My transition to civilian life is different than many who have served on active duty, because in some way or another, I have spent the last nine years of my Army Reserve career transitioning back and forth between military and civilian life. Each time I would leave for a few weeks or months and would come back without much thought to it. In 2014, I had just commissioned as an Engineer officer and was finally at the place I wanted to be in my military career. So, it was finally time to get the rest of my life started and find a career on the civilian side.
I held positions in local government and on the corporate side in various capacities. During my time in the military I had performed well and served in various leadership positions. Long story short, I felt confident that with my resume I could find a suitable career. However, after several months of submitting resumes and cover letters, completing phone and in-person interviews, I began to doubt my own qualifications. Looking for my next step I did the most millennial thing I could think of; I went back to school to rack up some more debt.
When I started the Clemson MBA program, I really wanted to use the time to make connections and start the career I had been searching for. What ended up happening was far different than what I anticipated. My good friend Josh and I had met during our active duty training and he often mentioned how he had always wanted to start a gym. While my time in corporate America was fine, I had always thought about starting my own business, so we started talking more frequently about how to bring these dreams together. We built the foundation of our business around the physical fitness goals and camaraderie we developed in the military.
Right around the time Josh and I were deciding if we were going to go through with this idea, RECON was holding their first event in the fall of 2015. It was a collection of veterans and civilians who wanted to help current vets to find not only a job, but a new purpose, a new mission. This emphasis on purpose stuck out to me and pushed me to pursue the concept that Josh and I had developed. Every speaker that came up seemed to touch on an issue that I had encountered during my job search just a year earlier. It was a powerful experience to see that I was not alone.
At RECON, I met several connections that helped Josh and I to mold the business into what it is today. But it wasn’t just the connections that made the event special. It was the mutual understanding of the unique challenges that veterans face when reentering the civilian work force that made it so effective. As a whole, vets like being challenged – we like being pushed past our comfort zone. More so than anything, we need to feel that we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves. The organizers and participants in RECON truly understand that and make it their priority to help everyone find their next objective. We are grateful that RECON was able to help us to find our new mission and hope that we can inspire other veterans to do the same.
Matthew Cassabon is a First Lieutenant and Battalion Construction Officer with the Army Reserves, and recently co-founded The Outpost Training Facility in Greenville, South Carolina, where he serves as Director of Operations.