Perhaps viewing a military career as a ‘chapter’ in a life story, albeit a chapter covering a wide number of potentially extreme experiences, might enable us to place that ‘military chapter’ in a whole-life context. As Nick Wood comments, we are constantly transitioning, be that professionally, or personally. We become adults, form relationships, have children and grow older. Transition, therefore, is inevitable; whether we are in the military or not.
In terms of that military transition, it begins as soon as we join. We transition into the military, and consequently transition from being a civilian to being a member of the military. We also join the military with civilian experiences and skills, and we hone those and develop more (both applicable to the military and civilian contexts) as our careers progress. In tandem with accepting that we will one day transition out of the military, it is therefore important to realise that we can go on to deploy those enhanced skills and experiences in future civilian lives.
We have to recognise that we all leave the military at some point, even if that exit is not as we might have expected (such as in the case of medical discharge).We must also accept that some experiences might not, immediately, be seen as positive (again potentially exemplified by medical issues). But in focusing on assets accrued and honed during military service, yet recognising our ‘liabilities’ (to use Schlossberg’s transition terminology), we can attempt to manoeuvre around the latter and exploit our assets.
This is what military planners and operators constantly do in military terms in any case; the trick is to apply the same principles to both our military and civilian lives and ensure we are constantly focused on our aims — adjusting our sights and marshalling our resources accordingly. Our life mission does not begin and end with the military.
Neither is ‘mission command’ just for the military: it should apply to our lives too. We must ensure we command our lives as we transition into, through, and out of the military. While we can embrace the plethora of support available to us, we cannot afford to leave that control entirely in the hands of others.
That, to me, is the essence of continuous transition. It is a whole life process, and one that relies on us to command our life mission and manoeuvre our way through it, albeit while seeking the support of others. The responsibility is ours though; we just sometimes need help to realise and seize it. Perhaps that is where support ought to be targeted.