NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Every so often, I'll get in touch with a few friends - former shipmates - to check in on them and see how their post-Navy lives are going. You know, a general "catching up" just to see how everybody's doing. While most of them are excelling in the civilian sector, there are a couple that have returned to their place on mom and dad's couch.
I recently began pondering things, and what I've learned from my friends has really helped me put military service into perspective.
First, we're not punching a clock or doing meaningless work. We are serving our country, and it is a profession that has been regarded with honor since before our nation was founded. Whatever your role in that profession is, whether it's flying fighter jets, cleaning bulkheads, or feeding the troops, you are still doing your part in defending the greatest nation on Earth. There aren't many other jobs out there that give you the opportunity to be a part of something so great.
In fact, there aren't a lot of other jobs out there that would let you handle some of the country's most expensive or technologically advanced equipment without a correlating degree or years of prior training. There aren't a lot of jobs out there that will foot the bill for a security clearance that costs tens of thousands of dollars and that you can use later in life, all at no cost to you. There also aren't a lot of jobs out there that will guarantee job security and medical benefits for you and your family during a recession. Think about it; while people around the country are worried about losing their jobs right now, you're relaxing and reading a newspaper, and you know your career - and your paycheck - are safe.
The Navy offers more "hidden" benefits than virtually any other employer could ever dream of offering you. I'm just going to name a few here ... There's tuition assistance (TA), which pays for your schooling while you're on active duty. That's not to be confused with the GI Bill, which will provide you with thousands upon thousands of dollars for education after you get out of the service.
Then, there's the Navy's Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) program, through which the Navy pays for career-related credentials you can use when you get out and back into the civilian sector. No other job is going to care about what you do after you leave their place of employment, and they certainly aren't going to pay for you to excel after your time with their company is up. Think about that.
Add those things up (there are lots more I didn't even mention), and pair them with the level of experience and discipline you're going to have when you retire or finish your enlistment, and you've got a winning hand. All you need is the drive to accomplish the goals you set for yourself; the Navy already provides you with all of the tools you're going to need to do that. If you utilize all of the opportunities the Navy has afforded each and every one of us, you'll probably stand out head-and-shoulders above the competition for your next career choice.
The Navy is an invaluable tool and stepping stone that, if used correctly, can change your life for the better, forever. It isn't just another "job." If to you that's all it is, you're doing something wrong. The Navy has spent years coming up with an impressive array of opportunities designed to help Sailors improve their lives. It's up to us to take advantage of them.
If you finish your time in the Navy and look back one day, only to find that you left the service in the exact same situation you were in before you served, you only have yourself to blame. All it means is that you didn't once open the personal development toolbox you were issued with your seabag.
For more news from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn70/.