The radio call was quick with a hint of concern “Dude are you up on the JTAC freq? They’re talking about doing some 9-Lines.” The other fighter’s call was one of our first indications of what was unfolding on the ground as we were enroute. After quickly topping off on fuel with a tanker we checked in with the JTAC, still unsure of all the details. “Is Dude up on this freq yet?” Came the JTACs voice calm, but impatient. “Dude’s checking in” came my response. “Dude we’re troops in contact, say type ordnance, call when ready first 9-Line” In that moment I knew what needed to be done. The years of training kicked in and this was about doing everything we could to support our guys on the ground fighting for their lives. There was no plan B.
It’s hard to imagine a high stakes scenario where you know you have to succeed and failure isn’t an acceptable option, until you’ve faced it. The results of that troops in contact battle were zero Americans injured or killed. Something I’m still incredibly proud of to this day.
It wasn’t until much later when I was listening to Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena talk about leaving yourself no plan B when you commit to a big goal that I would make the connection between that night and my decision to separate from active duty. The no plan B mentality had been developing in me for quite some time, I just didn’t call it that. In most of my major life decisions I focused on plan A, knowing there was a plan B that I didn’t necessarily want.
On that night there really was only one plan, and it was the first time I’d faced the thought that plan B wasn’t an option. Of course I realize that it could have gone differently. I also understood that the skills and abilities I’d developed from years of training prepared me to expect only one outcome: success.
I used the same concept when it came to separating from active duty, and it was fundamental to my success. There was no wavering on the basics of my plan: leave active duty, join the guard, and finally live where I wanted to with my family. That was it. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Almost immediately though fear creeps in. What if I can’t find a job? What if I don’t know where I want to live? What if I don’t have a place to live? Maybe if things look like they’re not going to work out I’ll try and cancel my separation paperwork and stay in.
No. Leave those thoughts behind.
Much like how years of training had given me the ability to achieve success in battle, the ability to train for the next chapter of my life was how I prepared for continued success. Once there’s only one plan you can place a laser like focus on the training and preparation needed for success. Making a successful transition is your full time job, and you can’t focus on that if you’re too busy thinking about turning around.
We all leave the military at some point, whether you retire or separate. Once you’ve made that decision on where your life is going, there needs to be no plan B. Leaving the military is a major life change for anyone that has served. My no plan B approach may sound extreme, but why do I advocate for it? If you’re committed to your future you have the greatest chance of success. I learned and grew in invaluable ways during my time in the military, but when it was time for the next chapter I committed fully. The result was being prepared and ready when the right opportunities presented themselves to make my plan a reality.
Once you’ve come to that decision point in your life my goal is to help you make the same successful transition, however you define it. Up next I’ll discuss how finding your why is the critical next step in preparing for military separation.