Being a member of the Military In Transition Firefighter For A Day (MITFFAD) program is one that is near and dear to my heart. At MITFFAD, we assist service members leaving the military with customized educational paths and careers in the firefighting industry. As we’re still in the month of November, a month of Thanksgiving and gratefulness to our Veterans of this great Nation, I’d like to take a moment to share my story of transition from the US Army just over eight years ago.
When I left the service in 2010, my main concern was, what will I do with the rest of my life? My search for a career field began five years prior to retiring, but was still a daunting task. I knew that I wanted to do something different than what I had been doing my entire military career (Military Intelligence), just like the Service Members we help at MITFFAD. I knew that I needed additional education for what I wanted to do (Event Management), just like the Service Members we help at MITFFAD. I knew that I would need some assistance in getting to where I wanted to be post service (in my case, an entrepreneur), just like the Service Members we help at MITFFAD. What I didn’t know was how to get the assistance I needed in becoming what I wanted to be post service.
Unlike being in the service, the civilian sector, while liberating, is the near opposite of the life we live in the service. When you walk into a room with a uniform on, everyone knows who you are as your name, your unit, your branch of service, your specialty badges and the unit you served in combat with are all visible to everyone who sees you. Instant connections are made based on these visual cues. The unit you’re assigned to is like family, with a known organizational structure, protocol and traditions. You know what is expected of you and you generally have realistic expectations of others.
When Service Members leave the service and walk into a room with civilian clothes on, the complete opposite of what they’ve known all their years in service occurs. They no longer have the security of their uniform that speaks volumes as to who they are. Without networking savviness, they may not understand how important it is to make their own introductions and meet people and opportunities within their grasp.
MITFFAD is a bridge for Service Members to network, build a path for education and make connections for a career in the Firefighting Industry here in Southern California. I am grateful for this program, as the resources within MITFFAD are far reaching, filling a void and creating opportunity for our Veterans to remain here in San Diego in a profession that affords growth and good use of their team mentality. Our community is a better, stronger entity with these military members in it. Knowing the challenges that face a transitioning service member, this is a program I can stand behind.
Sincerely, Sallay Kim, Retired Army Service Member & MITFFAD Board Member