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AZBuman

A little guidance/advice please

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Hello everyone, I am looking for some guidance, advice.  I don't post a lot but I have gained a lot of knowledge from these forums and I greatly appreciate it.  

Currently I am a 51C (Contracting NCO) in the Army.  I've been in the contracting field about 4 years and I am DIAWIA II certified and CFCM.  I am currently working on my MBA and will be done next spring.  I am scheduled to leave the Army in 12/2018 and if I chose to get out then I will have 15 years active service. 

My dilemma is do I get out or stay in?  I am currently on my second deployment as a 51C, fourth overall since I've been in, and both deployments as a 51C I have not done any contracting.  Instead the Army chooses to use NCO's as 1910's, Quality Assurance Specialists.  I have found that work interesting because I have learned a lot about contract administration but I enjoy the contracting work better that the quality assurance work.  Also our promotion potential is very limited right now and for the foreseeable future.  When we are not deployed we are pretty much used at 1105's doing mostly under SAT work. very simple, repetitive actions.  The chain of command we work under really depends on if we can get a warrant or not.  I've worked under one chain of command who refused to give NCO's warrants and one that has, it is hit or miss.

In my limited time in contracting I've really enjoyed the field and know this is what I will continue to do whether I retire or not.  However I feel like the level of contracting experience I am getting at a 51C NCO is very simple and not a lot of room for growth into "real" 1102 work.  I feel that coming out with 10 years of contracting experience at this level will put me behind my peers entering the civilian contracting workforce.  The younger 1102's I worked with at a larger contracting center were able to move up into positions with more responsibility and complicated actions.  Because of the nature of the military always moving or deploying we just don't get those opportunities.

On the other hand retiring from the Army brings monetary benefits and healthcare benefits.  I can afford a little more risk because I have that monthly pension check coming in for the rest of my life.  As an NCO it isn't the most money but it covers a mortgage payment or helps me to max out other investments.

Thanks everyone for your guidance/advice in advance.  If I posted this is the wrong area let me know and I will delete and post somewhere else.  Thanks again! 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, AZBuman said:

I am scheduled to leave the Army in 12/2018 and if I chose to get out then I will have 15 years active service. 

If I understand the military retirement system correctly, you can retire with full benefits after 20 years. If that is correct, and after having spent 15 years in, why retire with only five years to go? You don't seem to hate the Army.

Would you be deployed outside the U.S. one or more times during that last five years? If so, would your physical, emotional, or family life be seriously endangered? Would the deployment be unendurable? Do you fell like your number is up? If so, I might get out. If not, I would stay, get all the active duty and retirement benefits I could, learn as much as i could, and then go on to a civilian career while I was still relatively young.

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6 hours ago, AZBuman said:

I feel that coming out with 10 years of contracting experience at this level will put me behind my peers entering the civilian contracting workforce.  The younger 1102's I worked with at a larger contracting center were able to move up into positions with more responsibility and complicated actions. 

I'm not in government service but I work at a contractor that hires quite a few veterans. (I should note that the vets are some of the best people to work with.)

In addition to Vern's sage advice, let me add that you seem to be doing all the right things to prepare for the transition, whenever it may happen. Regardless of your perceptions about experience and responsibilities, a veteran with contracting experience plus CFCM plus MBA will be desirable to many contractors. Based on your resume, you should have few problems getting interviews, especially if you are willing to relocate to where the jobs are.

Hope this helps

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2 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

If I understand the military retirement system correctly, you can retire with full benefits after 20 years.

 

Close, we 50% of our base pay and we get health benefits.  From what I understand if I am near a base then it is awesome because you can use the base facilities, but if you are not near a base it is similar to what a GS employee gets.  But either way it is a good retirement.  I begin collecting the pension as soon as I retire, which would at 44 years old.

Most likely I would be deployed outside the US in the last 5 years that I would have in.  The Army decided to cut our 51C workforce but 33% but at the same time increase our workload, deployment wise.  It would take a lot of space to explain it here but long story short is Army Contracting Command didn't do a good job showing big Army what we do so big Army cut our numbers and then Army Contracting Command decided to deploy us more in order to show how we can help.

Mentally the deployments are tough, mostly because I am missing my kids growing up.  But they are nothing I can't endure.  The wife has been through them before and has told me she is behind me no matter which way I decide to go.

Thank you for your input.  Like I said the main concern I have is having the 10 years of contracting experience but not the same level of experience as a similar 10 year 1102.  It's one thing to have a DAWIA Level III but another to actually have practical experience. 

 

2 hours ago, here_2_help said:

I'm not in government service but I work at a contractor that hires quite a few veterans. (I should note that the vets are some of the best people to work with.)

In addition to Vern's sage advice, let me add that you seem to be doing all the right things to prepare for the transition, whenever it may happen. Regardless of your perceptions about experience and responsibilities, a veteran with contracting experience plus CFCM plus MBA will be desirable to many contractors. Based on your resume, you should have few problems getting interviews, especially if you are willing to relocate to where the jobs are.

Hope this helps

Thank you, yes it does help.  Whether or not I stay in, my goal after completing my MBA is to pass the CPCM.  If there is one thing I have learned from being in the Army is that I don't mind relocating.  Same with the wife, she is willing to follow anywhere.  I've spoke with many GS employees I've worked with and they have said being willing to relocate is important.  I have a better chance of landing a job if I am willing to go anywhere.

Again, thank you for your input.

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52 minutes ago, AZBuman said:

Like I said the main concern I have is having the 10 years of contracting experience but not the same level of experience as a similar 10 year 1102.  It's one thing to have a DAWIA Level III but another to actually have practical experience.

 

Honestly I wouldn’t worry about that. There are lots of people I’ve met that have 10 years of contracting experience, but what they really have is 1 year of experience 10 times over. It’s not necessarily a good thing if you’re looking to expand your knowledge and try new things, but if your only concern is your experience level being behind your future peers, that, in itself, would not be a reason for me to leave the army with only 5 years until retirement.

You’ll learn and get up to speed fairly fast whether Government or contractor, regardless if it’s now or in 5 years.

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AZBuman,

Only you can answer your question. However, I think you may be undervaluing your experience as a QA specialist. I see that as setting you apart from other 1102s (in a good way).

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59 minutes ago, Deaner said:

 

Honestly I wouldn’t worry about that. There are lots of people I’ve met that have 10 years of contracting experience, but what they really have is 1 year of experience 10 times over. It’s not necessarily a good thing if you’re looking to expand your knowledge and try new things, but if your only concern is your experience level being behind your future peers, that, in itself, would not be a reason for me to leave the army with only 5 years until retirement.

You’ll learn and get up to speed fairly fast whether Government or contractor, regardless if it’s now or in 5 years.

Thank you for that.  I've seen younger people come into contracting and move on to "bigger and better" things. It frustrating because you can't really do that with the Army.  You go where they tell you.  But I thnk you are right that there are also many who chose not to expand their knowledge so they have the 1 year 10 times over.  

 

59 minutes ago, Don Mansfield said:

AZBuman,

 However, I think you may be undervaluing your experience as a QA specialist. I see that as setting you apart from other 1102s (in a good way).

 

Honestly, I think the same way.  My only concern is that instead of getting contingency contracting experience I am getting only contingency QA experience.  QA has helped me with requirements packages back at home stations and helping customers with PWS/SOWs.  Looking at requirements from a QA perspective has opened my mind to different perspectives of contracting.  There is a big difference to writing a contract and then seeing the contract work out in the field. 

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Focus on contracting. That's where companies really need people. Look for companies doing business with the government. That's where they'll really need you. Search FBO contract awards for companies winning Army contracts and call them. I presume you have a resume.

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25 minutes ago, Vern Edwards said:

Focus on contracting. That's where companies really need people. Look for companies doing business with the government. That's where they'll really need you. Search FBO contract awards for companies winning Army contracts and call them. I presume you have a resume.

Thank you for the advice.  I really appreciate it.  I honestly don't have a resume done yet.  Having been in the Army for as long as I have and not needing one it has never been something on the forefront of my mind.  But with the decision coming in less than two years it has moved up!  Right now my main focus has been on finishing my MBA while deployed and learning contracting while I am at home station.

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I can tell by your posts that you will be just fine no matter what decision you make.  There are no shortages of job opportunities in this career field. The biggest decision you will have to make is just picking where you want to live.  You will then be able to target your job search there. This will be true now or five years from now.  Good luck to you!

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9 hours ago, cds said:

I can tell by your posts that you will be just fine no matter what decision you make.  There are no shortages of job opportunities in this career field. The biggest decision you will have to make is just picking where you want to live.  You will then be able to target your job search there. This will be true now or five years from now.  Good luck to you!

Thank you for your encouraging words.  I do enjoy the career field, I am grateful that I found a career that I enjoy, many people do even have that.  I don't feel tied to a particular area, which I guess is a good thing.  There are area's that I would like to work in but I won't limit my search to just those areas.  Thank you again.

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Depending on your current family/life situation (already discussed) I would recommend staying in, getting that retirement locked in and then going into the market, whether in the private or public sector.  In the Government there has been and will continue to be a shortage of 1102s and so the opportunities will be there.  I just peeked at USAJobs and there are 156 announcements for 1102s under the categories of "Any US Citizen" and "Veterans", and that's just today.  More are added every day. There won't be a shortfall of opportunity to get into the field.

Now, grade... that's a different subject.  You can have a great career in the government, but you won't get rich doing so (aside from wise investments of course). The grades on these annoucements ranged from GS-7 ($32k) to GS-15 ($119k) and all places in-between.  When applying through these avenues your prior military experience as a 51C will give you an advantage over most that will apply.  I recently filled a GS-12/13 vacancy with a prior military contracting experience and I'm thrilled with the production I get from that person and wouldn't hesitate to do so again. Even if you start lower you can rise quickly if you're good and if you're mobile.  I've seen people shoot up from GS-7 to GS-15 in a matter of 10 years so upward mobility shouldn't be a problem.

All that being said, you've invested 15 years of your life with the Army.  For 5 more years you can get a lifetime worth of monthly checks and medical benefits.  I am currently civil service but I am also retired from the Army Reserves. This means I don't get military medical until I turn 60, and believe me... even though I get "GS medical benefits" I am looking forward to the day I can get the military medical!  It's cheaper (even if not close to a military facility) and more comprehensive. 

Whatever you choose... good luck!

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Desparado, thank you for the advice.  My wife and I have been discussing this for a while and I just want to make sure I am making the right decision.  Like she said, I feel like I am vested in the retirement system.  Plus as mentioned before, I may be able to retire from the Army and still have a chance to do 20 in the GS and retire from there also.  Again thank you for your advice, I appreciate it.

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