Veterans: Different People, Different Experiences

transition from servicemember to civilian

Since the United States has an all-volunteer military, many civilians are unfamiliar with military culture in general. Currently, more than two million people are serving in Active Duty or Selected Reserve components of the United States military around the country and across the globe.

When standing up any initiative, or preparing your workplace to welcome Veterans, keep in mind that no two have the same experiences. That said, acquiring knowledge regarding military culture can definitely improve employers' and co-workers' abilities to understand, communicate and effectively interact with Service Members and their families. A basic knowledge of the values, structure, policies and expectations of the military promotes a stronger working relationship amongst employers and employees who are Veterans or family members of Veterans.

It is also important to know what branch of the service your team member comes from. All service is good service BUT a military member has a loyalty to the branch that he/she served in.  Each is distinct!


Mission: The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.

Values: Honor, Courage, Commitment,


Mission: To fight and win our Nation's wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders.

Values: Loyalty, Respect, Honor, Duty, Selfless Service, Personal Courage

Air Force

Mission: To fly, fight and win … in air, space and cyberspace.

Values: Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence


Mission: To Be forward deployed and to respond swiftly and aggressively in times of crisis.  Their unofficial mission is: "First to fight!"

Values: Honor, Courage, Commitment

Coast Guard

Mission: To protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests.

Values: Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty

NOTE:  Sometimes it's easy  refer to to your Soldiers as Sailors or vice versa.  If you do, it's easily forgiven.  However, you shouldn't confuse a Marine with anyone else (if you know what's good for you)

The following pages give a snapshot of each branch of the service, their core values, and when they came about. 

Military experience varies greatly from Service Member to Service Member. For those without a military background, it is helpful to become better educated regarding the types of jobs and levels of responsibilities a Veteran or transitioning Service Member may have had while in the military:

Enlisted Personnel are the specialists of the military. They are trained to perform specific hands-on tasks in the military as needed for any mission. As enlisted personnel progress up the ranks (there are nine enlisted ranks), they assume more responsibility and provide direct supervision to their subordinates.

Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) are enlisted military members holding a position of some degree of authority, usually obtained by promotion for performance, knowledge and discipline. Additional testing and leadership schools are often required to achieve these ranks.

Warrant Officers are highly trained specialists and subject matter experts. They remain in their primary specialty to provide specialized knowledge, instruction and leadership to enlisted members and commissioned officers alike. With few exceptions, one must be an enlisted member with several years of experience, recommended by their commander, and pass a selection board to become a warrant officer. The Air Force is the only service that does not have Warrant Officers.

Commissioned Officers have the primary function of providing overall management, planning and leadership in their area of responsibility. Unlike enlisted members and Warrant Officers, Commissioned Officers are not as specialized (with certain exceptions such as pilots, doctors, nurses and lawyers). Commissioned Officers must have a minimum of a four-year bachelor's degree.

As a Recap: Commissioned officers plan, enlisted personnel do, and NCOs oversee the "doing" with the spirit of the commissioned officer's plan in mind. Warrant officers serve as the subject matter experts.

Lieutenant Commander Chip Lutz, USN(Ret) works with leaders who want to lead better, get more done, and leave a legacy. A retired Naval Officer, under his command as Commanding Officer of two different Naval facilities, both his teams received national recognition for setting new standards of service while maintaining high morale and high retention among team members. He also knows about meeting critical objectives during stressful conditions – having served as the Director of Security for Naval District Washington, DC during September 11th, 2001 – where he was responsible for the safety and security of 25 thousand people on 6 different Naval installations in the National Capital Region. Currently, Chip is the President of Unconventional Leader, LLC and also the Past President of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor as well as the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Speaker’s Association.  He has authored 4 books.

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