The Construction Veteran Podcast

Navigating New Terrain: From Navy Chief to Civilian Professional with Tony McCall

October 22, 2023 The Construction Veteran
The Construction Veteran Podcast
Navigating New Terrain: From Navy Chief to Civilian Professional with Tony McCall
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered about the journey from a military service member to a civilian professional? In this engaging conversation, I sit down with Tony, an accomplished veteran who transitioned from the Navy into the civilian construction industry. We explore his fascinating career trajectory from his South Carolina roots in 2002 to his deployments in Kuwait and Iraq, and his eventual decision to leave the Navy. Listen closely as we delve into his involvement with Dev Group, a special workforce development program, and explore the screening process he underwent.

The second part of our conversation covers Tony's transition from being a Navy Chief to navigating the civilian working world. We shed light on his unique experiences, the cultural differences between military and civilian roles, and the plethora of opportunities for those transitioning from the military. Tony's journey to his current role at RK&K, a leading architect and engineering firm, is a testament to the vast scope of opportunities available for veterans in the civilian landscape. 

In the final segment, Tony generously shares a wealth of advice for anyone transitioning from the military to civilian life. We delve into the power of veteran networks and how his military experience has shaped his approach to interacting with people in the construction industry. We also dive into his involvement with the Honor Foundation and the Transition Assistance Program (TAP), emphasizing the importance of reaching out to industry veterans for support. So grab your headphones and join us for an insightful discussion on the transition from the military to the civilian world and the abundant opportunities that lie therein.

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Speaker 1:

You got X amount of projects under your belt. You've deployed here, you deployed there, but really, what it comes down to is how can you fill this role and how does it? How do you add value to our team?

Speaker 2:

This is the Construction Veteran Podcast Construction Veteran Podcast Connecting and celebrating veterans in construction. Now here's your host, scott. Friend Guys, this is an episode I've been really excited to bring to you. A fellow CB who is a retired chief served with some amazing organizations in and out of the service. Welcome, tony McCall. Let's dig into it. Hey, tony, what's going on man? Hey, how's it going? Scott, good man. Hey, I'm really glad we finally made the time. I asked you to do this back in February, so I appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah no worries, we've got a crazy schedule.

Speaker 2:

So Tony and I haven't had the opportunity to meet yet, but we connected on LinkedIn probably a year or so ago and Tony is a fellow CB, so I definitely wanted to get him on and talk about his story, and he's actually recently transitioned out of the service, so I want to talk about that and what he's getting into. But, tony, let's start off. Let's talk about your service background, what you did, when did you join? I know you retired out, so as deep as you want to get, OK, yeah, so originally from Florence, south Carolina.

Speaker 1:

So when I joined the Navy I joined out of anyone that's ever going IA probably went, launched out of Fort Jackson, so that's where my, my MEP station was at. So background in I did. I welded for about two years in high school. The vocational kind of trade is real big in South Carolina. So you know the expectation is you can either go to college or you can take one of the trade courses. So I just I took, took the welding course for two years. My cousin who's actually he's an officer now but he joined and listed. He left the year prior to me came home, was telling me about the Navy. So I decided to go talk to a recruiter and I literally just say, yeah, I just want to weld. I heard you can weld into Navy. So I just, you know, I just want to weld. That's what I've been doing for the past couple of years in high school.

Speaker 1:

So left in 2002 for boot camp. I graduated May of that year and August that year left for boot camp to go to Great Lakes. Left when I was 18, turned 19 in boot camp, did my time out there in Great Lakes, of course, still work at a school down in Gulfport, mississippi, I in a school you know you do your dream sheet and I put down all Mississippi battalions because I was from South Carolina. So I was like, yeah, you know, I want to kind of stay close to home. They sent me out to the, to the West Coast, and I honestly think that's probably one of the, as far as the earlier part of my career, one of the best things that could have happened to me. It really got me out of my comfort zone, sent me to a completely different state, a completely different region of the United States, met a lot of good people out there, first command NMC before I did that first push into when the OIF one start started. So I did that first push over into Kuwait, camp 93 and into Iraq.

Speaker 1:

I think that first deployment was about eight months. I want to say we did roughly like six, six between Kuwait and Iraq, and then we actually finished the end of that deployment in Guam on the way back to back to Port Wainimi. Did another home port in Port Wainimi I think the home ports then were like, I think there were nine months. So did a nine between nine to 12 months? Did a nine month home port, push back out for my second deployment to Iraq where we were in Fallujah initially, main body as far as Iraq and I pushed to what was called FOP CalSU at that time. Another six month deployment out there came back and I finished up my tour at NMC before and at Sugi, japan, and at Sugi is when I met Grant Glover and I think he's an officer now LDO. When I met him he was a B1. I think Grant's like he might be a Lieutenant Commander or Commander now, but at the time he was like, hey, because I was going to get out of the military. I was like, yeah, I did my time, I was interested in getting out and just pursuing school full time. And then at Sugi he was like, hey, you should look in the screening for Dev Group. And I was like, well, what's that? And he was like you should look in screening for Dev Group. It's a special work for development. I was like, okay, what is that? It's like just screen forward. You know, I'll put in a good word for you.

Speaker 1:

At the time Percy Trent was a senior chief out there. So when we got back to and actually Googled it, I couldn't find anything. I was like what is he telling me to do? You know what I mean. I was like, all right, cool, I mean because I trusted him at the time, you know. So got back to Waini Mee, percy and a few of the guys from Dan that came out to do. It's almost like, you know, they just come to tell people about the command in Waini Mee and what was funny is I was it was Tommy Carter, retired master chief was like, hey, they're waiting for you over in the training classroom and I missed the brief. But actually walking over to the training classroom across paths with Percy and there was a B1. I can't remember the same. So I was like, oh you, yes, w2. I was like, yep, that's me. So I went into the classroom. He showed me the video, invited me out to Virginia Beach to screen came out, flew out to Virginia Beach, screen did the. I think we did some PT. You know you have to do like a psyche valve and all that good stuff and it got picked up. So from NMC before I came over to NSWDG, out in Virginia Beach Awesome time, probably one of the biggest turning points in my career Did some pushes to Afghanistan at the command, lots of training all over.

Speaker 1:

Any, any any of the guys or guys that ever served at Damneck knows that. You know there's a lot of. You know you deploy but there's a lot of work up, so there's a lot of training and stuff within the state. So did my time at Damneck awesome time and at that point is when I actually made a decision that you know I think I'm going to make the Navy a career.

Speaker 1:

Prior to going to Dev group I actually said that I wanted to go to Bud's. So I actually had aspirations of being a team guy before I got to Damneck. So got to Damneck and a lot of people don't know this about me, there's a few people but I actually made first class at my seven year mark, roughly around seven years in the Navy, and at the time you couldn't go to Bud's as a first class. So I declined advancement to first class because I was you know I was dead set on getting out to Coronado. So decline advancement, went to pre Bud's left left Damneck, went to pre Bud's up in Great Lakes, went out to Coronado, california. Awesome time, you know. Physically obviously it was. It was very demanding. But coming out of the the you know my time at the base I was. I think at that point I had been a good. I had been probably about a good eight years on sea duty, so I had pretty much been at a high op temple since I came into the military. So from four.

Speaker 1:

And then you know all the deployments over at Damneck, taking my wife at the time newly married, out to California and to the seal pipeline just didn't work out. So for the sake of my family, I had to, you know, I had to make the decision to drop from training out there, so drop training from Bud's back to Virginia where I went to pick up orders to little Creek, got to little Creek, put first class back on a lot of good projects out there, a lot of good people. And I think you were debt DC at the time, which we didn't know obviously. But yeah, yeah, and I was down at little Creek and I think I mentioned to you when Hurricane Sandy kicked off we launched from here over at little Creek and we went up to I think it was a Coast Guard base I can't remember what it was, but like you know, cleanup chainsaw, you know taking on trees, clearing stuff out, and we pull back into DC and we finish our, but I think we convoy. Yeah, actually we convoyed on the way back back down to little Creek. From little Creek, tool two went out to battalion and MCB five. So back to California with my wife and two young kids at that time. That's where I put on chief deployments to I get it to the Oki and I finished up in Diego Garcia. I was OSC for Diego Garcia, came back from that deployment, went out to Annapolis, to US Naval Academy, for it was actually a UT billet and it was his name, ryan got his last name.

Speaker 1:

He was the detailer at the time. He was like hey, you know, I have these. I have this billet to US Naval Academy. It's a facilities billet, it's a UT billet, but I don't have any UT's right now to take this slot. Are you willing to go out to Annapolis? I think I. You know, we sat on my wife and I sat on it, talked about it for like a day or two and reached back out to a Ryan Gerdin, that's his name and I was like, yeah, man, I'll take them. So went out to Annapolis and I actually went to Annapolis with the intent on I positioned myself for senior chief and rolling back either to the battalion or to San Diego but got out to Annapolis, got on a shore duty man. It was like I think I was showing up at like zero nine, getting off at like Wow 1530. I was like there's no way I could give this up you know and roll back to battalion deploying FTX.

Speaker 1:

So from there, the good thing about the Annapolis area is you're so close to you know DC, really, the DMV in general, so there's a lot of opportunities. And as I started to kind of look at the opportunities whether I decide to because at the time before I retire I didn't know if I wanted to go facilities management or if I wanted to stay on the construction management kind of project management side, but either way there was a lot of opportunities and I just I was. You know, I was like well, I'm already here, I'm already on the East Coast. You know my family's up in this area, my wife's, original from Virginia. I think it's a good time for me.

Speaker 1:

And the thought of going back to the battalion, I was no longer motivated. So that told me like yes, it's time to call it at 20 years. So retired out of the Naval Academy, did a skill bridge with a with the firm up in Baltimore and retired out and took a role with the as a construction manager back down in Virginia Beach. So, and that's where I'm at now, back in Virginia Beach.

Speaker 2:

Man, what an awesome adventure you had. Dude, I gotta ask too. So you said you know you got used to that lifestyle. How was it when you went from a damn neck back to the battalion too? Because that's a, that's an extremely different op tempo and lifestyle as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it was a, it was, it was a little.

Speaker 1:

It was a tough transition, Mainly from well, actually it was from damn neck to tool two. So tool two is where I kind of had to get back into the rhythm of you know like group PT and PT uniforms and you know uniforms in general, and just pretty much get back into the tempo of the battle rhythm of you know the conventional side of the Navy. So it was rough at first. I was I, you know I really didn't like it because I was just, you know so used to kind of the independence that you know we had a damn neck. But after a while, you know, just kind of you kind of get back used to it and it's like, okay, I'm here, you know that's behind me. Now it's time to look, look forward towards making first class and put it on chief. So time to shift focus and, and you know, kind of nail it down and fall back in line and get back within the standards that's required on on this side of of damn neck. So but yeah, it was definitely a transition.

Speaker 2:

Yeah and I, that's the same, going from battalion to a CBMU also and vice versa. I mean, they're just completely different lifestyles. And when I was in debt DC, we did a couple naval yard jobs like fixing up some, some restrooms, and certainly wasn't glamorous. But yeah, that was that was when I separated, was out of debt DC, and it's funny we talk about those guys coming in and discussing with you about naval special warfare because we so I'll tell you a real quick story. I don't know if I've shared this on any of my other shows, but when I was in Afghanistan we so we, we were JSOC support. There was probably 30 of us from the battalion and one of the fobs I was on. Two of the CBs that were attached to the unit were there and one of the guys he was a BU one at the time.

Speaker 2:

I was a third class when we were deployed, so went back to golf port, got stationed up in DC, picked up second class, and this guy comes into the command and I'm like hey, dude, like I haven't seen this guy in like a year. He's clean, shaving, like barely recognized him. He's like, hey, man, what's going on? And we're chit chatting. I had just submitted my paperwork to separate. I got a year early out.

Speaker 2:

My chief was not happy because I was a good sailor and I never messed up, I never got in trouble, at least I didn't get caught. But no, and that's probably the one regret I do have is not taking that opportunity to go there. I mean, I still have friends that are there and speak very highly of it. I'd say you know, even a lot of people don't know is that it's not just the SEAL team, it's a lot of the support units and you get a lot of the high speed gear too. You get a lot of the best training that you can. It's very demanding but, man, I think they pump out the best bees out there for sure, yeah, and it's a little bit of everybody over there.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I met divers over there PJ, so it's yeah, just like you said, it's not just SEALs, it's. You know, the support required for the mission over there requires a lot of different people from a lot of different communities and a lot of different backgrounds. So, yeah, it's a little bit of everybody over there.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, for sure. So I want to talk a little bit about what you do now in the industry. So is this a general contractor you're working for? Is it a construction management firm?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I work for I actually work at RK&K, so it's an architect and engineering firm. It's so on this side of the contractors, on the A&E or you know, sometimes we just say to consultants side. You know we got two of the big names are WRA in terms of the Baltimore region, where they started at, wra, and RK&K. So I started out when I first retired I was with WRA awesome company, just in the Virginia Beach area. They were still kind of building up and chasing clients. So for me it just it was basically weren't ready to, you know, to bring on, just from my perspective, to bring on a newly retired CB chief that's motivated and ready to get after it. You know what I mean. So, and for me, you know, one of the things you learn when you get out is I'm not stationed here, you know so there, if there's another opportunity somewhere else that benefits me and my family, that's what I'm going to jump on. So I was with WRA for I did my internship in Baltimore and I was with them from August to around January of this year and I came over to RK&K in the beginning of February and at WRA I worked as a construction manager.

Speaker 1:

Here at RK&K I work as a senior inspector. I work in the water, wastewater department, so utilities was brand new to me when I joined. So doing the whole kind of interview negotiating process RK&K is such an awesome company. They were like, well, we can bring you on as a CM, but we feel like we're setting up a failure because you don't have any utility experience. Or we can bring you on as a senior inspector, pay you, you know, higher rate, but we can get you out in a field, get you familiar with pump stations, get you familiar with HTTP, megalugs, force mains, all that, all the lingo that I know now, the stuff that I know now that I didn't know at the time. So right now I work as a senior inspector. So in Hampton Roads area, projects over in Hampton, hortsmouth, chesapeake, south Hampton County. So but yeah, right now I work as a senior inspector, which goes hand in hand on this side all the military goes hand in hand with construction manager.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, let me touch base on a couple of things you said. So I appreciate that. You said you know you're not stuck where you're at when you transition out. Yes, and I think a lot of, at least me. I felt that way like I had nowhere else to go but DC. Obviously, looking back, the world was my oyster at the time and I want to encourage people to do that that if the opportunity's there. I mean man, I've worked overseas on the civilian side too. There's so much opportunity.

Speaker 2:

You were in a unique position. I haven't interviewed a lot of people that retired out a couple of handful but I want to talk to you about what was it like, because you came from the engineering side and for those who don't know, I mean a chief is that's a senior NCO rank in the Navy. How was it transitioning out as a chief and getting into the working world? Because I think a lot of folks get out and I've had to have these tough conversations with folks that they want to get out and become this senior you know, project manager, the senior level and they're just not. They don't have enough experience yet, even though they do have a very impressive resume from the service. How did you face that?

Speaker 1:

So the as cliche as it sounds through networking. So networking really gave me an opportunity to talk to people that really put it in perspective. Forming Between that and man, I will say I tell people all the time that I started my transition like 24 months out. So I was like literally studying job descriptions and just reading through it and looking at what I had done in the military and looking at what the civilian sector was looking for and just you know, just kind of it put it things in a perspective for me. And one thing I learned about the civilian sector is they stick to whatever that job description is. It's like okay, cool, you got X amount of projects under your belt, you've deployed here, you deployed there. But really what it comes down to is how can you fill this role and how does it? How do you add value to our team via this role so they'll not acknowledge your? You know your military service and all that. But it's how do you fit in this role? And when it comes to you, know you, starting on Monday at eight o'clock, are you going to be ready to go? Can you? Can you execute? Because it's all about money, you know. I mean it's all about you being billable versus non-billable. You know I mean it's all about taking care of the clients and all that.

Speaker 1:

The good thing about retiring for at least for me, retiring as a chief is the pace and and what you have on your plate as a Navy chief or just is, it's like, unheard of on this side. You know, I mean for me, just at the Naval Academy, I mean I was facilities, I was semi-o, I had four civilians that worked for me in the department you know I was. You know at in facility is obviously a zone between the common on of the midshipmen and the NAFEC there. So from that perspective you get, you realize that you're, you're well prepared to get on this side of the fence and pretty much take on whatever, whatever they throw your way. So me personally and I guess it's just me, but the stress level is significantly lower on this side, just despite, you know, being on the project and, you know, verifying that the contractors don't what they're supposed to do. I don't have any troops, I don't have to do any evils, I don't have to get off, I don't have to lead the job site at the end of the day and they will knock out, you know, ten midterms. It's. It's my job is a senior inspector. Here's the contract, here are the specifications, here are the drawings. You know, take care of it, make it happen.

Speaker 1:

It's a pretty independent job, but I can't see how people will come out and you know, as a chief and look to transition into a senior project management role or, you know, in some cases, maybe look at targeting a vice president role. It's just that's just not how it works. Yeah, but it's best to talk to people and allow them to help you manage your expectations, because at the end of the day, there's still there's still a road map. So where you're looking at now probably doesn't work for you now. Maybe it works four to five years from now. But between the time you get out and that you know that point, you do selects. I don't know, maybe you do hit that senior project management role.

Speaker 1:

There's a lot of stuff in between that you're going to need to learn. You're gonna need to learn the culture. You're gonna need to learn who the clients are, because sometimes there's exact same people every single time and they have expectations. You're gonna need to learn the people just how things work and and you kind of it's kind of like in a Navy, especially in a battalion. You can't really explain it. But after you've been there for a little bit you just kind of get into the flow of things. You know how things work, you know how the deployment cycle feels. You know how coming off deployment feels. The same thing out here in the civilian sector, but it's it's best to keep an open mind and make sure you talk to as many people as possible so you know what you're getting into yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head with the realistic expectations, because I think there are a lot of these folks that they consider themselves like transition experts, mm-hmm.

Speaker 2:

That will beef people up to think, yeah, you know, you did 20 years in you're, you're a vice president, but I, I think there's there's a mutual contact of ours. I'll leave his name on name right now, but he retired out as well and he was humble enough to take an assistant position, mm-hmm, I mean, he retired after 20 years, but because he knew, you know, hey, I've got all this experience. I might be working around guys in their late 20s, but he has all this experience behind him and he's, he's gonna climb the ranks pretty fast. Yes, exactly, and I think folks need to hear that like, hey, man, I, I, I've had these discussions with chiefs, you know master sergeants at recruiting fairs and it kills me because I know, in their position, I mean this is a top dog.

Speaker 2:

Right, chiefs are on the Navy. We know that, mm-hmm. And it's very difficult to look that guy in the face to say, hey, you know you. Just you don't, you're not gonna fill that role of this senior. What have you? However, if you're humble enough to take a more junior role. You know you're gonna climb the ranks and I think that's more of a pride thing.

Speaker 1:

Most people need to get over absolutely.

Speaker 2:

I mean you're already making decent cash retiring out, having that paycheck monthly from that. So it's not. It's not a money thing. The money will come. I mean money's in this industry, for sure I do, I. So one point I'll disagree with you on, only because I'm a superintendent. Mm-hmm, if you do transition out, I can assure you it's not less stressful on the superintendent because I interact with this.

Speaker 1:

Well, I will say this on the contractor side. I can't speak for the contractor side because I talk to those soups every day and I have no clue how they do it like how they you know you're. You got guys on the job site that I've seen to where they just completely ignore the superintendent. So you got to manage the people on the job site. You got to manage the expectations from the general superintendents as well as the owners, us on the consultant side, who represent the client. So, yeah, I would agree absolutely.

Speaker 2:

I do think it's such a good transition, though for guys that have been in our position to go into that role. I mean I I will preach to the day I die that I think you know guys coming out of any kind of engineering in the service whether it be Corps of Engineers, cbs what have you? The transition, at least from the enlisted side into the field, some sort of a field management position is is so perfect because it's what we're used to. I mean, I've told the people I work with before that this feels like the team that I was down range with. So let me ask this what do you think is your biggest takeaway from the service that you use now in the role you're in?

Speaker 1:

I would say so. When I first got out I felt like I was constantly looking for. I'm so used to commander's intent and so used to expectations being communicated early and being communicated often that when I got out and I realized, okay, that's in some places, at least where I was at that's not really a thing To me. It varies, it varies who our client is, it varies by project. But I think the biggest takeaway for me is just my patience. I don't get flustered throughout the day. I try to, and the chief in me is humble enough to where I'll ask a thousand questions. I'll confirm and reconfirm. I don't wing it, I don't shoot from the hip and I know that a big part of that is because you can't do that in front of troops.

Speaker 1:

When I was in front of a platoon I couldn't just wing it. I had to be straightforward with whatever I'm talking about, with whatever the expectations were and handing the COs, the platoon commander's expectation, down to the troops. But that's one of the big things. I've learned that if I don't know, especially because there's so much money involved with a lot of these projects maybe we're talking about 10, $15 million projects that the military side of me knows how to ask questions, knows how to sit back and observe, knows how to take advice from everybody, from the general laborer on the job site to the superintendent, to the foreman, and just really that teamwork mindset which can be weird on the outside because it's like we're not a team, this is all business or whatever, but for me, the mentality in terms of how to interact with people, I'm still thinking we're caught all under the same umbrella.

Speaker 1:

I do realize that this is the civilian sector internally, but that approach helps me when I'm engaging with people. It helps me not be the veteran that deployed Afghanistan and Iraq and what is this guy gonna do? I'm one of you now. I'm in your world. This is. I've been out I'm coming up on a year now, so it's still fairly new, but I feel more comfortable on this side now and that was one of the things I was worried about. But for sure, just 20 years in the Navy does wonders when it comes to getting out on the side and engaging with people. I would say the people side of it, if you take away the kind of technical things in the jargon engaging with people. You've learned that for sure from being in the military.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I strongly believe that relationships are the most important thing in this industry, no matter what role you play, and I would agree that the industry it's similar in some regard to the military, and the guys that I've seen that are the most successful have that mentality, whether they served or not, that, though we are in a different part of the pecking order or the contractual order, that we're all working towards the same goal. And I mean honestly, nobody wants to work around somebody that's just kind of looking out for themselves and, yes, we have our own companies to protect. However, we've got that same building to build. Let me ask this If you were to go back and maybe change something about your route, I mean, within the last year, do you think there's anything that you would have done differently, maybe to prepare or anything at all?

Speaker 1:

Not really only, because I'm a true believer and everything happens for a reason and your route that you take, whether the negative things that happen or the positive things, they kind of play a role. So what I did retiring out of the military and joining my first company has played a role in where I'm at right now, because I think that if I would have got out and I would have went somewhere else, who knows what I would have done or who knows what my perspective would be on my role as a construction manager or senior inspector? I would have never saw myself being a senior inspector, retiring out of the military. But that's the way the route took me. I would say.

Speaker 1:

If I could change one thing, I think I would probably dig a little bit more into the differences between the contractor side and the consultant owner's representative side, that whole design, build, build, build piece. Because, to be honest with you, until probably I don't know maybe four months out after retiring, that's when I realized I'm like, oh okay, so there's a contractor world is completely different than where I'm at over here on the consultant side and being on the job site, which is why I love it now, the job site with the contractor that I work with out there, the crew, the foreman and all that. It reminds me of the CB. So that is I. Actually I can relate to those guys out there and I think that's why I have a good relationship, even though I'm the inspector out there representing the owner.

Speaker 1:

When I'm speaking to them I get it because I've been there. I've been on the, I've been the crew leader putting rebar in the ground, I've been out there as a project supervisor. So I kind of speak, I know what they're going through. It's hot. You know what I mean. We're sweating, we gotta take a quick break. All that good stuff. Even though I'm out there, I'm clean, I got my iPad just kind of taking notes, taking pictures and stuff like that. But I think it all goes back to relationships. But I think, yeah, if I could go back, if I could have really dove a little deeper in the difference between the contractor side and kind of the consultant, architect, engineer firm side.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's good and I appreciate you sharing that too, cause I mean it took me a little bit to figure out the industry as well, cause we're trained, at least in the bees.

Speaker 2:

It's mostly like residential type code, I would say, and stick framing and that kind of stuff, and so the commercial world is completely different. But I've had that experience too, so I'm glad to hear you say that when it opens a lot of doors with guys when they know that, hey, I've been there up to my knees and mud. I understand how hard this is, it sucks, but we're here together and I'm able to kind of rally the troops and I'm not just some guy with no experience that came out with a degree and trying to tell them what to do. And I don't want to take away anything from people that have had that path by any means, but it takes a little longer when you take that path to really gain the trust and respect of your team. I want to ask you too, can you talk a little bit about the honor foundation, because I know you went through the program for folks who don't know what that is. Let's talk about what they do, who they serve.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so the honor foundation was started as a basically a route for individuals on the naval special warfare side Well, really the spec force side, military wide. If I remember correctly, it was kind of like this opportunity to connect high speed, high performing people with individuals in the civilian sector that could use that. That could use a person that has been type A redlining it for like the past 10 years to transition over and kind of go from military through the honor foundation and right over into a company that could really use that. The honor foundation is the way I was able to apply and get accepted is because I have a special warfare, naval special warfare background. One of my close friend of mine, chris Norris, he actually told me about it and he was like, hey, you should look at honor foundation. You had time over at Damneck so you can put an application. There's a letter of recommendation and all that stuff and kind of like a little interview piece.

Speaker 1:

But it's an awesome opportunity for anybody on the spec force side or that has any relationship with the spec force side to really go through a in depth kind of eye opening transition from military rather on the civilian enlisted officer side to go through that process and it's eye opening. It definitely was for me. It kind of puts things in perspective for you. It was humbling and it took a lot. It takes a lot of effort to get through that entire process, but it's good for sure. I can honestly say that the honor foundation is why I'm at where I'm at, because my mentality towards transition was completely different prior to day one of the cohort versus my last year of cohort where it was like, okay, yeah, I had the whole transition being completely wrong. So a lot of resources, a good network it's how I came across you throughout directory. But yeah, for sure, anybody that has the opportunity that can qualify for that program should really look into it.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it's grown exponentially over the last few years too, which is really neat yeah absolutely. Because I believe at first it was just folks who filled, who came from that type of billet that were like the top tier operator guys, and then they expanded it out to the support folks, which is very encouraging. I think they're capturing a lot more people that way. Were you required still to go through TAP? Is that correct, even though you went through the?

Speaker 1:

honor foundation. Yes, I wanna say I went through TAP. The year that I went through the honor foundation. I think I went through TAP like that May, april, may and went through THF that summer. So I actually did both within a year.

Speaker 2:

What was your TAP experience? Like Good, bad, indifferent.

Speaker 1:

You know what? I heard a lot of bad things about TAP class and the way I viewed it. I was like you know, they're doing the best with what they have, because mine, for me, it was all virtual and you're talking about five days to cram as much information down people's throats as you can. I think they probably could scale back. Maybe that's too much information. Maybe they should probably look at how they structure the curriculum. Maybe there's some stuff that should be a follow-up email. Hey, look into this, hey, get familiar with this and spend that kind of tap time looking at people's resumes.

Speaker 1:

I think resume, the resume portion could be longer, or maybe not the actual resume portion, like completing an end tap. But individuals need to be pointed to resources to help with resumes, to help with interview prep. It's just, it's a lot of hey, here's this stuff that you can use, use it how you see fit, but I get it. I mean, who knows how many tap classes they had to put through that? The people that run it have to put through it, at least as far as Annapolis so. But I think there's a lot of. I think a lot of people view it negatively and for me, definitely after going through THF, it's like wow. Looking back at tap, it's like man, that was not enough for me. So, but I think, from what I understand, they're really taking a lot of good feedback and they're looking at revamping it. At least I hope so, but yeah, yeah, it requires a lot of work on your. If you're relying solely on tap, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Speaker 1:

Tap- should just be one tool in your toolbox and from there it's a good way to leapfrog. So when you go back through and look at what they gave you, you should be diving into those links, diving into those manuals, and really it's just gonna take a lot of effort on the individual's part.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I'd love to see how much it's changed. I mean, I separated from active duty in 2011. I didn't have the greatest experience just because I knew I wanted to be in this industry somehow and I was thankful that I had. I had a LinkedIn at the time and, looking back, you're right, man, they give you the to-do list, they give you everything that you need to do, but I would encourage people and I don't. You said it was cliche earlier, but I think it's great You're connected on LinkedIn to all these people who know people and most folks, I think, are willing to say hey, I know a guy who might be able to help you out, and so that's huge. So you're still under year getting out. Have you met many other veterans within the industry so far?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I have. Actually I've met quite a few. It was pretty cool to get out and see that within at least the construction industry we have our own, even smaller, community of veterans. So I've met quite a few. It's cool. I've met some Army guys, other Navy folks, so it's been pretty, it was comforting and they're like okay, cool. So I and those people I can reach out to them because they get it. You know what I mean. So reach out to them, we kind of help each other out. We help each other, at least for me being kind of the new guy, the vets that have been out for a while, hey, have you looked into? Hey, the society of American military engineers is doing a lunch next week. You know what I mean.

Speaker 1:

Just a heads up Great organization yeah absolutely, and I'm a member of because of a vet, so stuff like that. Like hey, just a heads up, you know they're looking for someone to join the to help out with small business and stuff like that. So but yeah, for sure On the vet. As far as vets, I could reach out right now to someone if I needed some help or some feedback or some support, a mentorship.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's really cool and I'll tell you, at least from my experience too, there's that, there's this instant trust usually with that vet. I mean, you kind of know what their mentality is and you know what they're. They're gonna have some integrity most of the time, and so it comes with that level of comfort that, hey, this is probably somebody I can depend on. Even if they were goerb engineers, I'll forgive them for that. And we still continue to crap talk.

Speaker 1:

And I love it, man, I mean.

Speaker 2:

I've talked with clients that these are guys you know I'm on the general contractor side and we'll have clients that served and it's like you know, hey, here's this high net worth individual but all of a sudden you're chatting like old buddies, is all you serve with there and oh, I know this guy and it's just really neat and that opens even more doors. So that's really neat. So other vets in the industry right now. So I hope you never experienced this. This industry can certainly beat you down a lot. It's very difficult, nothing like a deployment or anything, but you can certainly get burned out. I'd like to hear your take, especially you know, as a chief, you are there really to help your troops more than anything, I would say. And I want to hear your take. If you have vets that are really just dragging and struggling right now, because we as an industry need people, we're doing a lot more with a lot less resources right now. What would you try to say to them to encourage them as far?

Speaker 1:

as that to come into our industry.

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, or in the industry Get ahead of me. Now you know my next question no more so. Like I'll be honest, like I've been burned out before in this industry, it'll just tear you up and it's hard to not do that just because there's long hours. But you know, you pile that on top of the mental health issues we already have as veterans too, and some guys just become hopeless. So what would you want to say to somebody that's in that situation?

Speaker 1:

Well, I guess it kind of ties back into the conversation. You know, just now we're, they're not alone. So there's a huge network of vets that you can reach out to within the industry. You know what I mean, no matter if it's on the general contract side or you know where I'm at and most likely one of those vets is going to get it. You know they're going to understand exactly what you're going through. So I would say, just like we tell our troops, like you know, if you have any issues, you can come reach out to me. If you don't want to reach out to me, can you at least, you know, reach out to your fire team leader. If you don't feel comfortable reaching out to your fire team leader, you know, go go see the talk with the talk with one of the RPs or the chaplain. So same rules apply.

Speaker 1:

I would say on this side. You know, if you're feeling burnt out, you're feeling drained, you know absolutely. You know let's, let's talk about it and reach out and take it from there. You know what I mean. Absolutely, and sometimes it's one of those things I used to tell the troops all the time. At least the chief selects absolutely. I used to tell the troops that sometimes we honestly leadership just doesn't know we're under the perspective, the well. I'm sorry. We only have the impression that you're feeling, that you're good to go. At least that's how you're presenting yourself. Sometimes it's a matter of going in and saying, hey, I'm just I'm not feeling it, I'm not feeling good, you know, I don't like. I don't like how I feel right now, and the same thing applies on this side of events, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm curious about you. Know, it's been over a decade since I got out and at least at the time I feel like we were getting to the point where people were becoming more understanding about the mental health issues. And had you seen that improve? You know, here in the last couple of years in the service I think I have yeah, for sure, and especially being on the CMEO side.

Speaker 1:

So, knowing like a lot of the resources, I think sometimes, because you know I would speak at every command and dog and I think sometimes you kind of get used to you know, here's a schedule. This person's talking at zero nine, this person's talking at 10. I'm talking at 11. You know, maybe I'm in the middle of doing something which I always was prior to, you know, hopping online and doing the end doc or doing it in person, but for sure, there's a lot of resources.

Speaker 1:

Now, as far as those resources being advertised via leadership and being pushed out via leadership, that's a different conversation, but I think it's there, you know, I think I don't think we've reached a point where we've, you know, especially if you've been in for a while, where we can kind of pivot and realize that sometimes it's not a matter of saying it, because a lot of people are on their phones and a lot of people, you know they don't communicate verbally as much as, like maybe, we used to. They don't, they're not looking at the flyers that are hanging up. But I think if you can get past that barrier and realize that you maybe have to just communicate it to them differently or really convincing them and showing that you actually do care. I think that would help out a lot too. But I think, yeah, from my perspective for sure, in Waimimi and Annapolis for the past few years of my time prior to retiring, there was a huge push to promote mental health and service.

Speaker 2:

I'll say this that that that has also helped in the industry as well. I've seen a huge shift in the last decade plus, and I use a lot of the guys that are, you know, tier one operators as a great example. When you can have a guy that served at that level that they're willing to be outspoken about their struggles.

Speaker 1:

And.

Speaker 2:

I think I tell my guys, I'll tell them during safety stand downs Look, if the nation's finest that they have to offer the tip of the spear can go get help, so can you. And you know I'm not shy about struggles I've had. I'm very open about it and I've seen, at least within the last few years. You know I'll have guys come into my office and shut the door and they might be going through a divorce, they might have issues with their kids, maybe alcohol issues, and it's it's certainly shifting. And these aren't young guys that are coming to me either, it's just guys that have had these years of pent up issues. And now they finally got a guy that's saying hey, I get it, I've been there, let's talk. I'm really encouraged to hear that it's improving in the service as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, still a long way to go, but from my, from when I first came in up until I retired, it was a huge improvement.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and guys like my dad, who's Vietnam Air is like I eat a bunch of wussies. Yeah, exactly, suck it up. So let me, let me wrap up with this last question. And, man, I've really appreciated your time and finally getting to know you, but so you kind of got a little ahead of me. So we got folks and you're a prime example of this this is fantastic that I got you on being your so within a year of getting out. So people that are about to get out of the industry, whether they're CBs or any kind of engineering background or not, we know we need people in the industry. So what would you say to those, at least from your experience that you've had thus far, to try to encourage them to get into this industry? I would say it's.

Speaker 1:

What's funny is it's CBs were so unique in the military that even there that are people that have done the 20 years, 25 years, that really didn't know what a CB did. You know what I mean? They just knew we were camis and we had the patch or whatever. I would say talk to as many people as possible. I would probably say talk to more people on the outside versus on the inside, cause I think even within the CBs, a lot of people really truly don't know how the industry looks outside of the Naval Construction Force. Maybe have some communications with the folks over at NAFAC, because they're constantly engaging with contractors that are chasing and winning government contracts. But it's a lot of opportunity over here in the construction industry, whether you are an AO, nma, that you're thinking like you know what. I probably don't want to do this when I get out. This was cool to do a career or to do an enlistment under this rate, but I'm looking for a different opportunity. Just really, yeah, just reach out, just get on LinkedIn, obviously, and just connect and just ask questions. It's really what's gonna help you out. Just ask a bunch of questions, you know maybe, hey, take me through a typical day for you.

Speaker 1:

I think a lot of people don't understand that in the construction industry there's a, you know, the field side and then there's the office side, almost kind of corporate. So and I've seen both you know what I mean. So don't assume that if someone says construction, you're gonna be putting on steel toe boots and you're gonna be down in a trench excavating or dropping rebar in the hole. There's a lot of opportunities within our industry and it's just a matter of talking to people doing some research and you know, you never know you may find an opportunity for you.

Speaker 1:

Or another thing too is sometimes and I learned this getting out of the military sometimes you just need that first, the land, that first opportunity, the land, that first gig, because it's important that you need it. You know you need to have a role, you need to have a job, you need to bring an income, you got a family, and landing that first gig kind of puts you in a position where it's like, okay, cool, don't have to worry about the job for now. I got a nine to five, I'm good. Let's start looking beyond this. You know what I mean. So let's start looking for a pivot, and the construction industry is a good place to start and, plus again, like we have a huge veteran network, so it's really just a matter of reaching out, asking questions and most likely you're gonna get the information you need.

Speaker 2:

Well, I appreciate it, tony. That's a good answer, man, and I'm really encouraged by your journey too, and I look forward to staying in touch with you and if I can ever help you out, you know, obviously feel free to reach out. You got any closing thoughts for folks or what's the best way to get a hold of you if they have some questions?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so you can. I mean, you can find me on LinkedIn. I'm pretty responsive. So, yeah, shoot me a message on LinkedIn and just do as much research as you can prior to separating, prior to retiring, and I get it. It really is based on whatever command you're at.

Speaker 1:

I just was lucky enough to go to finish out the Naval Academy, which was very supportive of individuals that were looking to get out of the military. So, you know, I had a. It wasn't nothing for me to, you know, say, hey, can I go take a couple hours to go talk to someone? Or hey, I'm looking to take a five month skill bridge and they approve it, you know, but it's gonna take a lot of research on your part. There are thousands of people that have done it before you. There's no point in trying to do it yourself. Just reach out, ask questions, take notes. I would say listen more than you speak and just try to network with as many people as you can. Again, it sounds cliche because everyone says it, but it is so important to just network and talk and just have conversations with people and informational interviews and just study and learn as much as you can about what you're getting into and just know you got a support system. There are literally hundreds of people on just LinkedIn alone that just want to see you succeed.

Speaker 2:

It's just a matter of reaching out to those people and listening to what they have to say, so I love that man, Tony, again thank you, and my hat's off to you for sticking with it for 20 years. Thanks again, man, for your time and I look forward to chatting with you again soon. All right, brother, thanks for having me, scott.

Speaker 1:

Yes, sir, all right man have a good one.

Speaker 2:

If you're a military veteran in the construction industry or you're in the construction industry and support our military vets and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast, you can find me at constructionvetpodcastcom or send me a message on LinkedIn. You can find me there at scottfren. Let's share the stories and motivate others. Don't forget to like, subscribe and push the bell button. That way, you won't miss a orders on one chocolate set that.

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