Trails of Glory

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Message to Friends About Leaving Tucson and Career Change

Initially I planned to post a quick message to FB and let all of you know that I have been afforded a career opportunity which involves relocation to Washington, DC. Well, that turned into a blogpost because some of what I have to say is for those who really are interested and make the effort to read the blog and my message is a bit longer than the typical 100 word FB post.

I have been accepted to fill a Maintenance Officer position on the Army Resource Management Survey team based out of the DC region at National Guard Bureau. This is a start-up program so I will be stepping in at the ground level. The position is an Active Duty Operational Support tour for up to 3 years. My wife Trish, the dogs, cats, and I are moving March 1st. I will have the option to return to my current employment upon completion of the tour.

It's interesting that it is has taken 30 years of ascending the same career path ladder to finally have an opportunity to showcase my knowledge, skills, and abilities. You would think that after 12-18 years a person should have almost every qualification needed to be an expert in their field. For many in the civilian sector that may be the case. The typical person that joins the military comes from a blue-collar, lower to middle-class background with very little financial ability to seek advanced education. We typically are underachievers during our high school years, enlist in the military, gain a technical specialty, serve our country, start families, fight wars; and then maybe attend some college courses in our precious spare time taking 10-15 years attaining a Bachelor's Degree. All of this pretty much describes me.

I can recall back to basic training every step taken during my military career. I wasn't always careful about early choices especially the ones that got me in trouble or ended in divorce. After the Marine Corps and into my later 20's I gained a better awareness of the importance of military education and professional accomplishments. Before every seemingly meaningless school or absence from home I explained to Trish that each certificate or deployment created a building block. Over time all of these blocks can be assembled into a solid foundation that strengthens a Soldier and furthers their career. Becoming an Army Warrant Officer is the strongest part of my foundation and was initially built by leadership schools I attended as a younger enlisted person. You can't just stack a bunch of blocks on top of each other though; you need mortar to hold them in place.

The mortar that holds all of my blocks together has been my love of running. Yes, this is a running blog and we've finally arrived at the subject. When I re-discovered the joy and benefits of running and fitness in my mid-20's I didn't have a life-plan; I just went out and ran. Mostly I was replacing bad habits with good habits. Once I found I had a knack for running I started competing in marathons; I scored the maximum of 300 points on the Army Physical Fitness Test every time I took it; I became a member of the National Guard Marathon Team for over 20 years eventually. I received fitness related comments on evaluation report comments that went in front of promotion boards; I attained awards based on running accomplishments as well as my technical abilities. My running helped me exceed standards at every level of military leadership schooling I attended – combined with excellent academic test scores. Running has not only helped me physically but also strengthened me mentally. I think you get the point; running is the mortar that holds my foundation together.

Over the years I have dealt with superiors, peers, and subordinates who have questioned me about my dedication to running. Some have called me selfish; some said I wasn't properly focused; some were jealous; most said I was crazy; a few admired what I did and supported me. I have had to explain and defend myself countless times. I took advantage of physical training time afforded to us at work and did training runs during lunch breaks. For the most part I ran on my own time spending several hours on weekends preparing for 50 and 100-mile races. Running has helped me to meditate on how to deal with problems at work; family issues; career choices; and plain just made me feel alive.

I had a superior complain once, "There is a perception that Chase Duarte gets paid to run marathons; he doesn't know his job." "Very perceptive," I said, "But you're missing a couple things." I have gone on fitness related orders 81 times over 22 years using my earned vacation time and at the same time excelled at my job. The part my superiors never recognized was that I was responsible for influencing dozens of people to enlist in the military that were searching for direction in life and wanted to accomplish something meaningful. I also spent countless hours giving advice, mentoring, and making training plans for hundreds of Soldiers who needed help maintaining their eligibility just to stay in the military. I've influenced many Soldiers to seek a higher rank and accept challenging positions as aviators and maintenance officers. It's called recruiting, retention, and most importantly – mentorship. It's also setting the example and leading the way.

On the subject of leadership, if you are a leader then get to know your people. Have some fun at work. Don't be an asshole and don't allow assholes in the workplace. I once had a supervisor who told me, "You don't come to work to have fun; you're paid to do your job and nothing else." He was an asshole. I allow my employees to have fun. They rarely let me down. They always accomplish the mission and clean-up priorities with a sense of urgency. They're basically making me look good. I reward them often even if it is slightly under the table.  Learn from this; turn negatives into positives. It can be difficult and take time but perseverance pays off.

The last thing I want to mention here is some tidbits of advice. Take care of yourself and your career. No one will do this for you. Some people think they know what is best for you and will make decisions on your behalf without talking to you first. Don't ever allow this. When someone does talk to you, shows interest in who and what you are, and empowers you to do what you do best…recognize this as mentorship. Mentorship is a good thing but unfortunately it has become a rarity; too many people are self-serving and only concerned about their evaluation reports. Don't act self-righteous or become hypocritical in your actions. Strive to be fair and objective but also defend your morals. Improve yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Learn from life's experiences and develop some common sense. Learn from your mistakes and then quit repeating them. Set goals; short, mid, and long-term. It's ok if they seem unattainable at the time. I was good at goal-setting awhile back but I failed to make the long-term goals challenging enough, like writing and publishing a book. Now I'm in the process of doing it. Live life with a sense of adventure, get outside and soak up the sun. Don't let haters bring you down. Use experience to evaluate situations and take decisive action. Pave your own path.

The bottom line out of this rant is that you need to take care of yourself in all areas of your life. Prepare yourself for success. It may take awhile for opportunities to present themselves but when they do; you will be prepared to accept any challenge. Trish and I are looking forward to this new adventure and chapter in our lives. We're excited about the opportunity and eager to see what new experiences life has to offer.


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