Jim Green - Military to Civilian Transition

Business Systems Analyst, EJ Gallo Winery
U.S. Army, Career Counselor, Master Sergeant

Orion placed me back in 2006 as a Team Leader with EJ Gallo Winery. Previously I was an 79S54A4, E-8, in the Army assigned to 11th ACR, Fort Irwin, CA. I was not ready for the civilian world when I transitioned. I had done two back-to-back deployments to Iraq and had not taken time to prepare for my transition. When I returned the second time, I was eight months from retirement with three months of terminal leave. I was behind the proverbial 8-ball. I firmly believe if not for Orion, I would still be struggling today. Orion helped me land a job at almost twice the salary I had been hoping for.

Had I had time to prepare, I would have been able to apply myself more and get my resume out to more potential employers rather than the frantic search I was having. The funny thing is, I had applied for an extension to stay in the Army five extra months, but it had not yet been approved, so I was presented with my retirement ceremony in March 2006. While at the ceremony, I got the call from my Orion recruiter. He spoke to me like he knew me and had lots of suggestions for me. I had stepped out of the ceremony to take the call and returned with the burden lifted.

My recruiter coached me on the interview process more than once, and, as a result, of my 8 - 12 first interviews, I was asked back to three for follow-up interviews. One of the employers, a plumbing and hardware company, offered me a job. I was eager to jump on that offer, as I was "hungry" for a job, but I held out for Gallo, which ended up providing me with a starting salary half again as much as the plumbing and hardware company was offering.

My leadership and technical skills initially got me hired. During the interview process the habit of speaking and manners of speaking to an officer came in handy to convey to the interviewer that I was respectful and had leadership experience. The main concern Gallo had when they were doing the interview was leadership experience, and, after twenty six years in the military, it was easy to demonstrate both experience and potential.

My job at EJ Gallo Winery has been a great experience, and I firmly believe Gallo is one of the best civilian employers. I started out in a basic level leadership position, where I led a team of 35 drivers who shipped wine every night, five nights a week. From there, my knowledge enabled me to take a position in Inventory Control as a Business Systems Analyst. The opportunities are endless here, as well, as they have great retirement benefits and an annual pay raise based on performance. All of this makes for a great employer.

The take-charge attitude that is inherent in the military came in handy one night when we had a fork truck catch fire, and there was a group of employees standing around not sure what to do. I grabbed a nearby extinguisher and doused the fire; and, when the flames had subsided, I removed the external fuel tank eliminating any possible danger to the people standing around. (I was recognized by the company for this.) I do believe the experiences I had in an unsafe environment enabled me to keep a cool head and take charge.

I would tell job-seeking veterans to be prepared for the unexpected. Additionally I would advise them that, in addition to following the advice of the Orion professionals, be open and prepared, and work on your resume.

Veterans have endured change, and, to that point, they can adjust to anything. The "can-do" and "get-it-done" attitude that is typical of the military mindset makes us different from our civilian counterparts. Veterans have had the task of proving themselves, and a veteran who is retiring has done the things needed to get the job done for quite some time. It is qualities like these that make a veteran a good asset to any company they join.