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10 Steps to Becoming a Firefighter - For Military Service Members

10 Steps to Becoming a Firefighter - For Military Service Members

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Step 10: Common Hurdles Faced by Veterans

Understanding Your Psychological Responses to Change

One of the hardest things to accept in transitioning to civilian life is adjusting the way you define yourself. You’ve probably gotten used to introducing your profession as “I’m in the Army (Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, or Marines).” It is only to be expected that becoming an everyday civilian is a hard pill to swallow.


Photo courtesy of the USAF.

Avoiding Transition-Related Stress

Get going: It is your transition; no one can do it for you. Work through the transition process and do not procrastinate. Put your situation in perspective and get on with your life.
Sell yourself: Now is not the time to be modest about your accomplishments. No one will come looking for you unless they know you are available. Once you let them know, you will find many people who will help you.
Network: Chat with other firefighters on FireLink who have made the transition themselves. They are easy to spot and always willing to offer advice.
Work at it: Work at planning your transition as if it were a job. However, if you spend every waking hour working on it, you will burn out. Take time for yourself and your family.
Lighten up: This is probably the most important piece of advice. Do not lose your sense of humor. An upbeat disposition will see you through.
Keep your family involved: Your family has a large stake in your transition. They are experiencing many of the same feelings, worries, and uncertainties as you are. Do not keep your plans to yourself; get your family involved in this process. Let them in on your plans and ask for their input throughout the process. It’s their life too.
Take a change management course: Consider taking a change management course before stress appears, or at the first signs of stress.

Learning humility

Battalion Chief Paul Lepore comments on learning humility in the fire station: “One of the strengths found in military men and women is also commonly a cause of strife during their probationary year. People who have earned rank in the military are used to giving orders. As a rookie firefighter you are expected to take orders, not give them. Humility is an extremely important quality to possess as a rookie firefighter. Oftentimes rookie firefighters who have spent time in the military are older than the average candidate.”