Career Advice for Army Soldiers Coming Back from Deployments

One of my website visitors recently asked me “What should I do now that deployments are slowing down in the Army National Guard and Army Reserves?”  I thought that was a great question, so I wanted to share a few helpful tips.  Listed below, I want to share seven helpful ideas you should consider and think about now that deployments are slowing down in the ARNG and USAR.

1. Get Current on Your Military Education: One of the first things you should do is get current on your military education.  Complete any required OES/NCOES Schools that you need to so you are eligible for promotion to the next rank.  You should also see if there are any relevant correspondence courses, distance learning courses or professional development courses that will sharpen your skills.

2. Finish Your Degree: If you are an Officer, consider pursuing your Master’s Degree.  This is a great way to separate yourself from your peers.  For NCOs, I’d suggest finishing out your two-year, four-year or Master’s Degree, whatever pertains to you.  In both examples, this will make you more valuable to the Army and will help with your promotion to the next rank.

3. Get Some Diversified Army Experience: This would be a great time to get a second MOS or additional Officer Branch.  Or, you could get an additional ASI or Career Field.  Consider pursuing a new MOS or branch that excites you and gives you a better chance for getting promoted.  You might also want to look for a new Army job doing something you’ve never done before, such as recruiting, instructor, TAC, etc.

what i would do differently in my military career4. Decide What You Really Want in Your Career: I’ve always found that after a deployment is a good time to reflect.  If you know you won’t be deploying again anytime soon, you might want to re-look at some of your career goals and decide what you want to achieve in your military career.  It might be a good time to consider OCS, WOCS, changing career fields, etc.

5. Retire, Resign or Leave the Military: For a select group of people, now is the time to get out, resign or retire.  If you joined the Army to deploy, and you successfully did that, maybe you’re ready to move on to bigger and better things.  If you’re eligible for retirement, check out your options to see what is best for you and your family.  Another option might be to transfer to a TDA unit or the IRR/ING for a temporary break.

6. Focus on Your Civilian Career: One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to focus on your civilian career.  If you know you aren’t going to deploy again soon, you should make your civilian career your top priority.  Pursue new opportunities in your current career if you enjoy what you are doing, or maybe even start a new civilian career altogether.

7. Enjoy Life: My final tip is simply to enjoy life.  Spend time with friends and family. Pursue new hobbies and things that interest you.  Spend time with your spouse and kids and the people who are important to you.  Most importantly, enjoy you!  Spend some time learning more about who you are, what you want in life and what makes you happy. Travel, take a road trip, go on vacations, or do something on your bucket list.

Final Thoughts

These are seven things you can do to excel in your military career, now that the OPTEMPO and deployments within the ARNG and USAR are really slowing down.  I hope you found the information helpful.  What are your thoughts? What advice do you have for Officers and NCOs in the ARNG and USAR now that the Army is doing a draw-down?  Leave a comment and let us know.

11 thoughts on “Career Advice for Army Soldiers Coming Back from Deployments”

  1. I think focusing on a civilian career is a lot more important for a deployed soldier coming back to an Army National Guard or Army Reserve unit than it is for AD soldiers. With that in mind, getting your degree is the best thing you can do.One of the things I always mention to soldiers coming back and looking for a job is to check the government listings, including federal, state, and local. So many federal jobs just require a degree. If you don’t have one, use the benefits of being in the Guard to get one. You would think a federal job would want someone with a degree in that specialty area, but you’d be surprised at the number of them that don’t require anything of the sort. For example, I knew an Engineering Department Manager that had a degree in Renaissance Literature and I knew a Claims Representative with the Social Security Administration that had a degree in Biochemistry.

    1. Yes, ARNG and USAR Soldiers must be really focused on their civilian careers, even while they are away. And yes, getting a degree while you are away is also a good thing.

  2. That is right: take the so-called “down-time” to educate and develop yourself. Pursuing a degree is the most obvious course, but I also agree with your recommendation to work on your civilian career, perhaps even considering changing it. Do not let the time slip away: invest in yourself and prepare for whatever is yet to come. Spend the time with your family, too. They are what is most important, after all.

  3. I had a great conversation with my husband and his experience when he was getting out. He shared that he went into depression because he was 25 and no one was hiring him. He was frustrated because he had authority and made critical decisions, was in charge of so many men, and millions of dollars in equipment and suddenly his options were flipping burgers? For people getting out, perhaps a civilian transition team/head hunter should be offered.

  4. Faith A. Coleman

    Good advice for people starting another phase of life. I’ve seen such heart-breaking documentaries, of soldiers who return from deployment and finds high unemployment, or lack of understanding, perhaps doesn’t have skills that match the work that’s available. On top of that they’re trying to get used to being back in the US, and home life takes a while to readapt and iron out the respectives roles of the soldier and family. The army has a higher than average incidence of domestic violence, compared to the general population, but I’m surprised it isn’t even higher. That stress is off the charts.

    1. The biggest problem that soldiers face is that they don’t have a game-plan on what they are going to do. They just expect everything to magically fall in place when they get back from a deployment. Things never work out that way. What they should be doing is getting everything lined up while they are still deployed, so there are no surprises when they get home.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        Chuck, I agree that Soldiers should spend some time before they come home to make a game plan. Deployments are never a guarantee, and not something to base your life on. I am always thinking of contingency plans, because with the Army, you can’t count on anything until you’re already there, and even then…

  5. This is really important advice, especially when it comes to getting an education, switching careers, and focusing on family. Personal development can lead to greater job satisfaction, and less stress all around, which is why I love that you advise soldiers to step back and reflect upon their experiences in order to discover the next phase in their life’s adventure.

  6. Amy Skalicky

    Great thoughts, Chuck, particularly pointing soldiers in the direction of getting current on their military education as well as finishing their degrees. For those considering leaving the military, has some excellent online information and resources, including an online skills translator. The military also offers career counselors and education service officers to assist soldiers with the decision-making process. There are also a number of schools participating in the Yellow Ribbon Program, and more information is available at Soldiers should carefully consider all options, using their time and resources in the best way possible, whether they are considering continuing their education or taking a vacation.

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