If I could be a Marine, I could do anything... Jim Shannon USMC (ret) shares his philosophy.

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

I’ve been invited to comment on my transition from active duty to life after. By way of introduction, I spent 23+ years on active duty as an Infantry Officer.


To begin, harken back to when you were a teenager or in your early twenties and you asked yourself: “What do I do with my life, or what’s next?” What were those critical decision points you developed for taking the plunge with the USMC? Patriotism, family lineage, see the world, get a job, adventure, test your perceived personal limits… or was it just the uniform?


For me, it was the pure challenge of it all.


I thought if I could be a Marine, I could do anything.


So my question to you is what considerations, priorities, expectations did you think about as you prepared for the transition from civilian to Marine? What inspired your decision? For me, I simply wanted to serve my country for one tour of duty, get out and go to work on Wall Street. That was my plan. In no way, shape, or form had I ever considered sticking around beyond 3-4 years. What changed? Well, it was simple for me. I was having fun and getting paid for it! Pretty good combination.


Fast forward to the end of your enlistment contract or your military career. Lots of factors and variables will play a decisive role in how you approach your transition. Does your current reality (knowledge, skills, abilities) match your desired expectation for work or salary? Married now? Kids?


As a colleague explained to me on my final tour of duty, there are three elements of your guided discovery “transition planning process” that matter greatly:

1. Geography. 2. The people you wish to work with. 3. Salary.


So what’s the leadership point in this conversation? Prepare and Plan. Remember the acronym BAMCIS? More than likely, you actually did this before you entered the Corps; you just weren’t aware you were doing it.


In my mind, the approach is the same whether you’re a Corporal or a Colonel. Yes, the variables may be different, but the functions remain constant.


Transitions, whether they are little “t” or big “T” are stressful. By utilizing a planning and preparation model, a disciplined approach, and the focus to accomplish the mission, you have a greater probability of a favorable outcome -- and hopefully aligned to the one you intended.


BAMCIS: BEGIN planning, ARRANGE for reconnaissance, MAKE reconnaissance, COMPLETE the plan, ISSUE the order, SUPERVISE. The best troop leading steps devised!


Jim Shannon was commissioned in 1979 and served through November, 2002. His Fleet assignments included platoon and company command, Battalion Executive Officer, and as CO of Marine Combat Training Battalion, School of Infantry. Following active duty, he became a government civilian with NAVSEA, significantly with Joint Forces Command J-7 working with deployable training teams supporting Joint Task Force headquarter staffs. Thereafter, he became a Branch Manager at Combat Direction Systems Activity, Dam Neck, focused on rapid innovation solutions. Today, when not on the beach with his dog, he contributes most of his time with the Boy Scouts of America developing the Alumni Relations network both locally and nationally. Printed with Jim's permission.

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