02/05/2013 02:49 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2013

From the Marine Corps to My Career

By Tireak C. Tulloch, IAVA Member Veteran, USMC

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On the heels of Friday's Department of Labor report that 11.7% of post-9/11 veterans were out of work in January - or 252,000 men and women who have sacrificed for us overseas - I want to share my employment story. While I have been fortunate in my transition from combat to career, my friends' stories and these statistics paint a picture that demands action.

As a combat-tested data-dink in the United States Marine Corps, my goal was to ensure that lines of communication stayed up and the underlying data-sharing infrastructure stayed intact under severe conditions. In the specialized training I received, I was formally introduced to industry standard technologies from mainstream vendors like Cisco, Symantec and Microsoft. During my first deployment to Iraq (Valentine's Day will be ten years from the day that we landed in Kuwait), I was a part of a five-man team that provided direct communication support to ANGLICO Marines alongside our British counterparts.

After being camped out on the Kuwait-Iraq border for about three weeks, the war officially started, and we promptly moved a naval port just inside Iraq. And as you'd suspect, before moving, we had to quickly tear down the established network. And, after arriving at a new site, we had to rebuild that same critical network. Wait, did I mention that we did this in the middle of a combat zone?

On my second tour, from 2004-2005, I served the bulk of my time in an Information Assurance role - which focused primarily on network security. Our team dealt with various technologies and systems on both classified and unclassified networks -- everything from Symantec antivirus scans of servers and desktops, Microsoft patching of desktop and servers, Websense administration for Internet access, CyberGuard firewalls, advanced access control lists on our Cisco point of presence (POP) and screening routers, to investigating incidents when required. For the last month or so, I was one of three Sergeant of the Guard (SOG) for the interior guard, which was responsible for overall security of the base. We supervised junior Marines in their observation posts, led perimeter patrols, and provided security for all convoys entering and leaving the base, while staying in constant radio contact with base operations. Whew, that was a long list. I cannot emphasize enough how much I learned in these roles - and how much it helped me down the line.

After that tour, I decided to try my hand in the job market. After getting stuck at phone interviews for about six months, I finally got an interview for an entry-level PC Technician position with MTA Long Island Bus. The hiring manager saw my value right away - they were literally using most of the same technologies I learned during my time in the military. While it was an entry-level position, I was assured there was room for advancement, so I went for it. We lost our manager at one point, but the leadership skills instilled in me as a Marine ensured that our group didn't miss a beat. I earned two promotions in three years, and walked out the door with new confidence.

In 2009, I applied for and accepted a role as a Junior Network Engineer - Level I for MTA Long Island Rail Road, where I still work. I know that all of my prior experience has played a big role in me securing and thriving in this job.

As I said at the start, I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to directly translate the technical skills I brought home from theater into a great career. Many of my brothers and sisters weren't as fortunate. They learned how to be reliable, loyal, disciplined leaders just like I did, but they didn't have a fairy godmother.

I am a proud member and supporter of IAVA because my brothers and sisters need their help. From fighting for policy change on Capitol Hill to building supportive programs and partnerships to fight veteran unemployment, they are on the front lines of getting vets back to work.

With new veteran unemployment so unacceptably high, we need more IAVA's in the world. Give a few bucks to IAVA today so my fellow veterans can find their fairy godmothers.