you turn 60. At age 60, it still includes the COLA and the cheap healthcare. More importantly, a Reserve career helps you keep your morale up to actually reach that pension eligibility-- many veterans find it a lot easier to stay in the Reserves for 20-30 years because they can adjust their participation to match the rest of their lifestyle. Fewer days of duty usually results in a smaller pension of 25-30% of base pay (instead of 50-75%), but Reserves more than makes that up in quality of life and different promotion opportunities. I'll get back to that point near the end of this post.

My specific regret at staying on active duty is my lack of appreciation for all the times opportunity was pounding on my door. Several factors made me oblivious.

First, the military culture excels at convincing you that you're barely capable of holding down your assigned job, let alone worthy of promotion. Active-duty veterans lack the external references to even conceive of how valuable their skills are to civilians, even if they're in niche fields like weapons systems or meteorology. Add in a college degree (let alone a graduate degree or an MBA) and the "average" veteran will never go hungry. I only belatedly learned this when a classmate became a headhunter and found jobs for every one of my troops who was leaving the service.

A second factor was my own unreasonable expectations. My primary career goal of collocation with my spouse was not aligned with our assignment officers' priorities or the "needs of the Navy". Maybe they do a better job these days for dual-military couples (I doubt it), but I sacrificed a half-dozen career opportunities in favor of cohabitation. I would have probably selected for XO and maybe even CO, and easily promoted to O-5. Instead, at the 10-year point I finished my second sea tour and transferred to a poorly-regarded staff operations billet-- the only collocation shore duty available at the time-- while we were starting a family. The post-Cold-War drawdown shrank the XO selection to 40%. I made the cut but I never got put into the game and I spent the rest of my career "on the sideline". 20 years of stubborn attempts to balance active duty with collocation made everyone unhappy.

A third factor was my changing priorities. I think I matured a lot at the 10-year point. Instead of racing around the ocean being a steely-eyed killer of the deep, becoming a new parent made me appreciate how good family life could be. (Better than the families in which spouse and I were raised. We lacked external references for that too.) Just about everything at work conflicted with everything involved in being a good parent.

A fourth factor was my narrow focus. The submarine force doesn't use the Reserves very well, so I had a low opinion of them that was totally wrong. When I hit that bad staff job I worked with five different Reserve officers, all of them submariners, who could have shown me a better way if I'd taken the time to get to know them. Instead I just worked them hard to help me cover my three desks while I struggled with a chain of command that thrived on crisis management, 24/7 on call, and 70-hour workweeks. It never occurred to me to wonder "Hey, this assignment is a load of crap, why are the Reserve guys so much happier than me?" I kept stubbornly tilting at the organizational windmills instead of creating my own new game with my own rules.

A paralyzing problem, frankly, was fear. I couldn't believe that I had skills worthy of an employer's paycheck. How would we pay our mortgage?!? I was worried that if I got out then spouse would end up on an unaccompanied tour at the Navy weather station in Diego Garcia, leaving me home alone for 18 months with a baby. I was worried that we couldn't stay in Hawaii and would have to sell our house into a recession that wiped out our equity. I was afraid that I had no idea how to manage our budget or our investments and that I wouldn't be able to learn how to do it without a steady paycheck. Hey, I was working 70-hour weeks and chronically sleep-deprived with a teething infant. I was lost in the fog of work (The "fog of work"). Spouse and I were barely getting through the daily parenting routine, let alone having thoughtful conversations about our family & career goals. It never even occurred to me to deal with my fear other than through persistence, which I know how to do very well.

Finally, I had no rational basis from which to assess my quality of life. I know now that my life then really sucked, but compared to sea duty it still seemed pretty good. Surviving the eruption of Mount Pinatubo (Ever Had a "Close Call"???) made me appreciate being able to go home (almost) every night.

Against all these factors and fears, "persistence" became the default solution.

I can only imagine the cumulative effects of the stress and chronic fatigue. At some point you get so far behind on your sleep that your guardian angel rips a few pages out of the back of your Book of Life and resets your exhaustion level. I was 25 pounds overweight on comfort food. I drank a lot. I was always fighting respiratory infections, which usually became bronchitis and three times turned into pneumonia. Some days I'd have a constant stress headache, everything was too noisy and too bright, and I'd actually be dozing at my desk at 10 AM while "checking" submarine schedules for safety separation. No problem, my boss was dozing at his desk too. How do you know if you're exhausted when everyone around you is even more fatigued?

Based on what I've learned since then, I should have left active duty for the Reserves as soon as the fun meter went negative and it was clear that I couldn't fix the staff billet. I never would have missed a paycheck. Just my stratospheric security clearances would have immediately given me a civil-service job with the feds or the state, or a dozen contractor jobs with local defense companies. I could have taught nuclear engineering to shipyard apprentice engineers. I could have immediately requested Reserve mobilization or long periods of active duty at a dozen Hawaii military commands. Or I could have just been a stay-at-home parent, raising a kid and backing up my spouse's career while she brought home the big active-duty bucks. I could have done one weekend a month of Reserve drill, two weeks a year of active duty, and a Reserve pension at age 60.

How did I learn about this? Part of it was my headhunter classmate. Part of it was personal experience-- 10 years later when I was retiring I never even wrote up a résumé, let alone looked for a job. Yet shipmates and headhunters tracked me down to offer a half-dozen jobs, all six-figure salaries in Hawaii. Six months after retirement, when the ethics rules had cleared, I got another round of civil-service offers at the GS-12/13 level. I was astounded.

My spouse also showed us the way. When she was on active duty she was making the same career-limiting collocation decisions in her community. By her 15-year point she'd been pretty much sidelined to serve out her 20 in Hawaii as an O-4, and we were good with that. A year later she unexpectedly (most of all to her) promoted to O-5. Her stunned assignment officers turned on her and two other surprised new O-5s to "upgrade" their skills at "catch-up" tours. It was a toxic mix of combative personalities, questionable goals, conflicting advice, and coercion to get with the program. Collocation was out of the question. Bad faith with two of the assignment officers poisoned the waters. Nearly two years after this drama started, just a month short of 18 years, she left active duty for the Reserves.

When she went Reserves I was still a year short of ER, but I was shocked at how quickly our lives got so much better. She picked up the slack on the home front. She was welcomed with open arms at her Reserve unit and could have immediately mobilized at PACOM. Every time she went on duty up there she was recruited for civil service or contract work. Once she'd left her old active-duty community, her opportunities expanded so much that she became her Reserve unit XO and then its acting CO. Best of all she had many assignment choices and several ways to balance her work with her life.

In retrospect, my realistic (even pessimistic) assessment is that life would have been great if I'd gone Reserves at the 11-year point. I would have retired from the Reserves right about now as an O-6, eligible for a 30-40% pension in 2020. Spouse could have retired from active duty at 20 years as an O-4 at a 50% pension, but she probably would have gone into the Reserves sooner. We both would have made big bucks out of Reserve duty and civilian careers. Today we'd both be spending down our (much bigger) ER portfolio while waiting for our Reserve pensions. Sure, we'd have been mobilized after 9/11 and maybe done a couple years in the sandboxes, but that's manini compared to the stress and effort I exhausted expended to get to 20. I have no idea how close I was to alcoholism or a cardiac incident, and even today I wonder how I'd do on a PTSD screening.

My advice? Stay on active duty as long as you're having fun. Get a college degree and consider a graduate degree. If you want to be an officer then get a commission. If you want to stay enlisted then be a leader and an expert in your specialty. Don't quit active duty at the first sign of adversity, and it might be worth waiting out a bad boss. But don't keep beating your head against a brick wall to get to 20 years. If the negatives keep you from appreciating all that's good in your life, then go to the Reserves/NG. Have faith in your military skills and trust that you have options. If you're accustomed to a very low standard of living and if you practice an LBYM lifestyle then you'll have no problem buying yourself the time to create the life you seek.

Thanks for bringing up the question, LB. Spouse and I enjoyed having this conversation tonight with our kid, who's starting NROTC in just 101 days...
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Old 04-30-2010, 11:16 AM   #2
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I appreciate my reserve component pension (hope I'm around in 2026 to start collecting it), but would trade it for an active duty pension if I could!
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Old 04-30-2010, 02:05 PM   #3
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Nords is right...Like Mrs. Nords, I have "bounced" from active to reserve to reservist on active duty to reservist to mobilized reservist to reservist to reservist on active duty...yes, I am on "military leave" from my civil service job. (oh, people have been pi$$ed as I was leaving active duty because the USN and I were not playing nice together) The ride has been fun MOST of the time...around the 17 year mark, I swore I was DONE - but next command was great...so I am still around and have listened to Nords - I refuse to do much head banging...commissioned with over 21 years in, so now am on the hook for a few more - but I am determined to persuade the USN to play nice with me! It worked this time - active duty at home (recruiting)!!
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Old 04-30-2010, 07:02 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bimmerbill View Post
I appreciate my reserve component pension (hope I'm around in 2026 to start collecting it), but would trade it for an active duty pension if I could!
It's certainly not the Cold War Reserves anymore. I think that both active-duty and Reserve/NG members have achieved nearly equal opportunity at getting their assets shot off.
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Old 05-01-2010, 01:41 AM   #5
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Nords-

Thanks for your comments... Three personal accounts that might
make you feel better about your decision to stay active to 20. (or might not,
but at least you'll understand more of my reason for asking)

1) Dad did mostly IT work in the Army in the 70's. "on the internet
before Al Gore" he likes to say. He left the Army as an O-3 in 1978 with 7.5yrs in to go into the private defense contractor world.
Pops says it was for the benefit of the family, and I know he had good intentions... We still moved quite a bit (not as much or as far
as if he'd stayed in, granted) but dad initially got substantial pay jumps and life was good.

Fastforward several years, and several employers later. Work came in
shorter and shorter durations and new jobs got harder and harder to find.
Long periods of un/underemployment became common for dad. "IT is
h*ll on old folks" I'd frequently hear him say. He's convinced age discrimination
is rampant these days, and I can't contradict him.

I know military life is hard on families, but personally I'd have taken a few years of
seeing less of my dad if it meant I didn't have to see him get beat up so badly
by an insane "job/ worry about company losing contract/ lose job/unemployment/
job fair/no replies/ finally get new job" cycle that lasted decades,
well into his 50's when he'd have much rather been golfing.

I'll give dad credit. Aside from enrolling my brother in the free lunch
program at school, and many trips to the unemployment office, he managed
to keep the family finances intact with no other government interventions.
Complaints aren't really his style and if you ask him he'll say "no regrets"
but I know he knows that the family could have lived pretty comfortably
on even an O-4 pension that he could have collected at age 40. He's still
working although he finally left IT for good. He's been driving a school bus the
past few years and enjoys it. My folk's house is paid off, he'll get a small pension
at 65 from the school board, and he's got a respectable amount in his 401k/IRA's, but
even altogether, it's nothing compared to what an O-4, O-3/E, or even E-6 pension
could finance. While I wouldn't say it haunts dad, I know he still thinks
about the pension he could have been collecting the past 20 years if he'd
done 12.5 more years long ago

2) Dad's Army buddy, our families are good friends, left active duty around the same time as dad with ~7yrs in also.
Also an O-3. Unlike dad, he went into the reserves. Somewhere around yr 15. in the reserves, he began to have trouble
getting "good years" (I know there's a better term for this but I don't know it.
If someone else can advise, please do) He lost quite a few years where
he couldn't get enough points, and in order for him to get enough good years
he was forced to drop from O-4 as an engineer to E-6 as an MP.
Just after his youngest left the house, and he and his wife became empty
nesters, he got deployed for 9 months to Bosnia as an E-6 at the ripe
young age of 50. His wife went through a major depressive episode
with the house being empty so quickly. Fortunately, she and he, and
their marriage, survived and he finished getting his good years.
He'll start collecting his pension next year, 32 years after he left
"active duty".

3) My grandfather, mom's dad, did 2 years enlisted in the Navy,
5 years enlisted in the Army, and then 19 years as an Air Force Officer.
He retired in his 40's to a low cost area of Virginia and lived like a local
king on an O-5 pension for 35 more years.

Just 3 out of millions of vet's stories. But they left a very strong
impact on me.

Nords, thanks again for posting yours out there for us,
-LB









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Old 05-01-2010, 12:53 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by leftbucket View Post
Nords, thanks again for posting yours out there for us,
You're welcome; it's needed reflection for some time. The challenge was cutting it down!

Anecdotal evidence abounds but I'm not aware of any studies on quality of life vs duty type. I'm not aware of any studies on collocation either, other than the sentiment of "If the military treats couples better then maybe they'll stay longer." Spouse used to come home from drill weekends or Reserve conferences and say "Hey, guess where all the Navy's women are serving?" But as the combat/warfare restrictions shrink, that won't be limited to just women. Of course women are generally smarter than guys and less likely to keep pounding brick with their skulls.

In Robert Kaplan's "Grunts" books, he frequently talks about special forces soldiers/SEALs going Reserve/NG so that they could literally "choose their battles" without having to deal with all the other baggage of active duty. They still got all the camaraderie, action, and excitement they could handle without having to worry about career tracks or promotions. But this is a demographic sector addicted to adrenaline. My nephew the Army Ranger is inching ever-closer to this choice. I know a 59-year-old Reservist who mobilized, but he started with the Navy during Vietnam and then volunteered for corpsman duty with the Marines. Three Purple Hearts.

I think the key is maintaining some sort of Reserve/NG affiliation, especially Inactive Reserves if mobilizing/drilling isn't a desirable option at the time. Even correspondence courses are a much better system today for getting the points toward "good years" (which is still the Navy term). Being able to fall back on a pension (plus cheap healthcare) at age 60 is a huge safety net when confronted with having to spend down assets in one's 50s.

Here's one for your Dad:
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Old 05-01-2010, 02:27 PM   #7
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I suppose you can find anecdotal evidence to support either side of the argument. I spent four years active duty USAF and have been in the ANG for almost six years now. I much prefer the National Guard lifestyle to active duty. I am single, but I could not imagine having a family and being active duty. The current world situation means that you are gone quite frequently. For example, I am currently deployed by my own choosing and am here for about 90 days. Active duty Airmen are here for about 180 days and the vast majority are not here by their own choosing. The ones who did volunteer from my career field have done so mostly so they can get their 80k-90k reenlistment bonuses tax free; I don't blame them. Here's some anecdotal evidence of what life is like in the post 9/11 military:

One guy is married to another girl on active duty. He is getting ready to leave from his deployed location in about a week, and they will probably only have about a week together before she deploys for six months.

Another guy is trying to work a short tour out of this deployment, which he should get. If he does not get a short tour out of this deployment, he will have a one year, unaccompanied tour to Honduras waiting for him when he gets back.

One of the officers will be here for ninety days, and has orders for an unaccompanied tour to Korea for one year about one month after he gets back from this deployment.

I would love to have an active duty pension at 38, and all that is associated with it. Nevertheless, I think 20 years active duty would have taken years off my life. Actually, about a year ago when I was deployed as well, there was a Stars and Stripes article where a study showed that the overall life expectancy of career guardsman was longer than career active duty. Wonder why?

Lastly, all isn't lost in terms of the pension when you go to the guard/reserves. As Nords mentioned, active duty time counts towards the guard pension. Also, the guard/reserves have full time slots called AGR. This is exactly the same as active duty in terms pay benefits, pension, etc. The nice thing about AGR is you don't have to worry about PCSing, and just like traditional guardsmen, deployments tend to be voluntary in most circumstances. (Note: This is the ANG and the Army Guard tends to use their guard differently. The ANG tends to look for volunteers to fill shortages within active duty deployment cycles. The ARG tends to like to deploy individual guard units as a whole, from what I'm led to understand.) The only downside to the AGR positions is they have no reenlistment bonuses. If you are in an undermanned career field with a large reenlistment bonus for active duty, this is major downside. Another option is to seek federal employment where you can buy back your military time into the FERS pension.

I would definitely say that those on active duty earn their pensions.
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Old 05-02-2010, 02:11 PM   #8
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Nords - as usual a great write-up. I'll be honest I'm ambivalent about the active duty-Reserve thing. There are things about the military that I love - the travel, for the most part the people, the adventures, the cultural perspective for many things/ideas. There are things I hate; the idea that sitting at your desk or going to meetings and staying at work for hours on end, with no real measurement for productive capacity (I'm in the middle of Reserve duty right now - an exercise, and the meetings we have to have some type of representation at is hilatious), the overall intrusion into your life regarding what you do, where you go, who you are with. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had I stayed in after my first assignment - it kills me to see people that were my 'year group' retired and done. However, I also believe that had I not left the military, certain proclivities within me would have been emphasized that needed to be de-emphasized. You are who you are because of the experiences you've had over your life. I've also had some awesome experiences in my civilian career. I still remember making the decision to leave the military and embark on a totally different career path - I was starting over and wondered if I would do well. In retrospect, I am actually very good at what I do - I've developed the skills, experience and respect among my peers, but it took time and the willingness to take that risk and walk away from the path I originally thought was the one for me (the military).

As I look back over the years, it has been quite a balancing act, but I think I've done as well as I could have with the 'double' focus. It is hard as I come close to the ER realizing that perhaps I will not reach a 'pinnacle' that I imagined early on, and yet, after being exposed to those who are at the 'pinnacles', I realize I don't want that type of life - to me they have none, it is scheduled for them and they have to 'carve' out time for their personal goals. When I sat in a 'scheduling meeting' for a four star and he was begging for 'toilet' time, I realized that it wasn't what it was cracked up to be. It is definitely for a certain type of person and mindset. However, as Nords said, there is that expectation in the military that you will conform and persevere. What's interesting is the active duty looking at me and wondering....and yes, most of them would do fine outside the military. Just having discipline to follow-through, to communicate orally in front of a group, knowing the difference from strategic goals to tactical goals/tasks is a huge benefit.

It takes time to destress - I am still working but really only part-time. It took me a long time to adjust to that, but I'm to the point now when I gripe when I have a phone call or long military stint (like now). I want my time to do what I want to do now - and it's not very goal oriented sometimes :-)

Sorry to ramble off - it's a good subject - there are days I wish I would have stayed in, but I wouldn't be who I am today and would not be where I am. As it turns out, the combination of my savings, pensions, 403B, Roth and IRA will work just fine - and I've had two different careers with two separate sets of experiences concurrently which I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Bottom line - you need to know who you are, but sometimes it takes experiences to know that. My husband and father profess that there should be no regrets as you can't go back. You can only learn and apply that to the future. I'm learning to agree with them.
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:49 PM   #9
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When I sat in a 'scheduling meeting' for a four star and he was begging for 'toilet' time, I realized that it wasn't what it was cracked up to be. It is definitely for a certain type of person and mindset.
I've been in four-hour flag-officer meetings, replete with pitchers of coffee & water, and as near as I can tell those guys use catheters. Or maybe they don't have any bladders at all...

[In case you've been wondering, military cartoonist Jeff Bacon is a retired Navy meteorological/oceanography O-6. Nice guy, too.]
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Old 05-02-2010, 09:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I've been in four-hour flag-officer meetings, replete with pitchers of coffee & water, and as near as I can tell those guys use catheters. Or maybe they don't have any bladders at all...

[In case you've been wondering, military cartoonist Jeff Bacon is a retired Navy meteorological/oceanography O-6. Nice guy, too.]
Love the cartoon - that one makes a direct translation over to police work, just change the titles to "Lieutenant, Captain and Chief!" (Sergeants were Zebras - Jackasses with stripes.)

I used to try and convince my co-workers that because the city awarded contracts to the lowest bidder that the metal used for rank insignia had to be some misplaced radioactive scrap found in a junk yard. "Think about it, the more of that crap they have on their shoulders the stupider they get. Either that's the truth, or we have to admit that we deliberately promote spineless cretins."
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Old 05-02-2010, 09:19 PM   #11
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During retirement speeches, military folks frequently say "I loved every minute of my career, I wouldn't trade any of it for anything." Huh? What military were they in, and what was their career field? In my experience, the fun was definitely "front loaded." I had gotten so accustomed to just gutting things out that I was amazed at the relief I experienced when I hung up the uniform.

Overall, I did have a great time and am glad I chose a military career. But it sure wasn't all fun. And when folks say "I wouldn't trade any of it for anything else" it just makes me sad to think what they must do with their spare time.

There's no way I would have considered separating short of retirement once I'd gotten about 14 years in. With the brass ring that close, and no certainty that transitioning to the "real world" would significantly improve my quality of life, I was willing to put up with almost anything. This, added to the compliments/expectations of peers and associates (I'm wired funny that way) would have made it hard to leave early. (Heck, it was hard to tell folks I was retiring even after I'd made 20 years).
And the detailers/MPC/assignment officers know all about the brass ring, and that's why the last 5 years can be hell.
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Old 05-03-2010, 12:54 AM   #12
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There's no way I would have considered separating short of retirement once I'd gotten about 14 years in.
And the detailers/MPC/assignment officers know all about the brass ring, and that's why the last 5 years can be hell.
I'm not at liberty to get into the details of why spouse went Reserves just short of 18, but it's not a new story. Of the three officers who were unexpectedly selected for O-5, one was male. He chose the "upgrade catch-up" option and reported later that it truly sucked, but he made it to 20. The other officer was eligible for retirement at O-4 paygrade (prior enlisted) and immediately did so.

Today, the community's issues leading to spouse's decision have all been overcome by events and her departure is ancient history. The problems have been corrected and the situation won't repeat itself. Back then, as the lone holdout, her transfer to the Reserves sent a shock wave through her assignment officer (and a number of others). The reverberation went outside of her community and caused BUPERS to finally fix several parts of the officer-assignment system.

She signed up for a six-year Reserve obligation and stayed for seven. She says those seven were far better than the first 18 (I agree!) and she'd make the same decision all over again. She never would have had all those opportunities (XO, command, several great billets) in her old community.

She kept her resignation letter brief and she didn't go weapons-free in the "remarks" section. The chain of command was already aware of the issues. However everyone saw the resignation letter as just another negotiation tool and didn't really believe that she meant it. Her separation orders were issued but she still kept getting e-mails and phone calls every week or two, along with being hauled into her CO's office to "brainstorm a solution to this thing". We attended TAP together but no one believed that either. She kept saying "collocation" but no one would accept that. Ironically, none of them could believe that she'd give up an O-5 paycheck and an active-duty pension-- they knew they couldn't afford to retire at their ranks, and they couldn't even imagine a new O-5 being able to walk away from that.

Coincidentally in June 2000, a few months after she'd been issued separation orders for November, she found our Dream House. It was during the pit of a decade-long housing slump in one of the state's best neighborhoods/school districts, on a huge isolated lot with 270-degree views. It had a number of cleanliness & material issues but it also had good bones. We could barely afford it back then, even in its poor condition, and it's way out of our league today. Despite the huge drawbacks and the financial risks, we won with our all-cash no-contingencies offer. For a number of reasons we chose to rent out our old house, mainly because it was just too hard at the time to sell one to buy the other.

We were both still working overtime and couldn't easily move our stuff in a U-Haul. Luckily, she had separation orders with accounting data for household goods! So she quickly arranged the move and we "packed out". Best move ever.

When word got out on the shipmate grapevine that she was actually executing her orders, people interpreted it as our desperation to downsize and cut our expenses. (It was more like a 50% upsize, but the scuttlebutt got better with each telling.) It caused another shock wave through the chain of command, and various personalities dished out some heat about all the pressure that the community was putting on an officer. Other O-4s began to realize that they could be treated that way, too, and even the junior officers were starting to notice. More reconciliation feelers went out-- including an offer to "reimburse" the accounting data so that they could go on to "discuss other options". By that time she was already checking out of her command and filling out her DD-214 worksheet.

I don't think anyone really believed she was serious until she got her new ID card and filed her travel claim.

Until all of this happened, I shared Samclem's opinion. Just two more years?!? Once it happened, I realized that she'd made the best move of both our careers. It wasn't easy, and it took 20 months of discussions to make the decision, but it was the right choice. Maybe I was oblivious when I was at a similar decision point, or maybe when it became her turn we'd already both learned from my experiences.

Keep your options open and don't spend yourself into a corner. If you LBYM, make the opportunities to explore all of your options, and really believe that it's the best thing for your values, then you'll eventually make it all work out.

The half-dozen policy-makers who drove this whole debacle have all retired from active duty, and they're all still working. She met her old CO last month and he still can't believe that she's ER'd...
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Old 05-03-2010, 01:17 PM   #13
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I wouldn't have been able to walk away with only 2 years to go. An immediate pension is too sweet of a deal. I can see your point of view tho, and I'm sure having your pension/healthcare made the decision easier.

The reserve component is great for work/life mixing. Well, it was until Iraq and Afghanistan. My old guard buddies are getting deployed on equal frequency as their active duty counterparts (and get a part time pension!).

I miss the people and culture in the service, I don't miss the BS. Maybe that is what people reflect upon when they retire.
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:45 PM   #14
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I've been really busy lately and haven't had the time to fully digest this thread nor to comment. But it's very interesting to a guy who was in the drilling USNR for 2 1/2 years in college (as an enlisted guy), spent 2 years, 3 months and 18 days on active duty as an officer before getting RIF'd in 1970, spent another year as a drilling Reservist, asked for recall to active duty and got it and then finally retired after a 28 year active duty career (including those 2 years, 3 months and 18 days.) My experiences with the USNR told me that I probably couldn't have made it to 20 years in the Reserves had I not returned to active duty.

Hope to elaborate more later.
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Old 05-03-2010, 09:47 PM   #15
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Keep your options open and don't spend yourself into a corner. If you LBYM, make the opportunities to explore all of your options, and really believe that it's the best thing for your values, then you'll eventually make it all work out.
Absolutely. It's unfortunate when anyone is forced to keep working when they'd rather quit, and it's because of previous spending. It's especially sad when this happens to a person with a full military career under their belt, despite having so many of the blocks filled automatically (esp health care and a baseline secure monthly income).
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Old 05-03-2010, 11:18 PM   #16
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... asked for recall to active duty and got it and then finally retired after a 28 year active duty career (including those 2 years, 3 months and 18 days.)
That was one heck of a volunteer mobilization!

Fireup2020, are you reading this?...
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Old 05-04-2010, 09:44 PM   #17
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That was one heck of a volunteer mobilization!
Obviously, my request for recall was tantamount to a decision to make the Navy a career. A couple of years after getting recalled, I finally got augmented to USN. The original plan was to complete 20 and then retire. As with many things, plans changed. And the Navy had a good sense of humor and promoted beyond what had been part of the original thinking.

I was in a less harsh community than you were and I based a few assignment decisions on what was best for the family rather than what was best for the Navy or my career (although I was always careful not to get into really dead-end jobs.) And I didn't have an active duty wife whose needs had to be factored in. I was really fortunate that those career decisions turned out not to hurt me irreparably and I ended up with a satisfying Navy career (albeit with a few assignments - like my tour in OPNAV in the Pentagon - that I didn't love) and a final pay grade that has made retirement reasonably nice.
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Old 05-05-2010, 01:31 AM   #18
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As Nords said when the BS meter exceeds the fun meter it's time to move on. I bailed after 11 years in a fighter cockpit. Early retired from a second career with the airlines and could not be happier with my career decisions.
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Old 05-05-2010, 10:22 AM   #19
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I'm coming up on the 13 year mark. I've only had one point so far at which I wanted to get out. So why didn't I? At that point I was on a $75,000 bonus, and I would have had to pay them the better part of it. Even then, I would have had several months before becoming a civilian. In hindsight, they did pay me back for that tour, by sending me to graduate school. Nothing like getting O-4 pay when your job is to be a student!
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Old 05-05-2010, 11:27 AM   #20
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In hindsight, they did pay me back for that tour, by sending me to graduate school. Nothing like getting O-4 pay when your job is to be a student!
Heck, if the Navy had permanently transferred spouse & me to Monterey then I'd never have retired... I would have been so grateful that I would have even attended more classes.
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