Bill Tillotson - Military to Civilian Transition

U.S. Navy, Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical), First Class Petty Officer
Maintenance Technician, JBS

After serving 20 years in the Navy, I retired from the military and began my civilian career with JBS in March 2014. I was fortunate to not have a gap in employment between retirement and my new career, as I started working for JBS while on Terminal Leave. Prior to retiring, I was assigned as the Ships Oil King and worked in the Oil Lab a majority of my Naval career.

When it came time to transition, I participated in Transition GPS and took the class twice. It was very informative, but I wish recruiters had been invited to speak to us. The class helped me write a good resume, as well as provided good websites where I could compare careers and salary expectations, so I wouldn't over or under shoot when asked about pay. I also utilized the Fleet Family Support Center (FFSC). They proofread my resume and gave me advice for improvements and also assisted in my final PCS move.

My family and I moved to Fort Knox, Kentucky, after my retirement because they rent their units to retirees. I love the convenience of the medical facilities, Exchange, and Commissary. I'm also 45 minutes from work. I filled out paper work on Move.gov in preparation of my move and went to NAVSUP office to set up my move. I recommend that you give yourself plenty of time-no less than 2 weeks prior to your actual move-to set up for packers and movers.

I was matched with my career at JBS by Orion International. They provided me a packet of the companies at that would be at the Hiring Conference I attended. The packet included a brief description of the company, as well as their history, their open positions, and pay for those positions. I searched for the companies on Google and got more information on each company from their websites. Researching the companies beforehand definitely helps during the interviewing process; it actually shows that you ARE interested in them.

I am now working in the Maintenance Department at a JBS Pork Plant. The only transition needed was to remind myself that I'm no longer in the military. I'm doing the same stuff here that I did in the Navy. They have Preventive Maintenance and Corrective Maintenance just like the Navy, and the cards have check points that tells us what to check on each piece of equipment we work on. The only difference is that JBS allows "common sense," whereas the Navy walks you through each step of the process.

In the beginning, my transition was hard because of my 21 years in the service. I was used to everything being structured; people followed you with very little question or talk back. Now, in the civilian sector, that is different. Folks question everything, and most follow the Union contract to the letter.

The easy part has been being home with my family. They were pretty excited to have me home, but after all these years, it's strange to them that I'm not going anywhere except going to and from work with no travel in between.

Since starting my career with JBS, I received a raise and am working on my second floor qualification. I started off on the Kill Floor doing set up and any required maintenance on pumps, shafts, valves, as well as welding on equipment. Once I qualified my floor, I received the raise. As I work on my second floor qualification, I am taking Mechanical certification courses to get even more raises and better my chances of possibly moving up to Supervisor.

When I joined the Navy, I had no mechanical background. For the 20 years that I served, I worked on pumps, purifiers, and valves replacements. I also learned how to troubleshoot and make recommendations on repairs of the equipment I was responsible for. Being able to read blue prints and schematics from the Naval Technical Manuals also helped me in the civilian sector, as I now utilize this skill at JBS.

I've had to adjust to a union environment, where many people live the contract and their job title to the letter. I tend to do things that are not in my contract if they need attention and find that it pays dividends in the long run if I need assistance from my Supervisor.

Veterans looking to transition should consider that the civilian sector is looking for dedicated workers that are at their appointed place at the appointed time, have great work ethics, and a military chain of command mentality. They need folks that WILL GET THE JOB DONE and done right THE FIRST TIME!

Civilian employers should understand that veterans are loyal, have a lot of integrity, and are never late. The military is losing folks that they should be holding on to; so, if you're looking for highly-skilled workers, hire a vet! We get the job done, no questions asked!

Contact Bill Tillotson
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