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A SoliderCop’s Perspective

The following is the results of an informal interview with Mark Howell, CW4 Ret, when I posed some questions to him regarding what he was up to, and how he got there.

imageWhat may resonate with you almost immediately is how we can always point to one or two life-changing decisions that seemed serendipitous years later.

Although the majority of the SoldierCop readership have a relationship with the military, for the sake of clarity I’ll define some terms Mark shares:


Bde (Brigade – typically a military element composed of several Battalions)
Bn (Battalion – typically a military element composed of a headquarters element and two or more company sized elements)
ConEx (Container Express – typically a steel container used for shipping military supplies and material)

From Mark Howell:

I took some time to think about your questions regarding military to civilian transition and how it has played out for me since my official retirement from active duty on 1 September 2012. Long story short, after 22 years of active duty, I made the decision to leave the military in much the same fashion as I had decided to become a soldier.

In August 1990, I was a Detective Corporal with a municipal police department in Arkansas. I had started as a patrolman in 1984, worked as a traffic investigator for a couple years and then had the opportunity to join a multi-jurisdictional drug task force investigating the sale and distribution of methamphetamine, often in an undercover capacity.

All of you folks that have worked these ops know what a toll they can take on not only yourself but your family at home so I knew I wasn’t the first cop to work himself into his first divorce. I was a 27 years old burnout that had reached a crossroads. I loved my job but could not imagine doing what I was doing for a minimum 30 year retirement. I truly believed there was something more out there for me as a cop, but it was going to take a committed effort to find it. A no -holes barred commitment that had no guarantee for success, but a commitment that had to be made just the same.

It so happened Iraq invaded Kuwait about that same time and as an Army reservist since 1981, my opportunity lay before me. Fast forward 21 years to Kabul, Afghanistan, where I found myself at that familiar crossroads once again.

After 67 months of back to back deployments to OIF/OEF, I was a 48 year old CW4 that had been lucky enough to be at the pinnacle of his career. Already holding a class date for the FBI National Academy for early 2012, I was ready to redeploy home and start the next chapter of my career. But just as in 1990, a little voice told me there was something unknown out there again. But this time not as a cop or a soldier. This time as a man.

Up until that point, my life had been defined by what I did at work with little emphasis on my life as a husband and father. I had been lucky enough to have a family that made hard sacrifices all my career and frankly had taken a backseat to the needs of the Army, just like a soldier. I just couldn’t continue to ask them to live like that, but being a cop and leaving the only adult life I had known was going to take some serious thought.

I’ve always believed things happen for a reason and on 13 September 2011 my thought process got a little help when insurgents attacked the US Embassy and ISAF Headquarters in Kabul. After setting up team in a protective perimeter around the office of the ISAFS commander, I ran to the sound of the guns. While running from conex to conex in attempt to join and reinforce an outpost on a wall of the compound under direct attack, I started thinking seriously about the future.

I realized being a soldier and a cop was my job, not my identity, and that no matter how successful I had been in that career, I had fallen short, way short, at home. And just like in the movies, I made a promise under my breath to do everything I could to make it up to my family if I got through that day. Long story short, I did and that’s what I’ve been trying to do since 1 Sep 2012.

I know Matt that you asked specific questions about the transition process and I did not answer them very well. I was lucky enough to find a job doing pretty much what I would be doing as a CID Bn or Bgd Ops. Instead of CID offices, I mentor 10 different General Managers in 4 states and try to keep them operational and out of trouble.

Maybe not as challenging as guys like Tony Redfern and Ki Chang had it, but I haven’t deployed even though my wife may be ready for that to happen. Again, sorry for changing up your format, but this allowed me to share what made a difference for me.
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Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. I look forward to seeing how your transition experience might be similar to, or different from that of Mark Howell’s. As always, you can contact me with questions, concerns or comments at 1SoldierCop@gmail.com and I look forward to having a conversation with you.

E. Matthews – SoldierCop