Sunday, March 2, 2014

Introduction - Phase 2: The New Beginning...Or, How I Learned To Love Retirement

Ok, ok, this blog post has nothing to do with learning to love retirement...carry on!

Ah-hem!  Welcome back, gentle insomniac!  I am glad you decided to slog through part two of my multi-part blog series.

In the last episode, we left our hero firmly in the grips of the...oh, never mind, wrong story.  Since retiring from the Air Force, I moved my family to Denver and started searching for a J-O-B!  A bonafide, no kidding, dyed-in-the-wool civilian job.  Unfortunately, Denver didn't really have a need for my Airfield Management skills, and my security skills would not have garnered a living wage for my family and I to live off of (hence, living wage).

Without the ability to put my highly polished, near super-human, AF developed skills to good use outside of said AF, I had a decision to make.  The decision in question was whether to continue trying to find a job that was similar to my specialty or try to follow after one of my passions, computers.  Most people assume that computers, or IT in general, is highly lucrative and should have been a no-brainer for me.  Not so. It was difficult for several reasons, first being that I had no real professional experience and second, no training.  But, I am getting ahead of myself.  Let's get back to the story...

During my initial job search after the relocation, I went to a job fair at the Sports Authority Field.  There, I met Zach Jacobsen, from LeaderQuest.  He looked over my resume and told me that his company provides job search assistance, as well as training, and that he would like to set up an appointment to meet with me.  I agreed, though I must admit I was a bit weary of doing business with a company that I had never heard of.  I guess I was a bit fearful that they were going to use the job search assistance as a way to scam me into paying for some expensive, but useless, training.

When I went home, I asked my father-in-law if he had ever heard of LeaderQuest before.  He answered, no. little scam detecting radar was starting to warm up...was this a fly-by-night organization?  I needed answers and I needed them quick.  So, I turned to the font of knowledge that every techno-geek turns to...Google!  I did several searches, including using the terms fraud and complaints, just to make sure that I was getting the most accurate information about LeaderQuest that I could.  There wasn't much, at all, about LeaderQuest.

Now, I must admit, my scam detector was working overtime.  Most companies that provide IT training also have a huge, secondary presence on the internet.  Usually, it is the blog and forum world that provides independent verification of worth.  No such luck when dealing with LQ.  So, I looked at the Better Business Bureau's website and noticed that only two complaints had been lodged against them in roughly fifteen years.  I read the details that BBB made available and it would seem that they (BBB) were satisfied that LQ did everything possible to resolve the complaints.  After reading that, I was feeling a bit more comfortable with the company but I wasn't quite ready to let my guard down just yet.

I went to the appointment that I had scheduled with Zach.  He looked over my resume, told me that I had a lot of experience and training that would be useful to many employers in the Denver area.  He also told me that while LeaderQuest is a training organization first and foremost, they were committed to assisting veterans in their job search.  This assistance was without cost and without strings, meaning that I didn't need to use their training services in order to get access to their job resources.  Admittedly, this helped to further allay my fears.

We chatted about my resume, my past experiences with technology, what my passions were in life, etc.  After nearly an hour of conversation, Zach outlined how LeaderQuest could help me in my job search.  Taking a few minutes, he went back to his office to get the literature that he wanted me to review when I got home.  Talk about a "ton" of information.  I almost entered information overload!  Besides the normal "this is the training we provide"-type of literature, Zach also gave me some information on job forecasts which highlighted the benefits of taking the type of training that LeaderQuest offered.

I went home, discussed it with my wife and my in-laws, thought about it, discussed it some more, then decided to pull-the-trigger and go for it.  I made a follow up appointment with Zach to discuss the finer details of how it would be paid for, when the training would start/end, and what could be done for me in the mean time.  Pretty standard stuff, really.

We sat down and talked about how the G.I. Bill would pay for all of the training and that they would assist me in filing the appropriate paper work.  If you've ever encountered government paper work, you know how confusing it can be.  I am quite thankful that LeaderQuest has had the amount of experience dealing with the VA that they have.  I couldn't imagine trying to wade through the miles and miles of red tape that are the stock-in-trade for the VA.  It didn't take very long for us to complete all of the paper work.  I think it took longer for him to print the paper work than it did for me to initial, print, and sign the small mountain of paper work that was necessary before I was officially "in".  All-in-all, as easy and pain-free as one could hope for.

In conclusion, it took a fair bit of prayer, discussion, perusing the paper work that Zach gave me, and researching everything about LeaderQuest to get me to a point where I was willing to take what, in retrospect, was a small leap of faith.  Small leaps of faith can be good for the soul.  And, boy, am I glad that I took that leap of faith!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Introduction - Phase 1: The Military Career

Hello there!  I am glad you have taken the time to stop by my little corner of the internet.  I hope you find this blog useful, interesting, and maybe a bit entertaining, as well.  Enough with the pleasantries, though, as it is time to dig in...

First things first, as the late Dr. Covey would say, my name is Jim Gross.  Glad to meet you.  Recently*, I retired from my career in the United States Air Force.  My twenty-two years of active duty service in the AF (or, as my retirement orders spell out, twenty-two years, one month, and three days) brought me many great opportunities, allowed me to travel about, and introduced me to many, many great people.  My career, though long by some standards, seemed pretty short, to be honest.  In fact, I catch myself, from time-to-time, thinking that I am still that fresh-faced nineteen year old that I was when I first joined.  Naturally, my body reminds me that I am not, in fact, still nineteen.  Drat!

When I first joined the AF, they sent me to Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.  Initially, it was for Basic Military Training, where I was assigned to the 3708th Basic Military Training Squadron (BMTS), Flight 628.  After my six weeks of basic, they put me on a bus and drove to the other side of the base in order to attend the USAF Security Police Academy.  My Air Force Specialty was Security Specialist.  After my six weeks was up and I graduated, they sent me...well, no where.  I was asked to stay behind and attend the M-60 Machinegunner Qualification Course (by asked I mean told...same thing, right?).  That was one glorious week of shooting a fully automatic, belt-fed machine gun, cleaning said gun, putting it back together again, and then, when all was done for the day, going back to my room in order to patch my fingers up.

After that week was done, they sent me to Fort Dix, New Jersey.  In December and January.  To train with the US Army.  Can you say culture shock?  All of our instructors, all of them, were Drill Instructors.  Apparently, Fort Dix was a Basic Training base.  Oh, yeah.  Let the fun commence.  So, after four to six weeks, our modified infantry course was finished and we were released onto the regular Air Force!  Watch out!

So, for seven years, I played the part of a highly motivated Security Policeman for the USAF.  They were gracious enough to send me to Missouri, South Korea, Germany, Turkey, and back to Germany during that seven year period.  At the conclusion of my seven years, I was asked to move into a different career field.  Thus started my Airfield Management journey, a journey that lasted for nearly fifteen years.

Training for Airfield Management starts and ends at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.  While an Airfield Manager, I was blessed to be sent to Washington State, Turkey, South Korea, South Dakota, and Mississippi, with side trips to Maryland, Qatar, Washington State, Colorado, Tennessee, and Iraq (twice).

My last year in the AF was spent as a Wing OPSEC Program Manager.  Hehehehe...a beautiful job of learning how to make the adversary think one thing while you do another.  That required a side trip to is tough, right?  I had several little side jobs going on, ones we call additional duties.  My favorite, by far, was teaching an introductory OPSEC awareness class to young Airmen.  I have never had so much fun teaching a dry subject than I had teaching that.  The highlight of every class was an exercise that illustrated how social media, the internet, and bad habits can cause you to give way too much information to the adversary.  Average time spent searching Google, Zabasearch, and a few other sites?  Twenty minutes.  Average time to make a young, smiling Airman stop smiling and start thinking really, really hard about what their internet presence said about them?  One minute, max!

So, as you can see, I've been to a lot of places, seen a lot of things, and had a rather long, enjoyable career defending my country.  But, as happens to all good things, it had to come to an end.  That story, my transition to civilian life, is best left for another blog post.  So, in the mean time, thank you for reading this little missive and I hope to see you soon.


*By recently, I mean as of October 2012...might not be recent to some, but it is to me.