VBSS team & me (only one in blue)Even bigger news for The Cassey Excursion? First of all where was the “Big news”? Don’t worry, I didn’t have very many readers when I released my Big News post about moving to Italy, and I really did think that was big news, until I received some information that’s a career changer.

I’d just gotten back from Slovenia, and was sitting in my kitchen talking to one of my best friends Megan, ¬†when I saw a message pop up on my screen. It was almost midnight Italian time, I’d driven all day, and was completely exhausted from my road trip. Mid sentence I jumped up and started screaming, she thought I was being attacked by cockroaches. I had a small problem at the time, and after a minute straight of screaming, I told her, “You’re never going to believe it…!”

But first! I’m going to give you a brief history in 2 minutes, to help you better understand some things, especially if you don’t read my blog often. I would have made a video, but I absolutely suck at video, so shall we?

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West Virginia Marching Band

It all began at West Virginia University, at my first football game as a member of the West Virginia Marching Band. Okay that’s not entirely true, in fact that’s not true at all, its just about to be college football season, LET’S GO MOUNTAINEERS!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt actually all began at Officer Candidate School (OCS), United States Navy in 2009. This is me^, hair bushwhacked, no make-up, birth control glasses (BCGs), turning in my poopie suit for the second time. Sexy right? haha.

Getting yelled at, talking about myself in the third person, knife hands, all of these things were designed to make me a leader. Okay…

Officer Candidate SchoolAt one point or another they were like alright, she’ll do. Make her a SWO and send her to a warship. My question, “What’s a god damn SWO?”

IMG_4432Then I forgot about that question when they sent me home to spend Thanksgiving with friends and family.

DestroyerBefore I knew it, I ended up onboard DDG 103 a Destroyer out of Norfolk, Virginia.

Going on Deployment

My seester!

“You’re deploying” they said.

Huh? I still didn’t even have that SWO thing figured out and now a 7 month deployment at sea?

Waving goodbye to my familyMy family said “GOODBYE!”

SWO pinI did eventually get that SWO thing down for a day and got to act like a total badass, it only lasted 5 minutes.

'MericaAt the end of 7 months, they yelled, “Welcome Back!”

UNREP with one of my BFFsIn fact, they even let me bring one of my best friends onboard and sail from Mayport to Norfolk at the end of deployment with us. Just hanging out during a replenishment at sea ūüôā

LSD Landing Ship DockAfter deployment they said, “You’re changing ship types” we’re sending you to Japan and you’re going to work with marines.

AAV Amphibious OperationsThere’s a couple of those marines.

Amphibious OperationsOhh, I’m going to be on a ship that sinks itself to bring marine equipment on again off again, makes much more sense.

My seester and I!

Convincing my Seester to come live with me in Japan

In between all that, I convinced my sister to come to Japan and live with me the entire year and a half I was there. She got a job¬†and a working visa and has stayed since I’ve gone. There are so many opportunities the world has to offer!

My BuoyAnd by the way, “You’re a terrible ship driver. Who runs over Korean fishing bouys?”

United States NavyWe’ll promote you anyway, since you’re taking up space. Welcome to the club, LT.

“Club? What club? I’m pretty sure only pilots have a “club”?”

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Ballin!

After Japan they said, “We’ve got an even better idea you’re going to go work in Italy at an office job and get a chance to gallavant Europe.”

WVU my Alma MaterWhile home on vacation before my next tour, I headed back to my alma mater, just to remember all those great times. WVU <3 That place really did influence me and introduced me to life outside of my hometown.

Mom & Dad“Goodbye Mom & Dad!”

My Sponsor and his wife are so welcoming to ItalyHello Italy!

Time for that shore duty and some European gallivanting, you can check out the last 6 pages of this blog if you’re a newcomer.

But as great as Europe is, and it is great, with an easy job, the countdown began the moment I arrived. In a bad way. As a SWO (Surface Warfare Officer) there’s only one way you can go after shore duty if you don’t want to end your career and that’s department head school.

Basically department head school means 3 more years at sea and its a very demanding and thankless job. Some people love it! But when they offer an incentive of $75,000 deemed “blood money” by the lot of us, and people still refuse it, well that’s saying something.

I promised myself something from day 1. That I would get out when the time came and I knew it was the right choice for me.¬†That I would not become old, cynical, and a fright to be around from staying in past my “glory years” if you will.

Which meant that I was going to have a big decision to make over here in Italy, because I had started to feel like my time was up when I left my second tour from Japan.

Escaping the stress of those feelings I started to use travel as my outlet. I would abandon the stress of my pending career decision and travel on the weekends, see something new, take my mind off things. The problem is that when I would return from a trip, the stress would greet me at my door and wrap itself around my neck. I felt suffocated. I was going to have to make a decision soon.

I tried all kinds of things to decide, believe me. I wrote out pros and cons lists put them all together on a cork board. I tried putting all of my options into a basket and leave it up to chance, I even tried meditating for some peace of mind to make the right decision. Every time I felt I¬†had gotten no closer to a solution, which left me in this never ending state of limbo. I’d never been so confused. This was an even harder choice then joining the military because getting out of the military is so final.

Here were my options.

1. Resign my commission from the military and use the GI bill to go back to school, preferably a Master’s in Forensic Science at George Washington University. I actually attended a class at fleet and family support center to get educated on all of the college programs and benefits, its meant for people who have already put in their resignation letter. I just wanted to keep all my options open.

2. Apply for another job within the Navy that I think I would be good at. When I joined in 2009, I heard about this new program called Foregin Area Officer (FAO) an equivalent to Foreign Service Officer (FSO) a job offered through the state department that has a very vigorous and hard application process.

As a FAO, you would get to get a graduate degree, learn a language, and work in embassies with the opportunity to possibly become a Naval Attache. There was just one catch. The only way to enter the program was through lateral transfer, they didn’t take first year commissioned officers. And guess what else? You couldn’t apply until you’d been commissioned for 8 years. You’re supposed to go through Department Head School starting at 6 years. Major bummer.

3. Stay in, take the blood money, and go to department head school. At this point and time, job security is a big debate. What is worse, graduating college and not being able to find a job for a year or restarting your career at the age of 29 and not being able to find a job for a year? I’ve gone back and forth over the question but I think its worse when you are older, because you should have things figured out, not be starting fresh.

4. Become a full time Travel Blogger. Most people found this to be a crazy plan but after attending 2 travel blogging conferences, I’ve seen a lot of proof that it is not impossible. It’s hard work, but rewarding, and definitely would allow me to continue traveling the world on my own agenda.

5. End up¬†Homeless. What if I get out of the military and can’t even make it through grad school? Where would I be then? What are my options? Its a big bad world out there when you aren’t hiding behind the thick shield of job security. I could be thrown to the wolves and end up with nothing.

It was a constant battle between these options depending on the day and my mood.

Then something peculiar happened. Last fall they opened up the FAO application process to 5 year officers, with a written waiver. I was coming up on 5 years in November, making me eligible to submit an application for the spring.

If this was the opportunity to give it all I had on one application, then best not squander it. I got a lot of push back from my peers, they were right of course, why did I think that I was good enough to get by with a waiver? Let alone, when I took the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) Test, I did okay but I didn’t blow it out of the water. Was it even worth it to apply?

You have to have a really high score on the DLAB to even stand a chance, or so everyone says. Well my score was qualifying so I decided to go on with the application anyway.

Then I decided to submit it all the way to my admiral for endorsement and signature. I also decided that I was going to try to get him to sign the waiver letter too.

“Umm, it’ll probably just get signed by the Captain under him, he doesn’t even know you.”

That just made me push even harder.

It turns out that I did get my package signed by the admiral and also the waiver letter. I submitted the package to the lateral transfer board in April. The board didn’t convene until June and results would come out after that. At the same time I was going to have to start thinking about submitting the resignation letter in the event that I did not get picked up.

The chief in my office made it a point to check the messages every morning, to see if anything came in. I¬†decided that I didn’t want to find out that way.¬†It would be better if someone else told me.

At midnight on July 6th, I was sitting at my kitchen table after 4 days in Slovenia, talking to my friend Megan, when Sean, a guy I was at OCS with and hadn’t talked to in quite a while messaged me,

“Looks like we’re going to be FAOs together”.

WHAT! REALLY?! The message had been released on Monday at 1300 Eastern standard time it was already 1900 in Naples Italy and I was still on the road driving down from the North at the time.

He immediately emailed me the message. I needed to see it myself, what if the middle initial was different and it wasn’t me after all? In some crazy way, that was my name on the list. Only 23 people got picked up and I have no idea how many people applied, so for all I know it could have been the lot of us.

The next couple days were a whirlwind, and I got contacted by different people in the FAO community. Wouldn’t you know, now¬†other people started contacting me about putting their own package in for FAO.

Recently I found out that I’ll be leaving Italy in March to head to Monterey California for Naval Post Graduate School.

I ran into the admiral who had signed my package at the gym and he came up and shook my hand and told me he was really glad I was staying in the Navy. Wait?! He recognized me?! If only I hadn’t been so sweaty!

Another admiral that I had worked with for a Dining Out this past June, sent a letter of official business and congratulations.

Official Business USN

Letter from an admiral, USN

Official Business, United States Navy

I’m really excited for the next adventure, but I still have 8 months left as a SWO in Italy to take full advantage of Europe so don’t expect me to slow down any. I was finally able to rid myself of the guilt from traveling so much when I should have been saving up the money. I’m booking trips left and right with excitement and a carefree attitude.

Although, I am going to need some time to figure out what the hell curriculum 682 even means?! That’ll be my major at NPS ūüôā

Turns out one of my best friends from when she was 3 and I was 4 just moved to San Francisco and we’ll only be 2 hours away from each other while I’m at school. Looks like¬†we’ll have a new temporary¬†hometown for the time being.

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Lizzy.

‚ÄúAbility is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.‚ÄĚ -Lou Holtz

Attitude

Attitude

This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.

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