I walked into the main PX on Fort Huachuca yesterday and immediately began chuckling to myself ( I am sure several of the shoppers thought I was some doddering old fool lost in a long-ago memory...wait! I was!). I looked around and was reminded once again at what a genius I am married to. I will explain the reason for the chuckle but have to set it up first.
There I was: Stuttgart, West (at the time) Germany in the last throes of my military experience. We had gone off to war the year before, done a magnificent job of Fueling the Force (our unit motto), returned to our regular duties in Germany, and were watching the whole unwinding of the "Peace Dividend". Whole posts were closing, units were shipping back to the States or to other posts, soldiers were being cashiered out for various and sundry, and many of us were told it was time to retire whether we felt that way about it or not.
I was enrolled in a "transition" program (called ACAP...I don't recall what the letters stood for). They taught us how to "network" and fill out resumes and cover letters and how to contact prospective employers and how to act in a job interview and all kinds of other nifty stuff just plumb guaranteed to land us all in those wonderful, high-paying, corporate jobs that would lead us to "happily ever-after". I learned how to construct an eye-catching resume, how to customize my resume to match the employer I wanted to contact, how to research the company I wanted to work for so I could toss into my resume little tidbits that would appeal to the HR folks who read it. I learned how to present myself in a consise but informative manner in my cover letter. I learned a lot of really cool stuff that did absolutely nothing to catch me a job.
I started mailing out my especially-customized, extremely informative, eye-catching and individualized resumes accompanied by my especially-customized, extremely informative but brief, eye-catching cover letters. I mailed letters to the dozens of organizations who listed themselves with the ACAP program. I mailed letters all over the United States and some overseas locations I thought would be cool places to work. I sent letters and resumes to ski resorts, trucking companies, hotel chains, municipalities, state governments, the federal government, military academies, colleges, all kinds of logistics companies, and just about every other kind of organization you can imagine.
I got replies, too. From dozens of places. They all had one thing in common: NO. Some were polite, some not so much. Some weren't sure how they got listed on ACAP's list; some said they had had AN opening but the several hundred applications they had received from ACAP participants had more than covered the need. Some of the companies expressed what I felt was genuine interest but wanted me to drop by in person to fill out an application (sure, next time I have a few days and several hundred dollars to spare, I'll swing by Minnesota to fill out an app).
I started to get a little discouraged. My counsellor at ACAP told me that perhaps my resume was a little too "Army" and that most civilian HR folks may not understand everything in my job history. I thought I had dumbed it down enough (I had dropped all the references about being a dead-eye ace on the .50 caliber), but I dumbed it down some more...and wrote more slowly. Nothing improved the responses I got. One of my classmates in ACAP confided in me that he thought the only people who had ever gotten a job from ACAP were the people who worked for ACAP. I was beginning to believe he was right.
I had gotten into the ACAP program with high hopes and an open mind as to where I would work. I was in Germany. If I got a good job offer in Atlanta or Las Vegas, I would go there. We preferred the West, of course...California or Arizona would have been best for us...but a good job offer (which included GOOD salary) would be the determiner for where we settled.
This process went on for months and the longer it went on, the more certain I became that I was spending a lot of time for nothing.
One evening, MC was listening to my complaining about everything when she told me she thought I was going about this all wrong. Instead of going where the job takes us, we should just pick a place where we wanted to live and go there. We would find a job. "Besides," she said, "all the PX-es look the same wherever you go".
About the same time that all this was going on, the community around us was shutting down. One of my good friends, a fellow First Sergeant of a sister company, went on a TDY (temporary duty) trip to Fort Carson, Colorado. His company was going to relocate there and he went to coordinate the unit's moving into barracks and motor pool space. When he returned, he showed us dozens of photos of the area, and went on and on about how beautiful it was there, how good the facilities were, and so on and so on. MC and I had known a few folks over the years who had been stationed there and they all said how much they loved it. So we thunk it over and decided that Fort Carson (or actually Colorado Springs) would be our destination.
Having settled that, we made our plans and started prepping for Colorado. Of course, the Army had a different view of how things should go. There is an old joke that says, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans"...I think that kinda thing is especially true when the Department of the Army is involved.
In any case, we got through several months of screwing around with the Army and their idea of what was going to happen and wound up in Colorado. I am still a California guy at heart; I like Colorado, okay, I guess...but I am having a hard time calling it "home". On the other hand, four of my five kids and eleven of my thirteen grandkids live in the Springs, so I guess I am gonna be there for a while.
But getting back to the chuckles that started this whole ramble, I walked into the PX here at Huachuca and it was laid out exactly like the PX at Carson...or Ord...or any of a dozen others we've been to. There are some differences once you get inside, but the basic layout and appearance are startlingly similar. I stood there chuckling at all the months of wasted energy back then, and all the frustration at the failure of the system to work for me, and how I should have just done what MC said from the start; and how much that PX looked like all the others.