FORT JACKSON — During 21 years of military service, Master Sgt. Sean Pannell has calculated coordinates for artillery fire, overseen the storage and handling of classified documents and traveled around the world on multiple deployments.
But at a panel discussion Thursday with representatives from Verizon Wireless, Pannell expressed unease about what comes next – life as a civilian.
“Something I’ve known my entire adult life will change,” said Pannell, who will leave the Army in a few months. “It causes a lot of anxiety.”
Pannell was one of nine Army personnel who took part in the panel discussion at Fort Jackson designed to help Verizon employees understand how to recruit from the military. The discussion was part of a two-day training program that brought together 40 Verizon recruiters from across the country to network with military personnel and learn about the skills they can bring to the civilian work force.
Michele Brookshire, a member of Verizon’s talent acquisition team in Elgin, developed the idea for the training program from her experience growing up around the military in Virginia. She teared up as she recalled the struggles of military families just getting by on food stamps.
“They were so proud. It was tough,” she said. “If there was anything I could do to make a difference, I wanted to help.”
The program began Wednesday at Verizon’s call center in Elgin as employees learned to interpret the unfamiliar acronyms, titles and ranks found on a military resume. It continued at Fort Jackson Thursday with the panel and other activities.
Some members of the panel have served in the Army for as long as 25 years, but they are all preparing to leave military service within the near future. More than 1 million service members are projected to leave the military between 2011 and 2016 as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, according to a White House fact sheet released in August 2011.
Several participants voiced concerns about transitioning from military to civilian life, from whether they’d be able to find employment to whether they’d continued to be challenged.
Command Sgt. Major Dwight Dooley is planning to retire from the Army next year and said he worried about whether he’d be an effective leader in a civilian environment. But he said was most worried leaving a vocationally-rewarding career for something new.
“I’m afraid of the mundane, having to work because I have to not because I want to,” he said.
For Dooley, what he is looking for in civilian life is simple.
“I want to feel wanted,” he said. “That would be enough for me.”