Preparation is foundation of CW4 (Ret.) Collins’ transition from Active Duty

This week, we slide over a little on the blogger bench of  our valued military guest writers and make room for Shaun M. Collins.

Shaun M. Collins

Shaun M. Collins

  A native of Yreka, CA, Collins enlisted in the United States Army in October 1986, not long after his high school graduation. 

Today, he is a retired CID Special Agent/Forensic Science Officer, family man and educator. And, he’s agreed to share with MilSuccessNet readers some of his experiences, and the conscious and the “lucky” decisions that went into preparing for a satisfying and successful transition. 

Shaun Collins is co-author, with his real life partner, Pam Collins of “He Said / She Said.” The weekly advice column appears each Thursday in the “Guidon,” which is the post newspaper for Fort Leonard Wood, MO. 

Soon, military members’ questions in the popular column, known for it’s balanced and practical approach, will also be featured on Military Success Network.

But first, let’s share in the insights that resulted from Shaun Collins’  process.

It meant retirement from the military and subsequently, a move into his new civilian roles.  As his official resume of courses and accomplishments is so rich, we’ll let it all come out as Shaun Collins and his partner Pamela Collins post over time with MilSuccessNet.    

Now…  in his own words…. 

I came  into the Army straight out of high school and the plan was to be in for 3 years. I’ve been getting out ever since!

I suppose I’ve also been preparing to transition into my civilian role for most of my 27 year career.

Although the military certainly brings its share of challenges, it also brings with it a huge spectrum of opportunity that should never be taken for granted or overlooked by those who choose to serve. The total number of Americans who opt to don the uniform in defense of this great nation is equivalent to only .68 of one percent of the entire American population. So, every veteran has earned the opportunities afforded them, both while serving and as a veteran.

I don’t believe anyone should leave the military without a college education, in that they will pay 100% of tuition costs up to $4,500.00 per year, plus the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Degree as door opener

Degree as door opener

One of the greatest aspects of our marketability within the civilian sector is our civilian education level – a college degree alone will never get you a job, but it will open doors to job opportunities that would otherwise be closed to someone without a degree.

I came into the Army as a high school graduate, with no real skill set, but retired as a Federal Agent. In the process, I attained a Bachelor of Science, Dual Master of Arts and a Master of Science degree, all of which were paid for almost entirely by the military.

Additionally, I attended dozens of functional and professional development courses and was certified as an adjunct college instructor prior to my retirement.

None of this occurred over night, but was the result of many seized opportunities and a good deal of good fortune or luck if you will. But in the words of my grandfather, “I’ve found in life that the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

Not all of the opportunities presented to me were evident as such at the time. As a matter of fact, many of them came in the form of another desire not being fulfilled, causing me to look at other options than I was originally focused on.

I will give one example of this to better illustrate my point. When I initially joined the Army, I was in the Combat Arms arena and had every ambition to become an Airborne, Ranger, Special Forces (ultimately high echelon / forward edge warrior in the special operations career field). I pursued that ambition from the day I joined my first unit.

I submitted one request after another for Airborne and Ranger Schools. All were summarily denied because I would have to PCS, but couldn’t as I hadn’t yet served 48 months at my initial duty station.

When one door closes...

When one door closes…

While pursuing this goal, I was constantly trying to improve and began taking college courses at a community college with a campus at my duty station.

As one door after another closed almost entirely due to the “Gramm- Rudman Act” which reduced budgets, I learned about the Army’s elite criminal investigative organization. This was the United States Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID).

My father had served as an intelligence specialist in the Army Security Agency (ASA) which later became the Military Intelligence Branch. He served during the early 1960s and was later a civilian Chief of Police and so, law enforcement was already in my blood.

I contacted the local CID office and found out what the requirements for application were. They included 2 years of college, at least 2 years of active federal service, a GT score of 110 or above, a Top Secret Security Clearance, being 21 years of age and several other requirements that I did not meet.

But, if you want something and don’t meet the requirements, that should never stop you, it should only become a series of benchmarks and objectives. I was 19 at the time, so I spent the next two years going to college, retaking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (By now I understood the need to take it seriously and to score well), initiating the security clearance process.

I entered CID School by the age of 21. To be honest, part of the reason I decided to become an agent, was that I could see more of a civilian demand for a criminal investigator than for a steely-eyed killer.

The greater appeal, however, was having a real world mission-every day-rather than what I had been doing up until that point, which was to train for a mission I may or may not ever actually perform.

…….  stay tuned to this space as MilitarySuccessNetwork.com continues with part 2 of Shaun M. Collins real world progress.

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  1. Gregory L Collins says:

    This awesome guy is my cousin.
    They don’t come any Finer or more Honest than him.
    Our Family is Very Proud of All he has Accomplished in his Long career.

    You ROCK!!!! Mr. Collins. Our Grandfathers and Great Grandfathers are Very Proud of how well you have done in life. Same for the Grandmothers and all of the rest of our Family.

    This is a Great article to show how service to your Country can be a HUGE step in making a REAL Person succeed.

    • Helena Kaufman says:

      Gregory L. Collins, Sir!

      Thank you for your comments and support of service to one’s country.

      Shaun Collins certainly impresses on readers the value of service and spending one’s time well during the term of service. I was proud, as you were of one individual’s successful contribution and quite envious of the plan as it rolled out..

      Now, to put the pressure on…errr. I mean encourage Collins (male) and Collins (female) to share the wealth of their world in more articles and even books!

      Thank you for your visit, and I encourage you to scroll through not only other articles on this site, but most especially, those written by Pam Collins to see what, “She Said”.

    • Shaun Collins says:

      Greg, one thing I didn’t mention in the article is how important it is to have a loving and supporting family! I love and miss you, thanks for everything you did to help me be more successful and just a better person!

      • Angie Warner says:

        Shaun was a special part of my childhood. He was a good friend of my parents. He was always an inspiration with his dedication to family and friends. I would love to reconnect! I haven’t seen him in years!
        Angie (Hoggatt) Warner

  2. Martin Cruz says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Shaun and Pam in a weeklong Master Army Profession Ethic Trainer course in Korea. Absolutely the best “training” I have ever experienced in my career. Shaun is a great, honorable man, and great facilitator. Thanks for your insights.

  3. Bryan Patridge says:

    I have known Shaun Collins for 23 years – everything he stated was true. He is a master of seizing opportunity and preparing for success. It was a sad day when he retired, but he has been planning it for a long time.

    • Shaun Collins says:


      The pleasure was all ours. Getting the chance to still engage with Soldiers after retiring keeps my fire burning strong! The trip to Korea was a fantastic experience … You and the other students really gave us confidence that the future of the Army is in great hands! Thank you for your kind words and for every insight you offered during the MAPET course!

    • Shaun Collins says:

      Col Patridge (Bear),

      Working with you has been one of the great honors of my career – thank you so much for your kind words and mentorship! I know we will be friends for life and I’m glad I retired before I completely wore out my welcome! See you when you come back to town!

  4. Angie Warner says:

    Shaun was a special part of my childhood. He was a good friend of my parents. He was always an inspiration with his motivation and knowledge. Would love to hear from him if possible.
    Angie (Hoggatt) Warner


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