Leon Scott’s journey from navy “polliwog’ to professional career coach was not known to me when I first heard him clearly boom his message across a crowded room. Then I saw him.
He stood out, even in a room of weekly business breakfast networkers. We were all gathered to share the allotted 20 second introductions to our service or product and request for appropriate referrals from others in the room.
Amid the frenzy of one liners, members spoke first. Guests followed members and so I waited to introduce myself as Helena Kaufman, business writer and communication coach. I was #64 to stand up.
Leon and I have kept in touch. A few years ago he moved from Vancouver, Canada back to his native USA where he is a coach helping military and midlife career changers. He is based in Sea-Tac, the Seattle-Tacoma area in Washington State.
August 10, the day we began talking about tips on transition and posts about his own military to civilian moves, marked 35 years to the day he entered boot camp.
Now, to Leon Scott’s story in his own words (except for the subheads!)
By the time I was five years old, I knew I would join the Navy.
This might have been due to my being born and raised in Michigan, a place almost entirely surrounded by water.
I believe that this was due in large part to knowing my dad was a sailor, and that both of us were serious fans of the “McHale’s Navy” television series.
I went so far as to put handwritten notes in my bedroom that stated “Join the Navy and go by bus (I also have a fondness for bus travel…go figure!). Though I had no real idea of what I’d do once I joined, I knew I wanted to wear the “Crackerjack” uniform and go to sea.
As my early foray into the power of visualization made my dream a reality, I made my way to the Great Lakes, Illinois Recruit Training Center on August 10, 1977.
I took that trip on a Greyhound bus after attending a Detroit Tigers’ baseball game (and yes, the Tigers won!).
It was ‘Navy Day’ at the ballpark. On that day, the group of enlisted men I was with was celebrated and paraded. In those days, a group was treated to a game, often adopted by a baseball team and then identified by that team’s name throughout boot camp.
In the Navy
I and about 80 of my new ‘roommates’ arrived at the gate at about 4:30am.
By the end of that first day, none of us had any hair on our heads to speak of. Only our eyebrows were spared by the buzz of the clippers. We soon all wore clothes that looked the same as everyone else there, but were totally foreign to us.
As you can imagine, my first few days, and the next six years after those, were nowhere near what I saw on McHale’s Navy! There were no PT boats, no private island huts as living quarters and no friendly natives on the other side of said island holding occasional luaus just for fun.
What did occupy me was my training as an Electronics Technician at Great Lakes’ Service School Command, as well as a year in Orlando, Florida for additional training.
In 1979, I finally arrived at my homeport in Norfolk, Virginia. I was assigned to the USS California, a nuclear powered guided missile cruiser.
My first six month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea was changed dramatically due to the Iranian hostage situation. In short order we were sent to the Indian Ocean, along with the USS Nimitz and the USS Texas.
Our six months scheduled deployment actually ended at nine months and on Memorial Day. In that period I experienced what it feels like to head to a “hot” situation at full speed as well as many tense moments as we prepared for the unknown in a hostile situation.
Even as newbies on board, we knew difficult times were ahead. We were headed north at full speed and the missiles were in place.
I also experienced the loss of shipmates. While we were on the California, an escort vessel for the USS Nimitz, we were hit hard by the death of 8 fellow seamen lost on the Nimitz during the rescue attempt.
This brought home the seriousness of the commitment we all make when we raise our right hands and take our oaths.
On board, I served as an Electronics Technician. While I had a lot of the equipment I was responsible for in CIC, (Combat Information Center), I could also go to one of our radars in the aft section, or our satellite communication system, as well as help out the ETs that worked on radios too.
In CIC, there were about 20 work stations, one screen per seated position, 10 per side. CIC during a drill or actual battle may have 40 – 50 people.
Rinse and repeat
My 2nd deployment took me back to the Indian Ocean. While this assignment ended in the originally scheduled seven months, life was spent under way for the vast majority of that time, save for the far too short port visits to Singapore and Perth, Australia.
In between those deployments, were visits to the shipyard for maintenance and upgrades, as well as a few trips to the near Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
When they say, “Join the Navy and see the world,” they’re not lying. I do believe I saw just about all of the world’s salt water!
Civilian life…. revisited
When my sea duty was over, I spent the last part of my enlistment at the training center in Dam Neck, Virginia.
That was as close to a civilian job as one could get. I went to work each afternoon, and came back to my off-base apartment at night. As we did onboard ship, we stood watches, but only once every 60 days.
In October 1983, I received my discharge, checked out and went home.
My apartment was off base and when I got there, I sat down on my couch, and thought about the past six years. What had I just gone through? And now, what was coming up? What awaited me in my civilian life?
The country was recovering from a recession, and my home state of Michigan’s job market had been hard hit. I still had a very strong desire to go back home.
A lot of veterans trained in electronics (satellite, sonar, radar, communications, missile control and tactical coordinators etc.) were offered jobs in Texas and other southern tier states. Many stayed in Virginia, or went on to Florida and the Carolinas, we all as the east coast cities, which also had a lot of jobs.
Knowing that I could always move to another part of the country and find a job, I chose to go back home and reacquaint myself with civilian life.
First order of business was to get back in touch with my school friends. That was easy to do since we were going into the holiday season and everyone was in a festive mood.
I also took a trip to Hawaii. It was the opportunity to reward myself for making it through my time in the military.
By the end of January 1984, my transition was complete, except for an income generator. That goal was met when I found my first civilian job with Honeywell in September.
Transition tip of the season
Over the years, I’ve gone from a technical career to a sales career that included residential and commercial fire and security systems. I’ve been employed by conglomerates and I’ve been self employed.
It seems that there’s always something in the civilian workplace that forces me to evaluate where I am, and where I’m heading. There may be detours, but the destination is always in sight.
For those of you who may be transitioning now, you may in fact be in the right time if you’re in the right place.
Now is the final push for many companies to hire before the holidays occurring between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
September seems to be prime time for hiring for companies (also mid-January and early February).This includes finding talented employees that can be trained and indoctrinated into company culture by the end of the year. This may be a great time for you to come back into the “real world”.
Part 2 upcoming: We continue with the adventure of adjustment from military to civilian workplace in Leon’s next short installment with questions to help you position yourself for change.
Now, just for fun.. let ‘er rip: