Making the Military to Police Transition
Military to Police Transition
Rob Wilson, US Army (ret) LEO(ret)
Hello, my name is Rob Wilson and I’m a medically retired US Army Veteran, Military Policeman, and former Deputy Sheriff with the Mason County Sheriff’s Department. I served in the US Army after a short stint in Corrections at the Sheriff’s Department. I also attended Basic Combat Training and Military Police Training. I found this to be very parallel to what I had experienced in my career working hand in hand in Corrections and local law enforcement, while working in the jail.
Several of the skills taught in the military are very similar to those I learned while in the WV DOC Academy, i.e. report writing, administrative duties, and other principles of officer conduct, loyalty, and professionalism. Of course, in the military you also learn about combat field operations, which still carries some real world experience for police work, particularly if you make your way into a specialized unit after some time working patrol or as a beat cop. You also learn about the Law and Order side of things, which is what most people think of in the way of traditional police work.
I served my initial enlistment, deployed to Iraq a couple of times, as well as Guantanamo Bay and Cuba. This gave me some real world experience in learning how to deal with intense situations. Once I completed my first enlistment, I decided to return home and pursue a career in law enforcement, working as a road deputy at the Mason County Sheriff’s Department.
I did show my military experience and skills during my interview process and while compiling my resume. At the time, it seemed helpful in landing me the job at the Sheriff’s Office. I attended and completed the WV State Police Academy, while staying in the US Army Reserves for a short period.
In my personal experience, I’ve learned that most employers view US Army Reserve duty as more of a hassle than a positive thing. It did seem to upset my supervisors and Sheriff when I would have to leave for a drill weekend or any sort of lengthy training. I’m sure this may be different at other departments, but again, this is only my personal experience.
Also, be sure to take care of any underlying mental health issues you may have from your military experience because I have truly found that police work will amplify these and will also add it’s own demons to the mix. This can be difficult for some guys and gals, especially those who have seen a lot of trigger time.
If you’re beginning to transition and working on building a resume, make sure that you are going to a military-friendly and military-minded department. It makes going from one realm to the other much easier and seamless. In fact, you may find yourself outperforming your peers, simply due to the level of training and experience you had in the military. Always be honest with your employers about your experiences in the military and your level of training. There is nothing worse than portraying yourself in a light that is out of your scope of practice.
Furthermore, always remember those values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. These pillars will serve you well and make you a better officer. These are sometimes lost in some areas of police work.
Hold fast to your core values. This is probably the best advice I could give someone who is wanting to transition into civilian law enforcement. Those things, along with taking care of your mental and physical health are key to a long career.
Unfortunately, due to injuries I sustained in Afghanistan on my second active duty enlistment, I had to give up both careers after being medically retired. This is where the mental health piece really kicked my backside! I had to undergo many surgeries and didn’t seek any help for my emotional wounds. I now see this as foolish! Why would we repair our physical structure and not repair the actual mechanism that moves it around? So, the demons of PTSD, like painkiller addiction, alcoholism, and depression, kicked in.
I was able to finally reach out and work on healing my emotional wounds along with the physical ones at a place called Warriors Heart in Texas. It’s a private treatment center that specializes in treating police officers, firefighters, and our Armed Forces veterans!
Here I was able to find those things that had been lost during my military service and police work. Now, I’m proud to say that I work there as an Admission Advocate, helping those brothers and sisters that lay their life on the line every day!
In conclusion, I’ve found that military service is widely honored and accepted as a great tool for employability. Remember that some places may see your Reserve or National Guard service as troublesome at times though. And finally, always take care of yourself, both physically and mentally and you should have a smooth transition into the civilian police force.
US Army (Ret) LEO (Ret)