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HU&W

Leaving the Air Force for Something Other than the Airlines

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HU&W    603

This morning, I was reading an interesting Kellogg study on military service and its influence on CEOs (http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/benmelech/html/BenmelechPapers/MilitaryCEOs.pdf).  As I start planning for my enroute descent to retirement (it's inevitable at some point), I'm wondering what experiences and advice the grey beards have for the transition.  The airlines thread is awesome, but that's not the life for everyone.  What other options are out there for a pilot with some staff stink, a TS, and an online MBA?

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herkbum    126

I am also interested as the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. I'm almost definitely not going airlines. 

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Heavywanabe    14
2 hours ago, HU&W said:

This morning, I was reading an interesting Kellogg study on military service and its influence on CEOs (http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/faculty/benmelech/html/BenmelechPapers/MilitaryCEOs.pdf).  As I start planning for my enroute descent to retirement (it's inevitable at some point), I'm wondering what experiences and advice the grey beards have for the transition.  The airlines thread is awesome, but that's not the life for everyone.  What other options are out there for a pilot with some staff stink, a TS, and an online MBA?

Pretty much anything in the defense industry, they seem to value past mil experience the most. My company employs a ton of prior mil people in our defense sector. This is for a couple reasons, 1.)They understand how the military works and how to deal with them, doing business with a gov will make a civ (non prior) pull their hair out due to the fact that  none of how the mil deals with things makes a lick of sense. 2.) Companies see 20 years as an officer essentially as 20 years com of leadership (management) experience, which is awesome when they are deciding a salary. 3.) 1 and 2 combined with technical knowledge is a huge benefit as well.  

Aircraft manufactures also like prior mil, I've even see some gigs where you can still fly occasionally while holding a management role.   

  

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RTB    221

An old squadron bro of mine did his 20, half AD and half AGR in the reserves, and got his MBA along the way.  Through networking with his MBA class (he went in residence) he got hired as a management consultant at Bain & Company when he retired and was making VERY good money.  Through his contacts in that job, he was subsequently poached to a higher paying job and then poached again to his current job.  Dude travels a hell of a lot (way more than me as an airline guy) but is making ridiculous money now.  Seems to like it.  

Going in as a defense contractor has it's immediate perks and is a good skills fit but, depending on the job, can also have it's downsides a few years later.  Business Development is a common job guys jump into after AD.  I know a few guys who went down that path only to discover that their time of usefulness to the company was directly proportional to their still-relevant contacts on AD.  Heavywanabe has more direct knowledge as he's apparently living it, but I've seen several dudes get disillusioned by their jobs after a few years of stagnation.  The farther they got from active duty, current tactics and missions, etc, the less valuable they were for business development .  Upward mobility into higher level management was harder to do than expected.  Those jobs tended to go to folks with the civilian education and experience pedigree.  Of course there are tons of defense contractor paths besides just business development.  Initially I didn't want to go airlines and was targeting the defense industry.  What ultimately turned me away from that path was when I called to talk to a friend of mine who was living that life.  He called me back on a Sunday on his way back to work.  Turns out he was working his 7th straight day of 10+ hour days getting ready for a big presentation or something.  He was going back to the office on a Sunday cranking away with the rest of his team.  He thrived on that kind of work and pressure but it made me shudder as I was trying to get away from that kind of schedule!  

 

 

Edited by RTB

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sputnik    105
7 hours ago, herkbum said:

I am also interested as the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. I'm almost definitely not going airlines. 

Purely out of curiosity, why not airlines?

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herkbum    126

Never really interested me. I love flying, but most of the guys I talk to give the impression they do it for the paycheck. I've sat and listened to their stories for 20+ yrs and I have never walked away with the feeling that I wanted to do it. I wouldn't mind doing some other kind of flying. Dream job would be running some little GA airport. 

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sputnik    105

Interesting, hope you find it.  

I would sum up my airline impressions before I started as very similar to yours.  I just didn't have anything else I really felt like doing.  I mean, couldn't think of a single damn thing (I had several options, it's just that none of them excited me in any real way).  Couple rounds of TAP didn't change it much.  I decided to look for post mil employment through the ratio of most money for least amount of work.  And here I am.

Good luck man, it's a big world out there.  You'll find something.  Let us know what it is

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herkbum    126

Thx for the input. May be leaving next yr or yr after that, all depends on if they promote me or not (then I'm stuck for 3 yrs). Current life ain't bad-live where I grew up and where all my family is. AGR life is not anything like what you guys describe on AD, so a few more years wouldn't be the worst thing and I work with some great people.

As for civilian life, it's the great unknown since I've been doing this for 25+ years. I have a few ideas and will start putting feelers out about 10-12 months from retirement date. 

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F15E154    0

I took an upper management job at a large company away from DoD...and was completely underwhelmed.  The profit/loss work wasn't for me and I wasn't a great fit for corporate environment...so I left and went to defense contracting.  Location, Job, Salary....rank order what is important (to your family) and expect to get only 2 of the 3, many people only get 1.  Good luck!

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brickhistory    450

First scoping questions:  Are you staying where you retire?  What is the market there for employment, either working for someone or for yourself?  If moving, to where and same questions.  Have you determined your absolute mins for income/lifestyle?

Been out for 9 years now (finished out as an AGR), did defense contracting and now GS.

Original plan was for wife (retired within 6 months of me) and I to run a B&B in Sedona.  Turn-key place, year 'round 85% occupancy rate.

Unfortunately, I was in DC and had A) kid in #1 high school in nation (Thomas Jefferson) and B) retired at the height of the housing market crash.  Was over $100K upside down on my DC house and couldn't afford to walk from that AND pick up the business loan on the place in Sedona.  So...switch to back-up plans to pay bills.  Wound up staying in DC area for another four years.  Ugh...  Escaped to Omaha and now Nellis.

Started out as a contractor for Boeing; switched to GS for salary and security.

For profit, except for working for myself, wasn't attractive since the lay-off factor was high then as well as capricious now.  I'm all about capitalism but the realities of being fired/laid off for reasons beyond my control, i.e., I'm canned not because I didn't do a good job but just because (like most people do, I realize) wasn't working for me after 20 years of a guaranteed paycheck.

Basically, I consider(ed) myself institutionalized.  Being stuck in DC made that an easy mode to enter.

GS in agencies other than DoD, in my experience, sucks.  No sense of mission, no sense of team, nothing but "I got mine."  Especially nothing about the taxpayer.

Don't get me wrong, I saw unbelievable waste and "I got mine" in DoD as well and it frustrates(d) me.  But there was still that core of dudes/dudettes that care about the mission despite the Man.  Unfortunately, for fifteen years I was at Air Staff or above levels.  Empire building and not making waves are the currencies there so I wasn't happy nor considered a team player.

I'm now at the squadron/base level and enjoy it much more.  Even if the folks in uniform, as a rule, dismiss civilians, being a part, however small, of making the mission happen is rewarding.

 

 

edited to add:  Not meaning to derail the thread.  Wanted to give one perspective on defense contracting and GS route as an alternative to a guy who is able to go airline and is asking for alternatives.  I could not (without spending a metric sh1t-ton of money and time I didn't have to get my quals).   

Edited by brickhistory
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fire4effect    40
6 hours ago, brickhistory said:

Don't get me wrong, I saw unbelievable waste and "I got mine" in DoD as well and it frustrates(d) me.  But there was still that core of dudes/dudettes that care about the mission despite the Man.  Unfortunately, for fifteen years I was at Air Staff or above levels.  Empire building and not making waves are the currencies there so I wasn't happy nor considered a team player.

THIS.....DOD Civilians.....Some get it and some don't. Those with no prior military background are often, though admittedly not all, clueless to what is actually important. Like making sure the maintainers are keeping birds in the air versus spending time grinding out unrealistic risk assessments on PowerPoint and briefing them ad nauseum as gospel. This because they use numbers with no thought to how valid they are in the real world. As for most SESs, waste of damn money in my book. We could lose 75 percent of them and distribute the money to put more guys on the line or to keep the ones we have. More than a few with a pure civilian pedigree like to promote the same because it's what they know. The same civilians they've worked with for 20 years while you were out there with real skin in the game. One real kicker as I mentioned before is to hear "you need to wear a tie when briefing above Name Your Level to show your professionalism" Yep and that tie cover up YOU being 50 pounds overweight. Talk about unprofessional. These same overweight buffoons who now miss work due to bypass surgery and cost a fortune to the rest in higher medical premiums. My 0.2

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ATIS    71

Keep your TS/SCI current and see if you can get your 6 year (formerly 5 year) clock punched just before you leave...mo better.  You may not use it in your next job, but it keep other avenues open. 

Get online and take whatever free DAU courses you can ACQ101/Test 101/SE 101 type of stuff. 

I have a long sorted history but have ended up at a mid-high step GS-14 level in a program that has skin in the game and is on the front line every time things in the world get a little crazy (TLAM). The contacts I made flying Operational Test as a 03 started the networking that lead to where I am now.  I still get to go out on ships and evaluate aviation folks in my Reserve gig (and I haven't polished my Bates flight boots since the early 2000's), and fortunately the folks at Bragg have let me come back on occasion to play their game as well.  That ability to sit in a room and "talk the talk" with folks, still have POC's in warfighting areas helps a lot.  There are a lot of former Navy types (mainly surface/Black Shoe) in the program offices that support our product, which helps a ton. 

If you leave AD before you retire and take a GS job....buy back your service into FERs, and make sure you let them know of your prior service for leave calculations.  For those that are retired, they know the game they have to play with double dipping. 

GS-15 and above.  Folks have been pushing me to "put in your KLP package and reach for the ring".  I have seen very few 15's (Test and Program Management types) that are actually working systems and problems vice PPT's and managing time cards.  SES, it's all management of money/people, and "no in the trench" work.  Price you pay for moving up (just like the military). 

While every acquisition problem has its issues of the three legged triad; Cost/Schedule/Performance....and it drives me crazy, I can honestly say I am happy to be at the highest level possible managing the testing and the teams that put a terrific product out to the warfighter and results are clear.  I see a lot of folks dying in three sided cube farms at many of the bases I travel too just pushing tin and waiting for 20. 

The hard truth of DoD acquisition:  "Leave for a day everything changes, leave for a year, nothing changes".  If you can roll with that in mind, the security of a GS DoD job isn't bad.  Stay away from the P-gon.  Those folks look like they want to suck start a shotgun. 

ATIS

Edited by ATIS
Don't spell too good on one cup of morning coffee
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ATIS    71

Can't I have a well organized history Hacker?  

Although "vile/dirty/squalid/ filthy" is not too far from the mark during some of it. 

Correction noted

ATIS

 

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Flaco    94

Surprised no one has mentioned starting / buying a business. Military aviation is actually a very good training ground for entrepreneurial activity - whether you realize it or not, all of us have acquired skills in calculated risk taking, assessing the enemy (competition), solving problems on the fly, task prioritization, time management, etc.

Pick something you're passionate about and be your own boss. I'll bet anyone posting on this board would do much better than they imagine.

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brabus    519

I wonder if hacker knows how many eagle dudes he let down by quitting. I bet they would be happy to crowd fund a sequel. 

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pbar    72
19 hours ago, Flaco said:

Surprised no one has mentioned starting / buying a business. Military aviation is actually a very good training ground for entrepreneurial activity - whether you realize it or not, all of us have acquired skills in calculated risk taking, assessing the enemy (competition), solving problems on the fly, task prioritization, time management, etc.

Pick something you're passionate about and be your own boss. I'll bet anyone posting on this board would do much better than they imagine.

Hasn't been my experience.  My wife has wanted to start a bar/restaurant forever and so we decided to go ahead and do it concurrent with my retirement.  In preparation, I read a couple "how-to" start a business books and attended a Boots 2 Business course on base.

Now I understand why many entrepreneurs say you have to fail a couple of times before you become successful.  Running this business has been the steepest learning curve I've every experienced.  

I've also been floored about the amount of red tape and expense involved in getting business licenses, meeting code, etc. from the local government.  For example, we rented a place that already kitchen equipment installed and when we went through the initial health inspection we were told the code had changed the previous year and we ended up spending an un-budgeted $20K on getting it up to code. I mean, FFS, the science in restaurant health and safety is so immature that such big code changes are necessary year to year!?!  We also had delays getting licenses due to the slow pace of the city in processing them.

I've also seen some unexpected things like the cops showing up repeatedly saying there was a report of a fight at our establishment.  Probably our competitors trying to scare customers away....  

Also, everything for business costs twice or three times what it would if you bought it for yourself.  For example, deposit for electrical service for a business was $2000 and the monthly bill is $500 (1500 sq ft restaurant) and water is $450/month.  

It's also disheartening when you run into all of the rent seeking and rigging that goes on.  We had to spend $500 for an alcohol survey to a surveying company to prove the restaurant/bar isn't within 500' of a school or a church.  It probably took that surveying company all of five minutes to figure that out using a geographic information system (my undergrad degree incidentally) and I'm 90% sure they used GIS data from the city or county.  Sweet deal for them...  Also, only being allowed to serve alcohol bought through select alcohol wholesalers (was a real pain to get any of them to call us back to set up an account) doesn't help the bottomline either.  

Granted my wife picked the riskiest kind of business to start, but it's been 95% stress and 5% reward and we aren't even remotely close to breaking even after 9 months either. From my experience, if I was to do it again, I'd buy an existing business or I'd go into a business that catered only to other businesses as that seems like where the real money is.

Edited by pbar
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tk1313    241
1 hour ago, pbar said:

Hasn't been my experience.  My wife has wanted to start a bar/restaurant forever and so we decided to go ahead and do it concurrent with my retirement.  In preparation, I read a couple "how-to" start a business books and attended a Boots 2 Business course on base.

Now I understand why many entrepreneurs say you have to fail a couple of times before you become successful.  Running this business has been the steepest learning curve I've every experienced.  

I've also been floored about the amount of red tape and expense involved in getting business licenses, meeting code, etc. from the local government.  For example, we rented a place that already kitchen equipment installed and when we went through the initial health inspection we were told the code had changed the previous year and we ended up spending an un-budgeted $20K on getting it up to code. I mean, FFS, the science in restaurant health and safety is so immature that such big code changes are necessary year to year!?!  We also had delays getting licenses due to the slow pace of the city in processing them.

I've also seen some unexpected things like the cops showing up repeatedly saying there was a report of a fight at our establishment.  Probably our competitors trying to scare customers away....  

Also, everything for business costs twice or three times what it would if you bought it for yourself.  For example, deposit for electrical service for a business was $2000 and the monthly bill is $500 (1500 sq ft restaurant) and water is $450/month.  

It's also disheartening when you run into all of the rent seeking and rigging that goes on.  We had to spend $500 for an alcohol survey to a surveying company to prove the restaurant/bar isn't within 500' of a school or a church.  It probably took that surveying company all of five minutes to figure that out using a geographic information system (my undergrad degree incidentally) and I'm 90% sure they used GIS data from the city or county.  Sweet deal for them...  Also, only being allowed to serve alcohol bought through select alcohol wholesalers (was a real pain to get any of them to call us back to set up an account) doesn't help the bottomline either.  

Granted my wife picked the riskiest kind of business to start, but it's been 95% stress and 5% reward and we aren't even remotely close to breaking even after 9 months either. From my experience, if I was to do it again, I'd buy an existing business or I'd go into a business that catered only to other businesses as that seems like where the real money is.

You had me at "bar"... Are you still at Eglin or nearby? If so, PM the restaurant name/loc and I'll gladly give you my money. If you serve raw oysters on the half shell from Apilachicola I'll probably stop there exclusively when I'm in town.

Edited by tk1313

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SocialD    385

Great topic, always love hearing stories from other opportunities.      

I looked at many avenues before going down the airline path.  What I found is that my friends that make good money (> $200K/yr) in the business world, work WAY, WAY too damn hard and spend more time on airliners than I do.  The GS world is great for being home most nights, not having to keep a medical and stability...you can be a total shitbag and it's still nearly impossible to get fired.  However, for the days worked, even GS-14 step 10 isn't anything to write home about.

In the end it came down to days off vs income.  Now with the days off, I'm looking at possible business opportunities.  

Best of luck with whatever you decide...keep us updated.  

 

4 minutes ago, pbar said:

From my experience, if I was to do it again, I'd buy an existing business or I'd go into a business that catered only to other businesses as that seems like where the real money is.

To quote an old timer at the local airpatch, that owned several businesses over the years, "If there is a gold rush, sell shovels."  Then he hopped into his Stearman, which happens to fit nicely into the hangar with his Baron.  One of his companies built ball bearings...

 

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nunya    206
2 hours ago, SocialD said:

What I found is that my friends that make good money (> $200K/yr) in the business world, work WAY, WAY too damn hard and spend more time on airliners than I do.

In small talk with passengers waiting on a flight or deadheading or whatever, I've been astounded at the number of people (mostly in sales) that are on the road 20-23 days/month.  I'm glad they do what they do so I can do what I do.  It's convinced me that there is no such thing as work-life balance in many industries.  

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I am the same guy that used to post in the leaving the AF for the airlines thread (unpopulary so).  Bottom line is that it likely doesn't matter what you do after leaving...you probably have the skills to succed in the airlines or otherwise.  I chose otherwise and spend less that 30 days a year on the road while living extremely comfortably. PM if you need more details but salary should be the last thing you are worried about.  It is a great fringe benefit, but should not Be the primary consideration.

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guineapigfury    698

Defense contracting can be fun, especially if you're still flying.  I'm doing that and will make about a quarter mil this year pre-tax.  Be forewarned that we could start a "What's wrong with Corporate America" thread that would rival the 140 pager we've got going on the USAF.  I work in an office that's primarily old ladies, so I miss being able to drink at work and tell stories about killing people.

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