Tag: personal

Leadership – It’s Different for Everyone

Leadership as a word has a definition, but the reality is that we all know that leadership is almost undefinable.  Everyone has their own take of what leadership looks like or what a leader is.  Some thrive in leading while others are just comfortable following.  Both are just fine and doesn’t mean your weak or arrogant if you choose to be one or the other.  I will attempt to tell you my thoughts on leadership in the following writing.   Again this is my defenition of what I look for in a leader and how I attempt to lead.  It doesn’t make it right or wrong just makes it my style.  Hopefully it sparks a conversation about your style and what works for others.  Trust me I want to hear about it.

I’ll start with my foundation of how I lead people.  My main focus and goal is to find out what motivates them or what makes the individual succesful in completing tasks.  I have watched over the years too many leaders attempt to make their subordinates act just like them and in the end it rarely worked out, unless that person has a similar personality.  Rather I find what makes them tick and conform to the varying styles of those I supervise.  This is a lot harder and can take a manager or leader out of their comfort zone.  I have always felt though that it is important for the leader to carry this burden rather than those who they supervise.  Although difficult it can produce amazing results.

My initial conversation with a new employee generally begins the same way,  I inform that we can all work as equals until your actions dictate other wise.  This just means that I won’t take the “I am your boss or superior” method until I truly need to.  I have found that this can help spark more conversation and allow those that you may supervise to have a little more ease when speaking.  They may have ideas and contributions to add that may be of help, but being scared to speak may shut them down.

I have a belief in professional arguments.  This happens a lot in today’s world but the biggest problem is that they can get personal.  Having a professional argument is healthy in many ways as long is it doesn’t get combative.  The main focus is that you can argue over one topic but be able to start all over again on a new one.  The world moves to fast to waste time holding on to long.  This again will be on the shoulders of the manager or leader.  It will be his or her responsibility to keep it civil, yet make the room calm after a passionate discussion.  You want to be able to have lunch with these people later on.

Loyalty and Respect are major factors and many times confusing.  Leaders tend to get caught up in that their subordinates must show them loyalty and respect because they allow them to work for them and they get a pay check each week.  Monetary compensation doesn’t create loyalty or respect.  These people work for you so you OWE them a pay check.  Loyalty is a two-way street just as much as respect is a two way street.  You can’t demand these without starting off with them.  Employees want to know that you are going to be there for them during tough times just as much as you would expect them to be there for you during tough times.  This takes many leaders out of their comfort zones.  You have to view these qualities as fluid items constantly moving.  Just becuase you showed respect or loyalty once doesn’t garner you the return for a life time.  The best part is that if you show loyalty or respect in small doses employees will return it in a large quantities.  It means a lot to them so hand it out.

Get past judging someone based off of their personality.  This is difficult, very difficult.  We have all had that guy or gal that we have worked with that everyone believes is weird, creepy, or just off a little bit.  This may be a opportunity to take on a surprising challenge.  We tend to shoot ourselves in the foot by turning people away because we can’t get past our first impression.  Yes people can be awkward, quirky, and just strange sometimes.  With that being said though we may be missing out on someone who is truly talented and just need to be mentored our guided into the right direction.  Remember at some point someone took a chance on you.

Stop trying to fix the weaknesses of grown adults.  We waste way to much time trying to fix individuals weaknesses and avoid improving their strengths.  It is much easier to improve something that is already working rather than slowly trying to fix something that doesn’t work.  If someone is a terrible public speaker they can slowly get better over time, yet if they are amazing at communicating on social media then allow them to be great there, and have some one else talk to the public.  Exposing weakness is counter productive and harping on them will not build up that personal equity that is so valuable.

You as a leader must constantly build personal equity in your subordinates and employee.  Small acts of kindness can build equity within an employee like you wouldn’t believe.  Don’t kill an employee over being late because their kid got sick and they had to drop them off at school one morning.  Relate to it and let them know it is okay.  This doesn’t mean you should allow someone to walk all over you or take advantage of your kindness but one incident shouldn’t be a determining factor of whether someone is going to be a good employee or not.  Things like letting people head home earlier becuase the snow is piling up builds equity.  Bringin in coffee and doughnuts builds equity.  Actually asking and truly caring about someones family helps build equity.  Personal equity is an amazingly strong trait to build in an company, and is irreplacable but quckly lost if taken advantage off.

As I stated in the beginning this isn’t a fail safe way to lead people or supervise.  It is just tools to add to a toolbox of managing styles and methods.   The best thing you can do is find what your great qualities are and work on making them better.  Continue to build personal equity with those that you work with, make them feel apart of something.  People want to be emotionally invested into what they are doing.  If they can’t do that eventually they will leave.  Remeber these are people, members of your community and in a lot of cases friends.  As a leader you should be constantly refining your craft and learning new and improved methods, also don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes.  Create employess who are happy and invested, if you lose this side, or miss a chance to get them invested and you may miss out on something special.

Just my thoughts.

 

 

 

She Quit!!!!!!!!!!!

It was a Tuesday afternoon like every other Tuesday.  I called to my wife since it was the end of the work day to find out what we were going to do for dinner that night.  I did not anticipate what she would say when she answered the phone, “I quit, I am so sorry but I quit.”  This cam with of course a lot of crying and that was pretty much the only tangible thing that I could make out.  I told her it was “Ok” and “No Worries.”   How could I be so relaxed, so nonchalant about this, my wife just quit a job she had been at for 8 years and cut our income in half in the blink of an eye.  How did we get here, how did she get so unhappy that the only thing she could think of was to quit.

Lets go back 8 years to figure out how we got to where we are now.  My wife was in between jobs looking for something new and fresh.  She wanted to find something that she could be excited about, something that she could be emotionally invested in.  For my wife it has never really been about money but more about the emotional investment from the company and something that she could be emotional about.  For her, when she goes all in she goes all in.  Her opportunity came to work for a company that had been around for a few years but was recently purchased by a young man who had talent and great vision.  He was a forward thinker and energetic but more than anything he was emotionally invested in the success of the company.  He was the son of the former owner when he purchased the company.  His vision was going to take the company to new heights.  My wife’s aunt worked for the company and was able to get her in working at an entry-level position.  She was excited and liked the idea of a smaller company and was happy to get back to work.  Once she got the job she knew that something was different about this place something refreshing something new.

It didn’t take long for her to begin to spread her infectious attitude throughout the company.  She finds the best in everyone and rarely sees their faults.  That job is left for me.  She would come home at night tell me how great here day was and was generally excited all the time.  She loved going to work and couldn’t wait to see what would come next.  Slowly she began to want more, she could see the company was growing and she wanted to provide more, she wanted to be a bigger piece.  For here she couldn’t figure out what she was going to do, what was she good at.  We talked and talked and she began to ask if I thought she was going to be good at sales.  To me it seemed like a no brainer.  Everything that I had ever saw was that the only natural talent you need to be a sales person was to personable and have the ability to network.  The light didn’t go off in my head it exploded.  I remember having conversations with her about how she was a natural at networking.  She didn’t know what I meant or how it translated.  Simply enough anywhere my wife goes she meets ten new friends, she as a way of making everyone feel important in the room and genuinely thinks everyone is awesome.  I explained to her that if she did the same thing over the phone then customers will come, the only she would need to do is learn the paperwork part, but gaining customers will be almost to easy.  Her boss was the one who originally saw some this and brought it to her attention.  It wasn’t much longer before they began grooming her to become a key player in the sales portion of the company.

Over the years she would come home either sad, frustrated, or excited about new opportunities.  We would sit and talk and figure out of to tackle her new objective.  If it was something she was struggling with we would game plan different approaches on how to over come it.  If she was struggling with being a women in a male dominated world, I would give her perspective on how man react and pursue things.  If she was excited we would toast and enjoy a great night-cap.

The times that she was frustrated was due to various factors, interpretations, or interactions.  One of her biggest gripes with he new-found job was that she felt like she always had to prove herself.  She felt like because she was a women that she always had to do more, always had to sell bigger, always had to be louder, always had to ensure that when something was done people knew she did it.  I didn’t really understand this too much, well because I am a man.  I didn’t have the advantage to see it from her angle so it was hard for me in the beginning to help her.  I would give her advice that I would give another man.  I started to realize that I am showing her how to do things as a man, this is counter productive because she isn’t a man.  You see if we both picked up the phone today and tried to sell the same thing to the same customer the interaction would be incredibly different.  Say the customer was a 45 plus year old man, instinctively in many cases the man will immediately reject the female voice for being unintelligent and weak.  He may try to outsmart her right out of the gate or in some cases be little her.  Same phone call and he hears a mans voice, he most likely will listen for some time and be more passive.  This is society, this is something that isn’t going change anytime soon.  So how do we work around that, she had to become smarter, quicker, and better on the phone.  She began making people feel important, got to know them personally, she began reading and learning new techniques.  She was in love, in love with the company and the vision, and the growth.

As time went on she began traveling more, becoming bigger part of the company, yet a hole began to grow.  She still felt like she had to prove herself, felt like no matter what she was always going to be a step behind, yet the path was invisible.  She couldn’t see where it was going, who was in the lead or how to catch up.  This invisible path was distracting, it made her unhappy, and she didn’t know how to put into context what this path was doing to her.  As the company began to grow to new heights, more employees, and more money, she began to felt the path getting longer, steeper, and more difficult to climb.  The personal conversations with her boss began to diminish, tempers from both sides began to increase, and the excitement dwindled.  The women who was excited to go to work everyday found that she didn’t want to go anymore.  Found that the invisible path was getting to steep, to hard to climb.  Her greatest champion now her hardest competitor.  She was constantly under the strain of ” Getting the Whale” but was not getting the guidance of how, but more the question of when.  She has customers lined up with major projects going forward yet it was time-consuming and never in her full control.  This makes it hard to succeed but the future was bright.  She was coming to a conclusion though that it didn’t matter now, the excitement was gone, the emotional investment was becoming to painful, she was unhappy.  This was never about the money for her, it was always about the emotional investment.

Just days before she quit her job the company had celebrated 25 years of being in business.  This was a major milestone for the company, it had survived some terrible economic times and was at its height, and on that night everyone smiled.  Even she smiled.  The smile seemed weak, and forced though.  Something was gone from inside, the spark had vanished, her time was coming to an end.  Just days later her and her boss would have an argument, not uncommon in the business world, but it was at that passionate moment she said those words, ” I QUIT.”  She cleaned out her office packed up her car and began to drive home.   The pain that she felt was almost the same pain you would feel if you had just split up with a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend, you knew it was going to hurt but it was the right thing to do.

The next day she would attempt to go back to the company, but it was over.  Things changed on both ends and the split would become mutual.  The pain on both sides will be there for a bit but both will overcome and move on.  She felt the initial pains, asking questions like what are we going to do, where am I going to go, what will I do next.  So now we plan, we take our time.  I consider her time at the previous company he education, she learned what it takes to succeed and fail.  Failure is a critical part of becoming succesful and now she has seen it.  Her next job has to be something that excites her, makes her passionate, and provides her emotional value.  Her biggest hurdle going forward will always be chasing the Invisible Path, chasing the challenges that she can’t see.  I know she will be great again, I know she will find her way, I also know that her infectious love for people is what will continue to make her amazing.  Her education at the former company didn’t just make her great, but taught me a lot as well.  It’s what drove me to write this, that I can see past the physical and gender differences that exist and try to find what is in the whole package not just how it’s wrapped.

Keep Challenging the Invisible Path, Keep Challengin Your Self, Always try to Fail, In the end you will Succeed.

DOW (Drinks of the Week)

I would like to start by saying that I Fucking love the beach.  Sorry, I just can’t get enough of it.  The best part is when you find that perfect drink that goes with the perfect day.  This week I grabbed two new beers Bilsner from Burley Oak Brewing and Cage Radler from Victory.  One beer not so good the other beer really good.

First up was the beer that didn’t mesh well with the beach.  When I pair beers it’s no soIMG_2806.PNG much with food but the weather and fun I believe I am going to have. Bilsner wasn’t a bad beer but pairing for the beach.  Plus I think Bilsner freak me out the way he stares at you from the can and points at you.  I don’t know if he was judging me or letting me know he was coming for me.  All in all it was an okay beer but not good for the beach.

Victory almost never disappoints when I pick them up.  Cage Radler was a great beach beer with an awesome flavor.  I could have drank thirty of these if given the chance.  Cage Radler had a fruity taste to it that felt wonderful in my mouth.  This only helped with the good times that were being had on the beach.  I will be adding this to the list of great beach beers.

I am always looking for suggestions on beers and other drinks to try.  If you have any suggestions shot them my way.  I will literally put anything in my mouth, wait that came out wrong.  I will try almost anything, shit I mean drinks, fuck I can’t end this the right way.

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See You in the Future – Thee Time Traveler

My Education Journey

Hard to fathom that just the other day I finally turned in my final writing to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree.   Like most things I wasn’t overly excited, just happy that another chapter has been finished in my life.  This one is one of the longest that I have experienced though.  I began taking some form of college classes back in 2000.  Yes 17 years ago.  I had a few interruptions along the way so don’t judge me, I’ll explain in a minute.  The process began like everyone else’s, yet would have some familiar and unfamiliar interruptions along the path.  The end would be quiet and uneventful.  The journey has been long, yet satisfying, I do plan on continuing my education to get a Master’s Degree, but that is like bonus points at this point.

After barely graduating high school I decided to take a year off from attending school to go out and see what it was like to be an adult for a little while.  You know get a job, make some money, have a good time, run wild, you know like adults do, or at least that’s what the perception was right.  Yeah I was wrong, being and adult sucked and sucked quickly.  Oh why is that you may ask, it’s because I barley passed high school, at a public high school that offered no actual trade skills, or any skills at that.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the school, it wasn’t like I was paying enough attention to understand if anything fruitful was being taught anyway.  Although I did enjoy working and making money, you quickly realize that you need additional skills to get somewhere in life.  So I decided after about year that I would start taking classes at the local community college.

Now the memories are going to be slightly shaky in some areas for a couple of reasons, one being that I have drank a lot since then, I mean a lot, like way more than you’re should.  Secondly it was 17 years ago.  One of the first things that you had to do before taking any real classes back then was take a test that would assess your educational level.  I would like to say that arrogance is a funny thing, I went into the test thinking, I am going smoke this shit, and needless to say I didn’t.  My first semester was spent retaking classes that I should have passed in high school, or maybe junior high.  Probably more junior high then anything.  Whatever I had a lot fun in high school.  Once I got through a semester of child level education, I was able to focus on degree oriented classes, I had chosen Criminal Justice as my degree field for two reasons.  One I figured there would be little math involved, and secondly I really liked reading about true crime, and how people actually reacted in society.  Sociology probably would have been better, but I really enjoyed Criminal Justice.

This continued for almost a year when I realized that holy shit this is difficult.  The school work wasn’t that bad, I really did enjoy it, and was doing really well.  The environment was different, especially that you were finally being treated as an adult.  I also think that because I was paying for everything on my own, it affected me more, you know a little more ownership in my work.  Things change when you’re paying for it. I was doing two things going to school fulltime, and working fulltime.  This is hell, and if anyone else reading this has done this, god bless you that shit wears you out.  Not to mention screw having a social life, hahahahahahaha social life.  So I realized that I was going broke, working my ass off, gaining debt from school, and not having a very good time.  So what better way to solve all these problems then to join the Army

 

INTERRUPTION #1.

So after having a good weekend of drinking, DP Killa and I were driving around thinking of more shit to get into.  At some point during this drive DP has and epiphany.  He decides that he is going to join the National Guard right then and there.  Very spur of the moment, which is his kinda thing.  I didn’t really think too much of it so I said I would go with him and talk to the recruiter as well.  Well hell after a few minutes of talking to these guys I realized I could solve some real problems here, I could get my college paid for, stay in Delaware, and learn me some things.  So we signed up, hell yeah real American heroes.  What couldn’t be predicted is that the world would be sent into war that would last more than ten years.  I’ll include those in some interruptions later down the road.  At this point it is spring 2001, and by the start of the fall semester I pulled out of school to focus on leaving for basic training and initial entry training in January of 2002.

I left for basic training in January of 2002, the world was different but my goals stayed the same, I wanted to complete this training get back home and pick up where I left off.  About a month out from completing my training I began to realign my focus and debating whether I was going to stick with the same degree plan or change it.  I was nearly qualified to be a Military Police Officer so I kept my focus on my degree plan and stayed with criminal justice, maybe come home and be cop one day.  This was in April of 2002, well just a couple weeks later I would get a phone call that my unite back home would be going overseas, wait, what, fuck this blows.

INTERRUPTION #2

I got home from basic training and initial entry training in May of 2002, by August I was in New Jersey preparing to leave for Saudi Arabia for a six month tour.  Okay I can handle that.  We left in September for Saudi Arabia where I would spend most of days working about 14 hours a day searching cars for bombs in what felt like a thousand degrees each day.  We were far enough from the war in Afghanistan that there was minimal threat to use, yet still a threat.  Fall and winter would come and go, not there, but back home, and February was quickly approaching and we all began to think about coming home.  Exciting times that wouldn’t last.  We had been extended for three months because America was going to invade Iraq, and in March of 2003 that is exactly what they did.  By May of that year we were home and I had met the love of my life.  Things were looking good and I would soon start taking classes again in the fall of 2003.

A lot had changed for me since returning home in the spring, I was dating the women I knew I would spend the rest of my life with, we moved in together, I had an awesome social life, I was working, and started taking some classes again.  This again was difficult, I couldn’t really fill my schedule with too many classes, I didn’t want to interrupt my new life style, and I wasn’t into school as much.  I started taking business classes thinking I wanted to go in a different direction, that didn’t work, and by the spring of 2004 I was done will school.

INTERRUPTION #3

#3 was me, all me this time, I wasn’t focused, I was enjoying life and having a great time doing it. I was thinking about finding a more career oriented job, and wanted to start looking for a more permanent residence for the girlfriend and me.  That’s when DP Killa came knocking again, with a new job opportunity with the Department of Corrections.  I debated for a while on this one, especially since I had started to look for a house and all.  Well in the fall of 2004 we did it, we bought our first house together, not DP and me but the love of my life.  After a few months of settling in I was ready to make the career change, and by spring of 2005 I was working for the department of corrections.

The money was decent and I enjoyed the work in the beginning. What you tend to find though is that you fall into a bad routine there, going to work, working as much overtime as you can handle, and going home.  You don’t leave a lot of time for education if you try to maintain a healthy social life.  Oh and let me tell you my social life is healthy.  So what did this mean for my education, well it meant that it was on the backburner, a dying flame, I had a career now, a women I would eventually marry, and a house.  Things were looking good.  By the summer of 2005 I had proposed to my eventual wife.  So for the next year we prepared for a wedding and in August of 2006 we were married.  By this time I really had no thoughts of going back to school at all, the flame was just a pilot light at this point, a footnote if you will.  By the fall of 2006 I began to realize that the small salary that I was making, wasn’t going to be enough if we truly wanted to start a family.  I was going to need more, and only having 30 some credits and a couple of years of experience with the Department of Corrections really wasn’t giving me a glowing resume.  So I looked at the pilot light saw that it was on and started to think about going back to school again.  I knew that the army would help cover some of the costs, if not all and that was great, so that was it I would go back to school in fall of 2007.  Why 07 you ask?  I don’t know it was just a goal I set and figured it was a good starting point.  Beside who the hell wants to go to school during the summer, I didn’t want to miss out on all that drinking and stuff.  Well low and behold none of that would matter because in the spring of 2007 we got word that by the fall of 07 we would be in Iraq in support of the war.

INTERRUPTION #4

So off I went in the fall of 2007 to Iraq.  This was going to be different from Saudi Arabia because now we were in the heart of it.  This was an education that can’t be taught in any classroom, if approached right a person will find out very quickly a lot of things about themselves.  I spent my time in Iraq learning how to supervise of other people, how to transform myself into the person I wanted to be.  I also accepted the constructive and harsh at times, criticism that I received.  Just because you are weak in an area doesn’t mean you’re bad, it just means that you are weak in that area.  That’s it.  I learned that not focusing on the weak, but working heavily on the strong points of myself and those I worked with made for a better working environment.  That place was stressful enough, adding on trying to change something about people that was not going to change would have only made it worse.  I also read a lot, I loved reading and learning, which in turn made it so that I knew I would want to go back to school one day.  I was more mature, and totally focused.  We got back home in the spring of 2007 and was super pumped to get back to things.  Oh wait, I almost forgot, when I came home on R & R in February I kinda knocked up my wife, so in the fall of 2008 I was going to be a daddy, yup that’s right another interruption

INTERRUPTION #5

This is actually a really good interruption, a life changer though.  Having a child is an amazing event every aspect, and a total life changer.  I like to think of myself as a bit of a planner, and generally stick to the plan so that I know I will be ready for the outcome.  Take for example that the misses and I lived together before buying a house, lived in that house together before getting married, made sure we were making enough money and had a house before talking about kids, well I’ll tell you something, you are never prepared for kids.  In the fall of 2008 my first child was born and the only thing we could focus on was taking care of that child.  So that’s what we did, and I quickly realized that I didn’t make enough money for this shit.  So it was career time change, and I took on a new job in the spring of 2009 that would help change my educational journey for the better, and financially was a great move.  Once the fall of 2009 came around I began taking Criminal Justice classes once again, this time working on it online.  Yup online, I know it’s not brick and mortar but don’t be fooled, if you respect the work you’re doing and take it serious you are getting a good education just the same.  Not everyone can sit in a classroom these days.  So a few nights a week from the fall of 2009 until 2011 I would work on getting my Associates.  I figured that if I would finish that in case there is some other interruption that comes up.  So in 2011 I finished my Associates in Criminal Justice.  Super happy but not satisfied.  I wanted the bachelors, but that would have to wait, yeah you know it, DEPLOYMENT to AFGHANISTAN.  In the spring of 2011 we got word that we would deploy in the near future either late 2012 or early 2013 to Afghanistan.  My unit would spend that time preparing to leave, and at home we were doing the same thing, you prepare the family for your departure.  What did that mean for my education, well it meant is was on hold once again.

INTERRUPTION #6

In January of 2013 we would pack up and roll out to Afghanistan, my third tour overseas, by the end of this one I will have spent just a hair over two years of my life in the Mid-East.  This tour would get cut a bit short, and by early fall of the same year we would be back home.  By the spring of 2014 I was back at it in attending classes.  I was determined to get my goal completed at this point.  The only issue was that I could only take 5 classes a year using the tuition assistance I was using.  I didn’t want to tap into my GI bill because I want to turn that over to my children, that way it takes some of the burden off of them.  So from 2014 – 2017 I did just that and on March 21st I was finally done.  All those nights spent in my office upstairs writing paper after paper, while drinking more coffee then any one man should drink I was finally done.  Once I completed that last paper, I simply closed my laptop, took a deep breath, and smiled.

So I wish I had some compelling story that I could tell on why I was so driven to get a degree but I don’t.  In reality I got it as a backup plan, yeah a plan B.  You see I get to retire when I am 45 from the army, which means I get to receive a pension right out of the gate.  That was my job change in 2009, I was lucky enough to find a job as a fulltime member in the Delaware National Guard. Well the plan is to find something that I love to do, or try something new, and if that fails well then I have the degree to fall back on.  I do plan on going after a Masters in homeland security next.  Why, well I am intrigued by it, the information is fascinating stuff, and I like learning about it.  I also can take my time with it, the Masters is bonus education for me.

THANKS

I really have to thank my wife for this.  If it was not for her I don’t know if I would have ever finished.  She allowed me the time to complete the work as needed.  She was my anchor throughout the whole process and never once complained when it was time to lock myself away to do more school work.  I think she also is more excited about me getting done as well.  I don’t really show a lot of emotion when it comes to personal successes for myself.  We a paly an amazing role in each other lives by encouraging each other all the time.  For my daughters, (My second born in 2014), I just want them to understand that there are many paths to reach a goal, and just because the path isn’t always straight doesn’t mean you can’t get to the end.  Patience, sacrifice, support, and time will get you there.

Baghdad: Why it was good for me.

In 2008 and I returned home from Iraq a changed man.  Unlike many that come home changed for the worse, suffering from PTSD, suffering from separation anxiety, or temporary depression, I returned home with a sense of purpose, a sense of change, I had matured, I was new.  This didn’t come easy, and honestly I didn’t even know it was happening.  I just knew that I had changed and that my life was soon to change as well.

In the fall of 2006 my First Sergeant had come to me and asked if I was going to re-enlist for another 6 years in the National Guard.  I took sometime to think about and kept letting him know that I was unsure and was actually thinking about taking a break for about a year.  Up to this point in my Guard Career I had been to Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the war, Mississippi for hurricane Katrina, Italy for three weeks, and was scheduled to go to Arizona for a border patrol mission.  This was all fun but a very active National Guard Career for a job that they tell you was one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.  The First Sergeant kept hammering away at me until one day I went to a local restaurant near the unit that I was in to talk with DP Killa so that I could make a sound decision.  I knew the whole time that I was going to re-enlist, I think that I just wanted to make sure that the unit leadership wanted back.  In addition to the leadership my wife told me that it was my choice and that she would back any decision that I made.  She also told me that I would miss it if I left.  She was right so I signed up early in the spring of 2007.

After from our Arizona border mission we received word that we were being activated and were going to be in Baghdad, Iraq in the very near future.  Married less then a year at this point my wife and I sat on the couch and cried.  That’s right, I cry and I cry a lot, so what.  I am like the Dick Vermeil of the military, and I cry at kids commercials.  Any way back to the story.  We sat on the couch holding each other and crying, we both understood the gravity of the situation, and that this wasn’t going to be Saudi Arabia.  We were going into Iraq during one of the deadliest periods, it was known as the Surge.

Almost five  to the day I landed in Kuwait once again.   Kuwait is used as a staging area and a place where you are supposed to get acclimated to conditions prior to go forward into Iraq.  If anyone has ever been to Kuwait understands that this is horse shit.  This is the hottest place on the earth.  Holy shit the heat is unbelievable, and porta johns at 120 degrees is Stupid!  We would stay in Kuwait for about two weeks prior to heading north for Baghdad, so that we could do additional training.

Flying into Baghdad is something that you can never forget.   You are crammed into a small military plane with no windows.  Your legs are interlocked with the person in front of you and you are wearing full body armor, your helmet, you have a bag, and a lot of prayers.  Prayers you say, why would I have to pray.  Well I generally don’t but because some guy in the back of the plane just explained to us that he is going to hang out of a small window with a 50 caliber machine gun, because people may try to attack the plane, might make you pray a little.  At this point the plane was goin to start it’s descent.  I knew then I was going to Hell, because the descent was known as a combat landing, which basically feels like a spinning carnival ride which all gravity seems to leave the plane and you fell like your going to either pass out or begin to fly away.  After the downward spiral into hell, we had landed, we were here, Baghdad.

The base we were staying on was Victory Liberty Base.  The base was huge with more than 100 thousand soldiers, contractors, and who knows what else on this place.  This was a fantasy world slapped dab in the middle of the deadliest place on earth.  Luckily I had deployed before and understood that the things that would happen here weren’t going to be like the things that happen at home.  Here love was fake, friendships may be fake, hell even I could be fake, it was just how it was, people become different, people change, people get worse and some become better.  This was going to be different for me because this time I was in charge of two Soldiers as where last time I only worried about myself.  This is where I began to understand how I personally was going to train people, treat people, and try to grow people as a supervisor.  This is where I began to take on a different mentality.  The first big change was that I began to read, and read a lot.  Plus play X-Box.  It was nice to escape or suspend reality for a little while with some Madden Football.  It didn’t take long before we were settled in and hitting the road.

My squad was composed of a cast of characters ranging from the group that loved World of Warcraft, to the retail salesman, a former Canadian Football Player slash University of Delaware stud, to my team which was composed of a female driver and a gunner that was the same rank as me.  It was this mix of personalities that makes the National Guard so great and so comprehensive.   Having the team that I had presented two new issues that I had to overcome.  The first issue, which was the easier of the two, was trying to show the rank respect to my gunner.  In the military rank is everything for the most part, my gunner was put into a position where he wasn’t going to do the job of his own rank but that of what is usually allotted for a private.  This decision was made because he was good with weapon systems, and could carry them.  My driver was less then excited to be in Iraq let alone having to maybe make the call to have to shoot at some one some day.  I knew the my gunner could make this call.  Also having good eyes in the turret of the vehicle is essential to baghdad-streetstraveling in the city.  The confined spaces in the vehicle makes you feel like a turtle stuck in coffee can.  It sucks.

We did a lot of driving in the city of Baghdad and that is where I spent a lot of time talking to my two Soldiers and talking to myself.  What felt like a game was where I began to ask my Soldiers, especially my driver, what seemed like goofy questions.  What I quickly found out was that I could learn an amazing amount of information about people if I just asked these silly questions.  This would later help me when I worked in a prison back home.  You see by asking things like what was you favorite cereal, or favorite toy, or favorite show, I could begin to build a profile about the people I was with.  I could find out if you ate name brand cereal, had cable television, or had the best toys.  This would help me build find out if they had money growing up and to me at the time money simply meant that they were middle class.  A few more questions later, and they would open up and the flood gates were released of information.  My driver more so then my gunner but I found that if I kept her talking it kept her at ease.  I would do this from day one all the way to the end.  The other thing that I was doing was war gaming everyday, seemingly every moment.  This is something that I still do today, just not with as much frequency.  I may be getting a shower and I will star to think about what I would do if someone came in my house right at that moment.  It was this style of thinking that began in Saudia Arabia, and five years later escalated in Iraq.  I would ask the what if over and over again.

The what if question would go from not just war gaming but to other parts of my life down the road.  I understood that I was changing in my thought process, and began to explore more on how I wanted to be treated and how I wanted to treat others.  Always asking myself what if, and then trying to find a way to try it out.  My biggest change was that I realized that I couldn’t make people lead and execute actions the way I did.  It wasn’t that they wouldn’t do it, but they would try to do it my way which was counter productive to what they were comfortable with.  Instead I began to take on a different style and I was given a nearly twelve month platform to train on.  I merely started to look at what the individuals were good at, how they learned and how I fit into there methods.  This meant that I would conform to the many rather than the many conform to me.  My driver was quiet, female, and very bright.  Instead of forcing her to yell at people, and trying to make her overly aggressive she began to read and learn about the local culture.  She used her infectious personality as a way to begin to talk to people, and help move us forward.  This would later lead her to receiving an award for helping take care of a family that lived in a bombed out building.  She would organize on her own time bringing them supplies, from an AC unit to vitamins.  familyThe family in return showed us great respect, and the company great respect.  This would not have been possible if I forced her into an aggressive style.  My gunner a bit of a different code to break, yet he enjoyed his sleep, and not being hovered over.  He was excellent with the truck and kept it in amazing operational shape.  Allowing him the freedom to do these things made it easier for me.  I don’t know anything about vehicles unless it’s my jeep, and I’m using a YouTube video.  Encouraging them, and instilling trust in that I would protect them as best I could not just from outside forces but from other toxic leaders helped form a team that worked  great together.

We left Baghdad unscathed in the late spring of 2008.  There were some incidents with one of our southern elements, and some close calls with others but in the end we lost no one.  The tour was a success and we all learned and grew over the last twelve months.  The real work was yet to come.  When you return home from a deployment you get and extended period of time off.  You meet 30, 60, and 90 days after a deployment to get back together review programs, and mainly to see if you are adjusting to home life.  For many this is pretty smooth transition, especially if you have a great support system at home, but for others this isn’t the case and many issues begin to creep up well after the final 90 day visit.  For myself the transition wasn’t that bad.  I took a lot of time off before going back to work, and my wife would reel me in if I got out of line.  I had to be retrained on working around the house, and was preparing for a new member of the family.  My biggest adjustment would come from my civilian job, things had changed.

I had taken a job as a correctional officer in 2005.  This was a great entry level position with great benefits, and a job that wasn’t going to get outsourced anytime soon.  Before leaving for Iraq this job was fairly easy, and I was putting in a ton of hours. Post Iraq I no longer enjoyed it, no longer wanted to be around these people.  I began to understand that I was different, I had changed.  I could see that I was missing the comrade of being the guys, being in charge, being around the army.  The life style had consumed me at this point.  I have been active in the military so much so early in my career that it was all I wanted to do.  I didn’t want to go back over sea’s but understood that it was that environment that I thrived.  I had wanted to be around troops, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, and saw that as a correctional officer, I wasn’t going to have the chance.  Sure I could have tried it on the imprisoned, but they didn’t see me that way, they didn’t care about my back story, they care if I understood where they came from.  I was the law, and that all there was to it.  I began to look for jobs in the military, either as a paid technician or and Active Guard Reserve member.  The Technician gets to stay with their unit of assignment but work else where, you get to wear the uniform each day but not always paid as much.  The Active Guard Reserve Member is assigned to a position that you interview for and work there, you are also paid and follow the same rules as an active duty Soldier.  After getting beat on my interview board by a good friend, I thought all was lost and I would have to return to the prison.  I was lucky enough to get another chance months later for a similar position, and was able to slightly beat out the completion.  Now 2009 and  I finally felt like I was back, I was whole again.

The new job helped me tremendously, it changed me and changed the way I carried myself, and the way I approached things.  This best part was that I truly had a job that I could take the tasks I learned about myself and try to use them on a daily basis.  This has helped  my career more then I could explain.  Each day presents a new chance to try and help others complete tasks, but also to encourage them to do more.  Fast forward to today, I have continued to change.  We deployed again in 2013, this time to Afghanistan, where I learned even more about myself.  The more I change the happier I get.  I work on my blog almost daily, look for ideas to start an online retail website, encourage my wife and others to do new things, and tell my kids to do the things that make them happy.  That doesn’t mean it fifteen pounds of chocolate, watch SpongeBob, and fall into a sugar coma.  It simply means continue to change until your happy, waiting for someone to change things for you isn’t going to happen.  I joined the military on a whim, I have worked various jobs, I started a blog because I want to tell people my stories, and I dream of the future daily.  I can’t wait for the next change, the next thing, the moment that I realize I am different again.  Today a friend reached out to me a person that I look up to and a person that I consider a brother.  He wants to start something that is slightly out of his comfort zone and he told me it was because I started this blog site.  With out knowing it I unintentionally had an impact, totally unexpected.  He will make it work, and he will be good at it.  When it comes to dedication, hard work and getting the things you want, not to many people are better at it.  Thanks Sean and good luck.

Baghdad changed me and many others.  I don’t suffer from PTSD, I don’t have any misconceptions about what deploying has done for me.  The lessons I learned over sea’s have been the best lessons ever.  Each time I have changed for the better, I have developed stronger relationships, and moved on from toxic ones.  My career in the army has been slow moving but that is the nature of the business.  I wouldn’t change the first 15 years for anything.  In that time I have accumulated  more then 10 years of active service, and work almost daily on preparing myself to retire in the next 9 years.  That may seem like a long time but we all know it will be here before we know it.  I just want to be ready for the change this time.

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See you in Future – Thee Time Traveler