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

Posted by Kathleen Smith

May is National Military Appreciation Month. Each week this month we bring you articles that honor our nation’s vets. Our first post is by Jane Maliszewski, Colonel U.S. Army (retired), currently President, 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 02, 2011 12:00 pm

One thought on “Military Transition: What Do You Do When You’re Branded”

  1. This was a great blog. I left the AF and was immediately accepted into a contracting position. I was never placed into a job the fit my skill sets and I was terminated. Now I am branded by this contracting corporation and for my own sake I need to prove myself.

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