Military Transition: What Do You Do When You’re Branded

Posted by Jane Maliszewski
Jane Maliszewski

May is National Military Appreciation Month. Each day this month we highlight articles to aid transitioning military in their job search and stories to honor our nation’s veterans. Jane Maliszewski, Colonel U.S. Army (retired), is President of ISKA LLC, a Strategic Change Consultancy.

“What do you do when you’re branded?”

That was a line from the theme song of a popular show from my childhood called “Branded.” The opening scene was an Army fort outpost on the western frontier and Captain Jason McCord (Chuck Connors), the “Branded” subject, was stripped of his rank, his sword broken, escorted by an armed guard out of the large wooden gates and left to make his way in the rocky wilderness of the wild wild west. Why this man had been kicked out of the frontier Army was something I was too young to understand at the time, but for the next 30 minutes he was kicking ass and taking names of bad guys to protect the innocent frontier folk. I was enthralled by his fortitude and perseverance.

I left the Army after a long successful career, not under adverse circumstances as our “Branded” star. Yet the visual of him walking off into the wild unknown, with no credentials (shoulder rank), and only the hope to regain his pride and be of further service, is something I still associate with the day I left the service.

I was surprised how hard it was to overcome the loss of recognition/credentials once I put my uniform on its hanger for the last time. The uniform defines your whole career history; it is the embodiment of a resume. But a gray suit is just like every other gray suit out there. Mention of my prior service now might draw some respect and appreciation, but I’m on at the starting line as far as proving myself, my credibility, integrity, and value, each time I meet someone. I admit that I miss just a little bit people standing up when I walk in the room and the attribution of a certain level of knowledge and expertise based on my rank. It was very secure; I had a “place.”

Now, I am often in the disconcerting state of feeling like a novice…which, as it turns out, is a very good thing. It requires me to listen more and figure out where I can best apply my talents. No more complacency of defaulting to a role and assumptions based on what I wear on my uniform. I feel the challenge of continually proving myself and it keeps me current, vibrant, and engaged.

“Wherever you go for the rest of your life you must prove … you’re a (wo) man.” (modified from the “Branded” theme song)


This entry was posted on Monday, May 21, 2012 7:15 am

3 thoughts on “Military Transition: What Do You Do When You’re Branded”

  1. Hello Col Maliszewski,

    Thank you for bringing up this topic of being “branded” and for your service. Military service is always an honor for those who serve and a leading edge for American security since the founding of this country. With the overwhelming support for the U.S. military since the first Gulf War, we, military members appreciate that support and awareness of our service to the American people. The movie highlights how most of us would never ask for a recognition for the job well-done, in some instances would be an ultimate sacrifice, but be humble for what we do. Some military service members would say, “it’s our jobs”. By design, military is a collection of people who are doing the best and the worse acts of humanity to justify the causes our leaders and the people ask us to do. So let the actions and outcomes judge our efforts in doing the right things – honorable service.

    SMSgt Tuan Hoang, USAF Retire

  2. Thank you for your service and your comments!

    For all the sacrifices and unknowns in a soldier’s (sailors, airman, marine’s) life, it has always amazed me how they–more often than not–rise to the occasion with courage, compassion, and humility for the extraordinary actions we ask them to take and difficult conditions we ask them to endure. The tangible recognition may be just a little piece of ribbon; the intangible rewards are far greater–the respect of peers, self-actualization, and contributing to social responsibility. And it is this ‘mission first, people always’ style that makes former military members such a valuable part of a work team.

  3. Hello Col, you may not remember me but you were my co in the signal co BCO 327 SIG BN, FT BRAGG NC, IN THE EARLY 80’S .

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