How to Avoid Burnout throughout Your Career in the Military

How to Avoid Burnout throughout Your Career in the Military

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By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University

There are lots of benefits for establishing a career in the military for both the service and for servicemembers.

From the service’s perspective, a lot of time and money is spent to screen candidates and provide them with proper training. In addition, servicemember longevity means that the valuable experience and technical expertise that servicemembers accumulate can be passed on to new members of the service.

Experience has long-term benefits for the military. For example, a Rand Corporation study found that retaining qualified servicemembers in both the enlisted and officer ranks promotes organizational morale, increases unit readiness, and reduces the costs of training replacement personnel.

Servicemembers Enjoy Multiple Benefits from Military Service

From the perspective of servicemembers, the military offers job security and promotion in a hierarchical structure. Military service also offers college education opportunities and often the chance to see different parts of the world.

In addition, the military provides a retirement benefit under the Blended Retirement System or the traditional defined benefit pension for which personnel are eligible at the 20-year mark. “The military estimates that the net present value of its pension at retirement is around $200,000 for an enlisted soldier and $700,000 for an officer,” a Quartz blog post reported. But only 17% of active duty servicemembers remain for a full 20-year career.

The new military blended retirement system was created from the National Defense Authorization Act in 2016. This military retirement system blends the traditional military retirement pension with a new defined contribution plan, associated with a servicemember’s Thrift Savings account.

In comparison to the legacy military retirement pension, the blended retirement system operates more like a 401k via the Thrift Savings Plan. It involves a Defense Department match as high as five percent of monthly base pay, based on the member’s contribution.

Burnout Is One Reason Servicemembers Don’t Remain in the Military

There are a lot of factors that contribute to why such a low percentage of servicemembers remain on active duty. One of those factors involves burnout.

In the junior ranks especially, active-duty servicemembers face a great deal of stress and many challenges. However, it is important for them to carefully calculate the best personal decision when they decide whether to remain in the military or to separate from the service.

One strategy for overcoming burnout is to remain focused on personal goals that were set when a servicemember joined the military. For example, servicemembers who joined to travel the world might need to look ahead toward their next duty assignment if they feel burned out or overwhelmed by the challenges of their present assignment.

Servicemembers who joined for the chance at a college education could overcome burnout by working with their education services officer. An ESO ensures that servicemembers receive all of the education benefits available to them.

In addition, servicemembers can think about how using those education benefits can set up their future for success, especially when that education is coupled with a military retirement. All too often, it is easier to dwell on current difficult challenges, rather than think about long-term goals and the success that a military career can provide.

Work-Life Balance Is Important for Reducing Military Stress and Burnout

Developing a work-life balance might be easier said than done in the military. However, it is important to engage in off-duty activities that reduce stress, mitigate burnout and foster a proper work-life balance. Family activities, exercise programs, sports and hobbies are important ways to recharge while a servicemember is off duty.

Focusing on maximizing military benefits and taking advantage of them can help servicemembers reach their long-term goals of military service. Also, they can retire with a substantial pension.

About the Author 

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski has been a member of the Coast Guard since 1997. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. He has received commendations from the Coast Guard. Currently, Jarrod is a supervisor in the Reserve Program and provides leadership to Reserve members who conduct homeland security, search and rescue, and law enforcement missions.