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Old 06-12-2011, 03:04 PM   #21
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So far I enjoy my job. With the Air Force it is more leadership and management than ATC. I love ATC and that is one of the appeals to getting in with the FAA.
More than anything else, I think it is deciding exactly what you want for a career that is the biggest determining factor. Is being an AOF or an air traffic controller more appealing for a career? AOF--then stay USAF as a 13MX. Air traffic controller--then get out and try to become a GS-2152. Keep in mind there is always the DoD option as well as far as federal employment as an air traffic controller. Age limit for DoD ATC is 36 and age waivers aren't too hard to come by, unlike the FAA.
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Old 06-12-2011, 03:20 PM   #22
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If someone for the USAF could sit down with me and say, alright you will have 8 more assignments after your service commitment, here are the locations, and there will be 3 deployments in there as well for these time periods, I would likely stay.
Heck, if we could tell when and where the hot spots were going to crop up, how big the defense budget was going to be, how big our force structure would be, and which bases would still be around, a LOT of things would be better!

As you've identified, if you get out of the USAF, applying/hoping for the FAA job is a big dose of uncertainty right up front. Then you'll probably go where they need you at first--just like the USAF. And when you finish with your 20 years in the USAF, you own your future--you'll have saved enough money and you'll have a pension so you and the family can live wherever you want. If you go with the FAA, you'll have an additional 8 years of someone else calling the shots. It might be worth it--it sounds like you believe you'd enjoy working for the FAA more than the work you'd be doing in the USAF, your family won't be moved as often and you'll have more say about where you go.

Can you apply for the FAA before you separate from the USAF? Everyone knows they have a lengthy accessions process, and it would take a lot of the strain off if you could apply and get accepted, even if you have to wait to start training and to get assigned somewhere, before getting out.

A great flight instructor of mine decided to get out of the USAF and fly for FEDEX at the 10 year point. He was in MAC and just wanted to be home more for his family. On his exit physical they found a heart problem that cost him his Class 1 medical. So he had no USAF job (he'd separated--done) and no FEDEX job. He spent a year putting up wallpaper in Memphis and doing odd jobs to feed his family, but finally got his medical reinstated and started with FEDEX. He was a VERY lucky guy, and I think he'd urge you to do anything possible to get your foot firmly on the dock before letting go of the boat.
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Old 06-12-2011, 03:52 PM   #23
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Our squadron has a few guys whose sole source of income is working part-time as a reservist. They are able to take a month off, then work for a month, and that is great for anyone who can make it work. They are all single and don't have kids, and that is obviously a key for them in making that type of work arrangement function well. One of the guys is able to work about 150-180 days per year. I'm pretty sure this is not the norm for the reserves, but if you are able to find such a deal, maybe that will work for you for now.
I know a P-3 aviator with a master's degree who teaches at a private school. During the summers he picks his desired location off the Navy Reserve's "hot fill" list and goes to exotic garden spots like Kosovo, Africa, Western Europe, Russia... sometimes he makes it back for the fall semester, other times he stays longer.

We've heard of another legendary naval aviator (perhaps an urban legend) who's a ski instructor at Vail. He does his hot-fill 180 days during the summer and then skis all winter. Of course even for Navy Air this sounds too good to be true...

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But lest my earlier post be seen as too strongly advocating that course for you or anyone else, let me list some of the things that I do regret about my choice.
1. The camaraderie -- this is one of the things I really miss about being in the Navy. My shipmates had their own quirks and foibles, but they were almost universally interesting, inquisitive, hard-working, dependable, loyal and easygoing.
3. The sheer fun of it -- In the Navy, they paid me to go traveling to interesting places and do cool things (like driving a submarine). Now I pay others for that privilege.
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Although for me leaving was probably the right thing to do, I certainly did miss the first item Gumby lists above.
One of my shipmates still rues the day (over a decade ago) that he retired. He says he spent 20 years with some of the smartest people he could ever hope to hang out with, and he's never found that in the civilian world.

Personally I miss the feeling of surfacing at 3 AM about 20-30 miles south of Oahu, popping the bridge hatch for my first breath of unfiltered air in xx days, and opening up the bridge cockpit to take a look at the Milky Way. (Oahu has so much light pollution that you hardly ever see it.) Then after we'd get things organized and running smoothly, we'd have coffee sent up. I still remember the smell of hot coffee coming up the bridge hatch as we'd watch the Honolulu city lights coming over the horizon.

When my daughter tours submarines with me she can tell that I'm getting revved up again. I think my behavior got her started on her own military career.

When I see Navy recruiting commercials-- and especially Marine Corps recruiting commercials-- I'm ready to sign up all over again. So then I watch Army & Air Force recruiting commercials until the feeling subsides.

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It is good advice however about no chasing a pension, yet at the end of my commitment I will be 26 with only 16 years left to a full pension and medical benefits. With that looming over me, sometimes I feel like any other decision would be a FIRE mistake.
Nords you made a great point about Plan B if the FAA doesn't work out, it has always been in my head that it might not work out but it's something I ignore and really haven't planned for.
The big draw is a continued high paying government job/pension in a career field that I do love in addition to more stability and predictability, and I think that is what it boils down to; predictability and stability.
I was describing this thread to my spouse, and her immediate response was: "What are his spouse's plans?"

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So I'm trying to figure out if that unknown is worth the risk.
Speaking of "grass is greener", I think you also have to attempt to quantify the FAA's unknown risks as well as the AF's. You may decide that the Air Force is a better deal, especially since you'll already have invested four years and won't have to put an additional eight on the back end...
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Old 06-19-2011, 05:27 PM   #24
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We used to call those guys "guard bums." They would bum around and take any additional duty they could. Some of them made a decent living at it until the cracked down because some were almost qualifying for a 20 year active duty retirement.

I did 20 in the Guard, then retired at 41. I often wonder if I could have done 20 active duty, and would have that pension now.
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Old 06-20-2011, 10:12 AM   #25
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I just read another post by a military guy who is having to exit the service with five years to go to make 20. He will have to do 5 years in the reserves in order to get his military retirement.

I think the lesson is that when you are young and early in any career, the future looks limitless. You speak of doing your 20 years as if that was a certainty. Not much is certain any more. Even the FAA may be subject to future technological changes that could reduce the need for human intervention in ATC work.

Finally, neither the military or the FAA offer "high paying jobs". Certainly, these institutions pay more than some civilian careers. However, many civilian occupations do offer "high pay" which I consider to be at least a six -figure income.

Having done a variety of things in my working life, some of which paid well, doing something you really enjoy is the most rewarding path to take regardless of how much it pays.
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Old 06-20-2011, 11:14 AM   #26
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Im not going to comment on the original question because I think just about every aspect has already been covered. The one thing I would like to comment on is the government pension issue. We've had this discussion of government / military pensions and their fairness a million times. Ive heard a lot of people say "if I could go back and do it again, it would be a no brainer to get a government job with a pension". But as you can see from the perspective of someone actually living through it in real time, its no where near that easy. There's a reason that military / police / fire and other jobs still have a great pension. Doing those jobs for 20-25 years is one of the hardest things someone will ever have to do. The stress it puts on relationships, the way it ages you prematurely in a lot of cases, the constant uncertainty of life changing events such as what country you will be sent to next or if you will be shot at after lunch, are things that someone who has never done it, can never fully understand. Anyone able to do those things for that long deserves to be rewarded if they can actually live through it.

PS..I'm obviously not talking about government clerical jobs which should be catagorized totally differently and compensated on a totally different scale.
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Old 06-20-2011, 02:21 PM   #27
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I retired over 16 years ago, and having officers as controllers is a new concept to me. Besides the Navy, I knew Air Force, Marine, and Army controllers during the course of my career. The only officers involved were usually grounded aviators, who assumed the role of ATC division officers while awaiting further assignment or release from active duty. There was a LDO and Warrant Officer program, but these were only available for a select few controllers later in their careers, and strictly management billets. There was never a way to enter the military as an officer, and become an air traffic controller. I've never seen an officer "work traffic".
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Old 06-20-2011, 03:37 PM   #28
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I retired over 16 years ago, and having officers as controllers is a new concept to me. Besides the Navy, I knew Air Force, Marine, and Army controllers during the course of my career. The only officers involved were usually grounded aviators, who assumed the role of ATC division officers while awaiting further assignment or release from active duty. There was a LDO and Warrant Officer program, but these were only available for a select few controllers later in their careers, and strictly management billets. There was never a way to enter the military as an officer, and become an air traffic controller. I've never seen an officer "work traffic".
AFSC of 13M in the USAF. Primary duty is not ATC but it is one of the largest aspects of our job. Very small career field about 300 AF wide. We get full ATC certs just like our enlisted but our day to day job is not ATC.
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Old 06-20-2011, 03:41 PM   #29
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I just read another post by a military guy who is having to exit the service with five years to go to make 20. He will have to do 5 years in the reserves in order to get his military retirement.

I think the lesson is that when you are young and early in any career, the future looks limitless. You speak of doing your 20 years as if that was a certainty. Not much is certain any more. Even the FAA may be subject to future technological changes that could reduce the need for human intervention in ATC work.

Finally, neither the military or the FAA offer "high paying jobs". Certainly, these institutions pay more than some civilian careers. However, many civilian occupations do offer "high pay" which I consider to be at least a six -figure income.

Having done a variety of things in my working life, some of which paid well, doing something you really enjoy is the most rewarding path to take regardless of how much it pays.
Steve

I read the same post and had the exact same thought. I have sort of made the military pension a guarantee in my head if I stay and that opened my eyes.

Reference your comment on high paying jobs, the FAA pays pretty big depending on where you work. Most facilities I would be shooting for would be starting after training in the 6 figures without including overtime and other additional pays (another big draw to leaving the AF).
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Old 06-20-2011, 09:29 PM   #30
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There was never a way to enter the military as an officer, and become an air traffic controller. I've never seen an officer "work traffic".
Not only that, but if a Navy officer touched the buttons then any Navy enlisted would be entitled to smack their hands off the controls.

One of the submarine force's running jokes was that the only piece of gear the officers were allowed to operate was the periscope-- and it was perpetually breaking, leaking, or spraying.
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Old 06-21-2011, 04:06 AM   #31
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AFSC of 13M in the USAF. Primary duty is not ATC but it is one of the largest aspects of our job. Very small career field about 300 AF wide. We get full ATC certs just like our enlisted but our day to day job is not ATC.
Thanks for that information.

Way back, with your original introduction, I assumed you were enlisted. Given your officer status, I would recommend the military over the FAA.

The variable is I don't know how intolerable the deployments to the Middle East are these days. What people I know on active duty say it's pretty bad. Navy AC's, in some instances, have been pulled out of their rating to support the other services. What I read about the Air Force, seems to concur with this issue. I think under these circumstances, a 20 year career wouldn't look as attractive.

I served in the period between the Vietnam War and the involvement in the Middle East. Compared to other specialties,military ATC was a relative cake walk. In the Navy, the sea/shore rotation was heavily biased in favor of shore duty. Out of a 20 year career, AC's usually spent 3 years aboard a carrier, 3 years at some place like Guam or Iceland, and the remaining 14 years at a stateside NAS in a suburban setting. What changed that significantly was the BRAC's of the early to mid 1990's, that closed many of the stateside NAS's. Resulting in a drastic reduction of AC billets as part of the drawdown. Followed by offers of separation bonuses and 15 year retirements. If not for these circumstances, I would have probably hung around for 30.
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Old 06-21-2011, 04:26 AM   #32
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Not only that, but if a Navy officer touched the buttons then any Navy enlisted would be entitled to smack their hands off the controls.

One of the submarine force's running jokes was that the only piece of gear the officers were allowed to operate was the periscope-- and it was perpetually breaking, leaking, or spraying.
At a NAS, ATC divisions were fairly isolated from the rest of the command. Usually with a Chief running things. There was a requirement for an officer to be assigned, but most often it was a young LT who had lost their flying status, and were fulfilling the remainder of their active duty obligation. Under the circumstances, they were often unobtrusive, and just wanted to get out of the Navy.
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Old 06-21-2011, 03:20 PM   #33
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At a NAS, ATC divisions were fairly isolated from the rest of the command. Usually with a Chief running things.
It's similar in the USAF for ATC as well. A typical rank breakdown for an ATC facility in the USAF:

E-2 to E-4: line controllers/trainees
E-5 to E-6: watch supervisors/senior controllers (controller in charge)/ in charge of training or standards and evaluations/assistant chief controller
E-7 to E-9: chief controllers, i.e. in charge of the overall facility.

13Ms (at least in an AOF position) are responsible for the overall operation of the airfield. However, the technical expertise is provided by enlisted for both ATC and airfield management. In fact, new 13Ms no longer receive full ATC facility ratings. From what I was told, the argument was that 13Ms don't spend enough time performing ATC duties to warrant the time it takes for a facility rating.
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Old 06-25-2011, 03:22 PM   #34
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It's similar in the USAF for ATC as well. A typical rank breakdown for an ATC facility in the USAF:

E-2 to E-4: line controllers/trainees
E-5 to E-6: watch supervisors/senior controllers (controller in charge)/ in charge of training or standards and evaluations/assistant chief controller
E-7 to E-9: chief controllers, i.e. in charge of the overall facility.

13Ms (at least in an AOF position) are responsible for the overall operation of the airfield. However, the technical expertise is provided by enlisted for both ATC and airfield management. In fact, new 13Ms no longer receive full ATC facility ratings. From what I was told, the argument was that 13Ms don't spend enough time performing ATC duties to warrant the time it takes for a facility rating.
This is true for ATC ratings. We get a certification in each facility but not a full facility cert. For example, approach assist only in RAPCON vs all positions. Luckily for me I fell under the old program and have my CTO and approach ratings. As long as I maintain currency for 52 weeks I am FAA eligible as I read it.
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Old 01-24-2012, 10:42 AM   #35
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Update

Just wanted to update you all on DW and I's decision making in the process. We recently had a bad experience with the assignments officer (sound familiar Nords?) where he mistakenly tagged me for a 1 year remote (without DW) to Korea, short notice. Situation resolved itself as he realized he made a mistake but it sent a shock through my wife and I. With this information we are near certain that we will separate at the end of our commitment (2.5 yrs left).

Despite the overwhelming benefits the military provides (20 yr retirment, virtually free healthcare, etc.) there is a reason there is only 20 years to a full pension and health benefits, and we felt that more than ever recently. For those who can live that lifstyle for 20 years of moving every 2-3, leaving family consistently for long periods of time, and constantly not knowing what's coming next - more power to you. My wife and I realized this is not for us (long term at least).

In the meantime, I will obviously do the best job I can, but I do look forward to moving on to a more stable lifestyle. We'd love to move back to our hometown where all of our family lives, but I'm not sure if the economy will provide the financial means to do so.

We are getting close to having children, and DW wants to be home with them until they go to school. That puts a lot of pressure on me to earn enough to provide for them and sock money away for retirement, which sometimes I wonder if this is possible.

I hope this helps anyone else in a similar situation to show what our thought process has been like.
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Old 01-24-2012, 10:59 AM   #36
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We recently had a bad experience with the assignments officer (sound familiar Nords?) where he mistakenly tagged me for a 1 year remote (without DW) to Korea, short notice. Situation resolved itself as he realized he made a mistake...
You are considerably more adept at 'convincing' assignments officers of mistakes than I was when I got tagged (and sent) on a one year remote to Korea, sans DW. You must have pictures.
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Old 01-24-2012, 12:19 PM   #37
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You are considerably more adept at 'convincing' assignments officers of mistakes than I was when I got tagged (and sent) on a one year remote to Korea, sans DW. You must have pictures.
Haha. Lucky for me, convincing was minimal as it was a true mistake.
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Old 01-25-2012, 12:06 AM   #38
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Gosh, where to start.
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Just wanted to update you all on DW and I's decision making in the process. We recently had a bad experience with the assignments officer (sound familiar Nords?) where he mistakenly tagged me for a 1 year remote...
I'm still waiting to hear of a "good" experience from the assignment officer. Last time I got to go to a really good duty station, before I could get orders there I had to get married to someone else who'd be stationed there. Luckily for me my girlfriend (v3.0 at the time, later upgraded to spouse v1.0) was already holding those orders. Or at least she tells me all the time how lucky I was.

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... (without DW) to Korea, short notice.
Could've been worse-- for your spouse. He could've sent you both for 2-3 years on an accompanied tour! I've heard that COMNAVFORKOREA Chinhae is really nice duty. Or so I've heard.

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Situation resolved itself as he realized he made a mistake but it sent a shock through my wife and I. With this information we are near certain that we will separate at the end of our commitment (2.5 yrs left).
Hopefully that's to be interpreted as separating from the military, not separating from your spouse. But after an assignment officer's phone call like that, I could certainly appreciate her point of view.

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Despite the overwhelming benefits the military provides (20 yr retirment, virtually free healthcare, etc.) there is a reason there is only 20 years to a full pension and health benefits, and we felt that more than ever recently. For those who can live that lifstyle for 20 years of moving every 2-3, leaving family consistently for long periods of time, and constantly not knowing what's coming next - more power to you. My wife and I realized this is not for us (long term at least).
I guess the good news is that you two got to talk your way through the emergency & casualty procedures before the drill set began. This is tremendously valuable experience to you as you go through the next few years. "Hey, honey, I know it looks bad but this is nothin'. Remember when the assignment officer called to send me to Korea? Ha ha!"

This would be a really really good time for the two of you to attend TAP together, while you're still childless. A lot of information buzzes by you in that seminar room. Between the two of you you'll both catch the important points and cover whatever the other misses. And once you're parents, you may look back on TAP as your last adult conversational time together.

I made it to 20 but spouse only made it to "almost 18", yet between us we had 19 moves.

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We are getting close to having children, and DW wants to be home with them until they go to school. That puts a lot of pressure on me to earn enough to provide for them and sock money away for retirement, which sometimes I wonder if this is possible.
The stupidest advice I've ever heard is "It'll all work out."

What's even stupider is the realization that it really all does work out, because you'll persevere to make it happen. You have the skills, the tools, and the experience. The bar is just not that high. Let me know if you want the personal contact info for my classmate Lee Cohen at Lucas Group. He likes finding jobs for guys like you because... it's just not that hard to find jobs for guys like you. Especially if you're willing to work outside the FAA.

Having snarked my way through all of that, I'll suggest that you may still want to consider the AF Reserve or ANG. I've heard that the Navy Reserve is guaranteeing no deployments for the first two years, and regular rotations after that (a deployment during the fourth or fifth year). I don't think DoD is going to have the money to deploy anybody anywhere for a few more years. You could dip your toe in, decide whether you like the unit in your area, and then go IRR if you're not happy. If you have a five-year active-duty commitment then does that mean you also have a three-year Reserve commitment, even if it's just IRR? That's the way it usually is for the service academies but I don't know if all commissioning programs require that Reserve kicker.

The "fair disclosure" side is that people have suggested that doing 15 years in the Reserves/Guard for a pension is a longer-term pain than doing 8-10 years for that benefit. Keeping that "spare tool" handy could mean that you never actually need to use it, and you may have just wasted your time keeping it handy.

Last month I collected up a bunch of LinkedIn posts from the "Naval Officer" group and put them up on the blog:
Should you join the Reserves or National Guard? | Military Retirement & Financial Independence

You may have a similar LinkedIn group available to you, and they could give you even more confusing valuable input.

This may be a good time for your spouse to get herself a copy of "1001 Things To Love About Military Life"...
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Old 01-25-2012, 07:33 AM   #39
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Hopefully that's to be interpreted as separating from the military, not separating from your spouse. But after an assignment officer's phone call like that, I could certainly appreciate her point of view.


I guess the good news is that you two got to talk your way through the emergency & casualty procedures before the drill set began. This is tremendously valuable experience to you as you go through the next few years. "Hey, honey, I know it looks bad but this is nothin'. Remember when the assignment officer called to send me to Korea? Ha ha!"
Haha, yes, separating from the military not from my spouse. Although notification of a remote to Korea made for a long 24 hours, it brought us a little closer together.

I really appreciate your insight Nords, as you fully understand the situation. Itís funny because we ended up getting our #5 base of preference choice out of 5, and prior to hearing about Korea would have been disappointed but now we are extremely grateful. Funny how a little perspective changes everything.

I am really not as closed minded to the FAA as I once was, although it would be an ideal situation as far as pay and a good pension system (assuming it lasts). I do still have a couple years on my military commitment so it is probably a little soon for TAP and making contacts with career placement firms, but I will more than likely take you up on that when it gets a little closer. Are these firms pretty successful? Iíd love to make a seamless career transition if possible and Iíve never really thought about using one.

The thing I like most about possibly working in business is the potential to live closer to our hometown. The FAA is random and can spring a strange location on you without much ability to push back, but in business you can target companies in your preferred location of living.

As far as the guard/reserves, I do have a 4 year IRR commitment after separating from active duty. I have thought about continuing with the guard/reserves part time, but that is something DW and I will look into more within the next year. Iíll take a look at the blog.

Thanks again, Nords!
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Old 01-25-2012, 12:14 PM   #40
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I recommend seriously considering the Guard or Reserve. I'm not sure where I would be without a COLA'd pension at 60 and medical covered. The time flies by, I did 11+ years active and 15 years Reserve. I'll be retiring from the Navy Reserve in a few months. Only mobilized once to the sandbox. Good luck.
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