MJN Spotlight: Aaron Hartfield

Sergeant Aaron Hartfield was a heavy equipment operator during his time in the military. During his six years of service, he only served in one unit, the 19th Engineer Battalion. It was only after his service that he was told this was not typical. Stationed out of Fort Knox, Kentucky, he was deployed to Iraq in 2006, where he stayed until 2007. He came back to Fort Knox before once more being deployed, this time to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.

When Aaron came back from Afghanistan, he still had fifteen months in the military before his service ended in 2011. His transition time between the military and school was almost nonexistent. As soon as he was discharged from the military, he moved to New York where he immediately began his college education. His military service ended August 27, and his first semester of college started a few days later.

Aaron described his transition as “pretty smooth.” He didn’t have to worry about a family, and was able to go to school instead of looking for work right away. Using the GI Bill, he got his bachelor’s degree at Baruch College in New York City, double majoring in Economics and Actuarial Science. One of his friends was already living in the city, and helped Aaron find an apartment and resolve other similar issues.

Aaron credits his smooth transition to his ability to plan ahead. He went right to school because he did not have any higher education before his military service. While still in the military, he figured out how to take the SATs because he had never taken it before, and learned about how to use his GI Bill benefits.

During his time in college, Aaron participated in an internship with AIG in Houston, Texas. He was offered a full time job with the organization, so he moved to Texas right after graduation. He still works there now as an Actuarial Associate.

Aaron’s advice to any person about to transition or transitioning out of the military is to start as soon as possible. “As early as people know [when they are leaving the military], they should start the next day and not procrastinate so it’s easier,” Aaron said. This was possible for him because he knew that he was not going to serve another term. “For me, I decided I wasn’t going to enlist again, so I could start 15 months in advance,” he said. Although this worked well for him, Aaron realizes his advanced planning approach might not work as well for every person. “Some people might not know [if they are going to enlist again], and they have different rules now.”

Aaron says that patience is key when transitioning out of the military. “Take it slow because it is a pretty big shock from military to civilian life,” he says. While preparing, it is important to remember that the transition might not be perfect. “It’s not always easy to find work or get a job, not making the salary you think you should make.” Aaron said. “Have patience and hope everything will work out.”

Aaron is a contributor to the Military Job Networks blog. You can read his most recent post, titled “The Jobs Landscape,” here.