For more than a decade, as I’ve built my post-military career, the experiences, opportunities, challenges, and success I built during my decade as a soldier and sailor have reaped tremendous benefits. I’m the poster child for how military experience can be a real asset later in life. I understand hard work. I adapt to change without much trouble at all. Multicultural assignments are ones that I seek out. And while I have a preference to be sure, I can thrive on teams or working autonomously.
Could I have developed these skills and interests without my military background? Certainly, but for me, that was the training ground. Now, twelve years after I removed the uniform for the final time, I’m once again seeing how much value my military heritage has provided.
You see, I’m currently in the midst of a consulting assignment in the Middle East. Where and with whom isn’t particular relevant, but what is germane is the need to have hit the ground running, balancing being in a totally different (and truly foreign) culture while wrapping my arms around the politics and organizational culture of a fascinating, yet challenging mega-corporation and juggling my responsibilities as a parent of two teenagers still in the States.
As I walked through the open-air market yesterday, greeting the local merchants, bartering with them over the price of sunglasses, trinkets, and local cuisine I couldn’t possibly identify (and like am glad I didn’t know their ingredients), it struck me how “at home” I am in such places, thanks to my military experiences. And it goes beyond just being able to seamlessly adapt to a different culture, with its seemingly bizarre norms and a language I don’t understand.
In my work, I’m interacting daily with vastly different individuals than I’ve ever encountered, as well. Some are proficient in English. Others struggle at it. And I’m no help with my three-phrase Arabic lexicon. Yet, we manage to use the resources around us to ensure we all understand the concepts, organizational problems, and the direction of the project. It’s both fun, and as I think about it, quite amazing. For in the end, we’re trying to accomplish the same goal, and so, we’re motivated to find ways to bridge the cultural gaps.
I’m here for another couple weeks, and will likely be returning in several months time for the next phase of our work here. So, it will be interesting to see both how this work progresses, and the experiences I can undergo on the personal level, as well. I’m always one for adventure, much to the chagrin of my mother, I’m sure. Because I do love this. But if not for the experiences I gained around this globe as a military service member, I’m not sure I could so easily adapt to this environment.
So, just another reason to look back and realize how lucky I was to put on the uniform. That experience has shaped, and continues to shape, my world, personally and professionally.