Archive for the 'the logistics train' Category

Tell Your Story In the MOAA Spouse Employment Survey

Sep 26 2013

Published by under the logistics train

fittinginI am not one for taking surveys. I have been SurveyMonkey-ed by employers, schools and organizations. In case you don’t recognize the reference, Survey Monkey is an online survey site many organizations now use – you get sent the link in an email, click it, and you’re on to the survey. It’s too easy to use, and as a result there are a lot of surveys flying around now.

However, there is one survey out there that I was happy to complete and am asking all military spouses to complete (retired or active duty): the MOAA Spouse Employment Survey.

Spouses’ careers can take a hit from all of the moves – careers get put on hold; professional licenses aren’t recognized in a new state; spouses don’t know who to go to for help in a new community, etc.

This survey will help MOAA be an even better and stronger voice for the spouses in getting programs and assistance for spouses living the military lifestyle.

There are a lot of spouses who are managing very well and either enjoying their time with the kids or finding opportunities via the web to create their own niches. (Check out usmclife.com, which is run by a Marine spouse.)

I admire these spouses – I had a number of great ideas for military-related websites, but something about the allure of sushi in Okinawa or a beer in Germany seemed to get in the way of following up on my ideas.

I was fortunate though in that I never needed a full-time gig because my wife’s officer’s salary was just fine for us, and we both wanted me to stay at home and hang out at the Okinawan beaches – sorry, I mean watch the kids.

I easily found a part-time job teaching online at UMUC (that continues to this day), as well as freelance work overseas editing translated English (e.g., smoothing out phrasing like “Can not parking now” or “Correctly English in Hundred Days”).

However, there are spouses that need assistance with continuing their career, writing a resume, or job hunting. With the survey results, MOAA can help military spouses by using the collected information to build programs or eliminate barriers related to spouses’ careers. (I’m hoping they can put together groups at bases of successfully employed spouses who can help others with everything from resumes to creating one’s own career.)

But for MOAA to act, they need about 20 minutes from you.

Please take the time and complete the survey – in fact, here’s the link again so that you don’t have to go all the way back to the top of the page: http://www.moaa.org/milspousesurvey/

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Military Retirement Reform – MOAA is not Crazy

Aug 16 2013

Published by under the logistics train

retirement_savingsCol. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret) of MOAA has an excellent article at the Bottom Line titled: “Change Military Retirement – Are You Crazy?

I really like this article and strongly urge all readers to read it. First of all, I love the title –he just cuts to the chase. Second, he brings up very strong points for maintaining the current retirement system – points that think-tank experts and our elected officials should strongly be considering. Finally though, I like anyone who prefaces “think tank experts” with the phrase “so-called.”

Anyway, Mike writes about an important issue – calls to change the current retirement system, and he asks (quite rightly): are they crazy?

The reason for his article is that another commission has been created to look into member compensation and retirement benefits.  Sadly, it seems again like the brunt of the budget reform will fall on the backs of members. I haven’t seen any commission looking at reforming superfluous spending in areas such as separate medical corps for each service (as opposed to one combined medical corps) or what defense contractors line up through Congress.

Come to think of it, I haven’t seen much press on these spending areas either – unlike the articles on those “exorbitant” member benefits like commissaries with 7 ketchup choices (as the Washington Post pointed out).

The old arguments for changes are being used again: there are members separating without any retirement (but no mention of the TSP that was available to them); and, the military needs to align itself with the civilian sector systems of 401(k)’s.

Mike addresses the issue of reform and has strong arguments as to why the current system works – and is fair. I’ll provide my points in my next entry, including why I think the 401(k) will be more harmful to members in the long run than the current system.

In the meantime, go to the article and post your thoughts – these are always good to read (plus they give me ideas for further columns).

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Happy Day Before the 4th!

Jul 03 2013

Published by under the logistics train

July 4th is tomorrow and with it comes BBQs, picnics, parades, one day off for bank workers, and fireworks. Well, not so fast on the last item. As MOAA Spouse has noted on their Facebook page:

No bang for this 4th of July? Has your Installation cancelled 4th of July Fireworks? Tell us!

There is a link to a Washington Post article about some bases having to cancel fireworks on the 4th due to budget cuts: A Fourth of July With No Fireworks For Some Military Bases.

Thankfully, the Post columnist steers away from whether fireworks are an over-generous military benefit and focuses on cancelled shows. However, the article only mentions 5 specific bases having cancelled fireworks. There probably are more – which leads to MOAA Spouse’s question to readers: has your base cancelled them?

It would be interesting to find out – please go to their Facebook page and let us know what is happening at your base.

Here in Colorado Springs the Air Force Academy has cancelled their annual fireworks display that they open to the community at the football stadium. But that is due to the fire hazard here. In fact all fireworks in the area are cancelled. Given the recent fires, I have no problem with cancelling fireworks – that was a smart decision.

So then, what is happening at your base? Any fireworks? And I don’t mean arguments with your kids.

Have a happy 4th of July!

gen-fireworks-03h-620x412

Photo by Flickr user Jeff_Golden

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Time For Departures and Affirmation of American Benevolence

Jun 20 2013

We’ve lost a lot of our household. With the help of the weather, firefighters, and the support of the local military community, the Black Forest Fire is under control and our evacuated guests have left (including their 3 dogs, 2 cats, 2 guinea pigs and 2 frogs – Noah’s Ark had a nice run).

We enjoyed having our guests and being able to help them. And we weren’t alone in helping others, there are examples all over Colorado Springs about people helping – including people offering their homes and RVs to the evacuees; local hotels and restaurants offering meals to evacuees or donated food and drink to the firefighters; local bases coordinating their resources to help in many ways; businesses setting up as donation centers; and UCCS opening up their dorms to evacuees (I wonder if they held an evacuee toga party and kegger).

Within all of the damage and affected lives, there is a bright spot. Most Americans do care for others and will step up to help those in need, both as individuals and as a community. Maybe Hillary was on to something about the village thing.

Finally, we did have one other departure – my son left for China. We were in touch with him all the way to his connecting flight out of Seattle to Beijing.

However, we had a call at 6 a.m. the next morning from the Beijing airport informing us that Joe was missing. Not what one wants to hear, but I knew there was a mistake because I had talked to Joe just before he got on the plane in Seattle – and someone doesn’t disappear in-flight. If anything, he was standing outside one door and the organization meeting him was outside another. So, I wasn’t worried. Plus, I had utilized the wonderful world of military friends, so Joe had the number of the military attaché in Beijing if he had problems (he was a good friend of our good friends).

After confirming Joe’s flight number, we got a call back in 5 minutes telling us Joe was in fact not missing – a boy named Lucas was (turns out he had flown into the wrong airport – don’t ask me how). That was relief for me but meant an early morning phone call for another family.

Joe’s trip was off to an interesting start.airport

By Zhanyanguange (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

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Here We Go Again

Jun 13 2013

Published by under the logistics train

RearviewFireThis is like déjà vu all over again.

Almost a year to the day from last year’s fire, we have fires going on to the east of us. C-130s and Chinook helicopters flying over and dumping water. Areas in mandatory evacuation and pre-evacuation orders.

This time though, the fires are closer but are on the other side of the Interstate, so we’re pretty confident that the fire won’t jump the Interstate to our side.

Interestingly, we are hosting evacuees again this year. We have eight guests tonight – the extra bedroom is ready, as is the RV. We almost feel like Noah’s Ark: four dogs, seven chickens, three cats, three gerbils, and one gecko.

Coincidentally, one family coming over is the family we almost went to last year when we were in pre-evac. This is good though, because we can count on them to bring a good bottle of wine. So, we have a group of kids downstairs playing X-Box, animals running outside, and the adults upstairs drinking wine and keeping abreast of the fire from our deck and via the television.

Here’s hoping for the winds to die down and that the firefighters gain control of the fire. They are brave people – I hope the Washington Post doesn’t do an article on how their benefits are too generous.

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Military Sacrifice Vs. Military Benefits?

Jun 06 2013

deployed_servicememberOkay, I couldn’t let this issue go – I’ve got to follow up on the previous entry about Karen’s post at MOAA Spouse on inaccurate articles on military benefits.

When I hear about over-generous military benefits – be it news articles, or Senate policy wonk committee proposals, or suggestions from members (or should I say, donors?) of boards like the Defense Business Board – I usually find the information lacking a complete presentation of the issue. The discussions dwell on the benefits of a military job while missing information on the sacrifices of the job required to balance out the benefits and how these sacrifices make a military job unique from a civilian job.

For instance, in this Washington Post info graphic on military benefits, readers can read about what active duty and retired members “receive” – but absolutely nothing on what they are (or had been) required to do or give up as the tradeoff for receiving these benefits. Nor is there mention that the reason for these benefits (which, granted, are good) is to make the sacrifices salable in order to recruit and retain qualified military members.

Sacrifices such as:

  • Frequent moves (sometimes involuntary and sometimes to locations not of one’s choice)
  • The resulting uprooting of kids from friends and schools
  • Being on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Required higher education to get promoted
  • The requirement to be promoted or be separated
  •  The inability to say “I quit” at one’s choosing because one doesn’t like the job
  • Having to pass a strict physical fitness test each year
  • Drug testing
  • The possibility of being called to a war zone
  • The risk of death that comes with the job

I teach at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and we have many former active duty members in our student body – including ones like the Post’s writer’s example of the apparently undeserving retired 38 year-old making “at least half of their final-years salary.” I would love to have the author come and speak to these students about their generous military benefits, from the luxurious retirement pay to swinging commissary deals – but only if he would also ask about the elements of the job that balanced out the benefits, such as: multiple deployments; uprooting of families; the increased risks of mental illness in military kids; the stresses of maintaining physical standards, etc.

Discussion of big defense budgets is a good thing (of course I don’t see other budgets discussed as much) – but putting the bulk of blame for the benefits on individual servicemembers, without full disclosure of all circumstances, is shortchanging the members who agreed to make the sacrifices above in exchange for these benefits.

If you haven’t read Karen’s post yet, please do so – and take action TODAY!

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Something Righteous and Hopeful: MOAA Takes Action

Jun 05 2013

ketchup (3)I was going to write about the Washington Post article on commissaries. But I’m not. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for a discussion on ways to trim the military budget, but lets do it with fairness and accurate research. The writer’s one-sided, inflammatory and inaccurate comments perturb me to no end – and I want to keep positive waves around me, kind of like Oddball in the classic WWII movie Kelly’s Heroes:

Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?  

Plus, seeing an article that includes input from the policy wonks of the Defense Business Board shows me the issues will be from a perspective unfamiliar with actual military life. This group is an advisory board providing advice on fiscal matters to the Secretary of Defense (they are made up of private-sector executives – there’s a group of people who understand issues like PCSing).

But the primary reason I am not writing about the article is that MOAA has it covered here: Put Down the Ketchup and Pick Up the Pen

Karen, the author, is MOAA’s Deputy Director of Government Relations (Military Family Issues) and she lays out in a well-written (and humorous) piece the untruths as well as the issues the Washington Post columnist didn’t bring up.

She also tells us how we can help MOAA enlighten our representatives with the correct facts. Not to steal her thunder (you should read her post anyway for the other useful links she provides), but go to this MOAA link and use the message and tools provided (you can personalize the message) to send your elected officials the realities of this issue.

As a final suggestion, go the Post article, read it, and post your comment as a MOAA member and member of the military family.

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More Fun with Résumés for Servicemembers

Mar 27 2013

Published by under the logistics train

Like eating, I usually hate to write on the same topic two times in a row. But, with résumés (and Asian food), I am happy to visit the same thing over and over.

Last column I touched on some résumé and career tips and I am going to do the same thing here. The primary reason is that this topic coincides with MOAA’s Veteran-focused career fair on April 2 at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center. (Doors open at 10:00 a.m., with career transition seminars beginning at 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., and a female veteran-focused professional development panel discussion and mentoring session beginning at 12:30.)

cover_letterTip 1 – Try a Combination Resume
This is a resume style where you put your skills and experience first, and then your employment history in chronological manner. This style works for military members because so many of you have done so many different jobs in your career. Because of this, you have different areas of experience and skills. You also have a laundry list of assignments, so using a chronological resume style will look tedious and be harder for the employer to do their 30 to 60 second scan.

Remember though to put the skill description first that best fits the job you’re applying for. For example, if you are strolling the MOAA Career Fair, picking up the free pens and magnets, and come across a company looking for a manager – then have a resume handy where your management experience is listed first.

Then, when you come across the employer handing out Reese’s and looking for a trainer, hand them the resume that has your training experience first.

Tip 2 – Quantify the Context
Military members tend to assume everyone knows the context of your job – the size, budget, etc. Most civilians do not know this; so don’t rely on terms such as squadron, company, etc. Put some numbers in: how many people did you train or oversee, how many planes, the budget (and always use numerical figures – they stand out in a quick review more than spelled out numbers), how many patients, how many sorties, etc.

Tip 3 – Formatting
Stick to one font, typically Arial – it’s a nice, conservative business-used font. Stay away from Times Roman. Also, learn and use the formatting tools of Word. Bold your headings and italicize your job history. Oh, and please remember that the space bar is not a formatting tool! Use the tab and alignment tools to align your headings and bullets. Don’t tap, tap, tap the tool bar to make sure things line up on separate lines!

I hope that helps. And I strongly recommend the MOAA Career Fair. MOAA runs a great career fair, and these are good just to network, even if you have a job but might be thinking of looking elsewhere down the road.

Good luck!

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Military Job Hunters and MOAA

Mar 21 2013

Published by under the logistics train

linkedin_256Jim Carman of MOAA has a great article on LinkedIn.com titled “10 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job.”

You’ll have to join Linkedin and the MOAA Career Networking group – but, if you are not a member already and you are looking for a job, you should join now:

I teach Business Writing at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs, and we cover extensively the topic of resumes and finding a job. There are a lot of former military members at the school (there are a lot in Colorado Springs!), so I am able to help them and hear their experiences. What I wanted to do below is just add a couple of comments to the tips posted by Jim.

  • Watch how you dress! The first impression is vital – shine your shoes, spend a couple of extra dollars on a good suit and shoes. It is worth it and shows the employer that you are interested and ready.
  • Network when looking for a job! Go through Linkedin and look up old buddies and bosses. Ask them to review your resume for their industry. Ask them if they know of any leads. A job doesn’t come from the 1st contact – many times it comes to you because that person knows someone who knows someone.
  • Don’t talk too much! Let the interviewer talk. But do ask questions. Research the company and figure some good questions about the company, its’ growth, employees’ potential for growth, etc. Also, people like to hire others who they think they can get a long with. Therefore, look at your interviewer’s walls and desks – do you see photos or signs of similar interests? Scuba diving in Hawaii? Sport trophies? Camping? If so, ask about these items and let the interviewer know you have similar interests.

I hope this helps. I could go on – I usually do for a couple of classes at UCCS. And I didn’t even touch on how a resume should look.

One final tip for job hunting – utilize the tools and resources of MOAA, and attend a career fair or networking event if you can. Their LinkedIn group is also an excellent place to look, discuss, and network.

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Pick a Little, Talk a Little, Pick a Little, Talk a Little…

Jan 24 2013

Published by under the logistics train

No, I’m not rehearsing for the Music Man. I thought of the song as I was taking care of chickens this morning (Elvis was TCB, I’m TCC) – chickens really do pick then squawk.

In case you’ve forgotten from prior posts, and are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, this summer we converted a stall in our old dilapidated barn into a chicken coop and built a chicken run next to the barn – then went out and got 10 chickens. So I thought I’d provide a chicken update.

eggsThe chicks are now grown and producing eggs (of different colors, even). It’s a lot fun. They are fascinating to watch. Chickens really do run in a group – when one goes somewhere, the rest follow (well, we do have a couple of gingers who are independent minded – much like my red-haired daughter).

And the eggs are different than store bought. The color of the yolk is more vivid and they are much better tasting.

At the start we were worried about foxes, raccoons, and other predators. But, we buried chicken wire around the perimeter of the coop and run to stop predators, and have had no problems. We were also assured by a fellow chicken rancher (I use that term loosely) who told us not to worry because our dog Marcus would be marking the area and that would keep away critters. That’s nice of Marcus. (I have to admit that at times I’ve felt like helping Marcus out as opposed to trekking back to the house.)

So now, after a few months of having chickens I have come to realize that there are signs that one has started raising chickens:

  • You are always on the lookout for empty egg cartons.
  • You start looking at food scraps differently – “hey, the chickens might like those, let me run them down.”
  • When you speak of “my girls” and you aren’t referring to your wife and daughter.

barn

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