After Active Duty: A Marine in Transition
His time to fight is done, his time to rest just begun.
The After Active Duty blog series examines the challenges, rewards and lessons learned for those who have transitioned from active duty to the private sector and the role AFCEA played in this progression.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Arthur Allen III, USMC (Ret.), left active duty this past summer after a 31-year career that included deployments to Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. He does not yet know what his next professional position will be, but he knows his life after active duty will include volunteer work.
For Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen, who goes by Art, volunteerism seems to be in his blood. He recalls that from about 1988 to 1992 he and a friend would volunteer all over the San Diego area with such organizations as the American Heart Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, doing the heavy lifting that lesser men shy away from.
“What most people don’t see is what goes on at 2 o’clock in the morning when the tractor trailers show up to be offloaded, and that stuff has to be assembled. What we found to be a trend was that it was mostly women, no men,” Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen says. “That’s the way-behind-the-curtain work. And then people show up and all this stuff has magically appeared.”
He recalls often arriving after midnight, working several hours and then going back when everything had to be torn down and reloaded onto the trucks. “We were the guys who would show up at 1 or 2 o’clock. We might leave at 6 o’clock in the morning, and then we would come back at 6 o’clock when all this stuff needed to disappear,” he says.
He also has been involved with muscular dystrophy summer camps, where he was responsible for soliciting volunteers from all of the West Coast units.
The now-former Marine also has volunteered with AFCEA, most recently as president of the Okinawa chapter in Japan. In fact, when he attended the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., in June, he was volunteering for one last mission on the Okinawa chapter’s behalf—one week after his official retirement. The Okinawa chapter asked him to attend and to provide feedback following the event.
He says he will continue to be involved with AFCEA even though his active duty career has ended. He is reaching out to the Camp Pendleton chapter, which is closest to where he now lives. “I plan to remain active with AFCEA to some degree. Perhaps not chapter president like I’ve been doing, but I’ll stay involved,” he says.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen is a lifetime member of AFCEA. He first started attending AFCEA events in 1995 while stationed in California, and he soon became a regular at the AFCEA West conference. “Some of the benefits from a professional standpoint are that you get to meet so many professionals across so many different domains, academia, industry and government,” he says. “Being in the Marine Corps provides a lot of opportunities to meet a lot of different people from different places, but AFCEA has provided me a tremendous opportunity to meet people in those various domains that I don’t think I would have met otherwise.”
Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen emphasizes the relationships he was able to build with military personnel from the other services. “Meeting with other senior personnel within the communications and cyber field in other services certainly helped me as a professional Marine in my particular job field,” he says.
He also stresses the benefits AFCEA provides to the military as whole. The international non-profit organization brings together professionals across the information technology, communications, electronics and cyber realms to increase knowledge of issues facing the defense, homeland security and intelligence communities.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen, a Legion of Merit awardee, says that even though the Marines and other military services are focused on winning wars, they can learn from others, including industry. “When we’re looking at opportunities to improve ourselves in terms of skills and education, they often are very, very valuable in that they provide us best practices and new ways to achieve the same things,” he offers. “It’s not always about them having a product they’re looking for us to buy. We gain a lot from industry because a lot of the things we are trying to achieve or we need to do, in some cases, they’ve already covered that ground, so we can benefit from that experience and knowledge.”
He adds that the AFCEA community has helped him overcome numerous challenges during his active duty career. He says he has reached out to that community and received “tremendous feedback” from AFCEA members and even from non-members who attend the company’s events.
Moreover, his experience as a Marine and as an AFCEA member will help him in that transition to his next position, he says. “I got the best of both worlds from my military job and from my position as chapter president, whether it has to do with budgeting, with people, with managing, counseling, mentoring, the list goes on,” he says, adding that speaking at AFCEA events helped him develop public speaking skills as well. “The AFCEA president opportunity gave me skills to better communicate with the civilian environment. You don’t get much of that when you’re so deeply rooted in the military mission.”
Whatever comes next for Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen, the operational tempo and stress levels will likely be much lower than during his Marine career. In addition to combat deployments, he has served as a communications chief for 3- and 4-star generals, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal, USA, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the International Security Assistance Force.
Now, Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen suggests, he may put his digital photography skills to use as a freelancer. He will volunteer; he will spend more time with his wife; and he will give his rheumatoid arthritis a bit of a rest. “I’m going to take it easy for a few months, that’s for sure,” he says.