By Chief Engineman Hector “Tony” Hernandez, United States Navy, Retired.

I was raised in El Paso, Texas and a 1979 Graduate of Bowie High School. Upon graduation, I joined the United States Navy to serve my country. My career spanned 25 years as a Senior Enlisted Leader. By the time I retired, I had been deployed a dozen times and seen the world. Although I was living the dream, I knew it had to end some day and that day was August 2003.

Transitioning to civilian life was a challenge, and stressful especially during my last three months in the U.S. Navy. Despite 25 years of service to our nation—including dozens of overseas deployments— I began my transition unprepared for the challenges that awaited me. I had not typed a resume, had not started a network in the area I planned to retire and was unsure of my next career decision after the military. The only preparation I had was my hard work ethic and not being afraid of going out there to find a job. I knew that I needed a job and I was willing to work hard to find one.

I had been in leadership positions for most of my 25-year Navy career and once I retired, I felt that I was going to start over and just be another employee. I felt I would get demoted and would not have the control I had while in the military.
I retired from the U.S. Navy in August of 2003. I left San Diego, California and relocated to El Paso, Texas. I selected El Paso due to the cost of living. I felt comfortable that my family would not suffer if I did not find a job immediately, my retirement pension would cover putting food in the table.

Four days after my retirement ceremony, I settled in and decided to go to the unemployment office. They would not see me as I was still active duty on transition leave and not officially a veteran. As I was leaving the office I noticed a sign that read, ‘veterans interview section for Castner Range’. I walked in and asked to speak with the supervisor. I then said to him, “I am Hector Hernandez, Chief U.S. Navy active duty on transition leave, I do not have an appointment for the interviews, and no one in the front office will speak with me as I am not a veteran, but if you hire me, you will not be disappointed.” The supervisor took a chance and hired me!

I worked at Castner Range for a year looking for explosives. I excelled at the company but they wanted to transfer me to another job site and I turned it down because I was tired of moving my family from location to location. So, I went back to the unemployment office and did the same I did previously. I was then hired to be a security guard and eventually became a Military Police Officer at Fort Bliss Military Base in El Paso, Texas. I then decided to find a different profession by taking care of our Wounded Warriors. Today, I run the transportation section at William Beaumont Medical Center in El Paso, TX.

In closing, I will leave you with this: Whether you choose to seek a civilian job, pursue your education, or start a business, it’s not going to be easy. Then again, neither was your time in the military. Think about it this way: You know how to work hard, you know how to “embrace” and be resilient. Having an honest view of the transition will empower you to make the challenges work for you to build a successful career!

Hector “Tony” Hernandez retired after 25 years of Honorable Service. He served in numerous leadership roles and his duty stations include five warships, Amphibious Construction Battalion, and Special Boat Team 12. After retirement, Hector was a police officer for five years, seven years working for Wounded Warriors and is currently working as transportation coordinator at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. Standing for the Flag, kneeling for the fallen, and taking care of his brothers in arms, especially the Wounded Warriors is a passion for Hector.

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