Junior Enlisted Program: James’ Story
As a current Transition Specialist with Hire Heroes USA’s Junior Enlisted Program, I have the pleasure of working with clients every day who offer a range of unique talents and experiences gained from their time in the service. This career phase, between the ranks of E-1 and E-4, is a challenging and interesting one. It’s a time that was instrumental in my own career development and helped foster my passion for serving this community.
I began my career in the U.S. Army in 1999. As a young Private First Class, it was my first time being on my own. I finally felt like an adult and, as a 19-year-old, this was a significant moment for me. I learned to manage my own money and oversaw millions of dollars of military equipment. As I look back on these years, I realize that I took on a lot of heavy responsibilities at a young age, and my early professional experience was different from many of my peers.
During my time as a junior enlisted soldier, I constantly encountered new experiences in both my professional and personal life. I started as a stinger missile crew member in the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C. This role was responsible for identifying and shooting down enemy aircraft to protect civilians. I also met my future wife, which significantly altered my perspective as I began to see how my career, financial and life decisions would affect more than just myself.
I grew up without much in the way of money or access to well-connected people, so becoming a soldier meant not only doing work I loved, but also receiving a steady, reliable paycheck twice a month. As long as I was able to afford the essentials, anything beyond that was icing on the cake.
As a junior enlisted service member, I was required to stay disciplined, both physically and financially. Although there were plenty of challenges and stressors, that period helped lay the groundwork for the man I would become. Within a few years, I married my wife and we were expecting our first child. I was only 23 years old at the time. In my professional and personal life, I learned about the importance of structure, commitment and frugality. I also learned that I could accomplish tasks and missions that I never thought possible.
Today, I’m a retired veteran, with more than 20 years of service in the Army. There are times when I miss those earlier days, even with all of their challenges. However, I have found that helping my fellow veterans, especially young service members, allows me to use the lessons I learned and share them with others. As a Transition Specialist who works with junior enlisted veterans, I hope to make their professional lives a little easier.
James Medina is a Transition Specialist with Hire Heroes USA’s Junior Enlisted Program. If you’re interested in receiving free career support with Hire Heroes USA, click here to learn more.