When I joined the Navy, I knew I wanted to do four years, get out, and continue my college. However, my plans didn't go as planned and I left the Navy after nine years.

While serving on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier, I was a Fire Marshall. I am 4’11.5” and a woman. I thought, “How am I going to take on this big responsibility of training 50+ Sailors to respond to casualties?” At just 23 years of age, this was stressful. 

One day we had a toxic gas alarm. I had to be the first one on the scene. I thought, “This is for real. People can die.” I remembered The Ship Fire Marshall said, “Chhuop, you are who these Sailors look up to. You have the authority. You got this.” That gave me courage.

Negative thoughts of doing anything will present itself on a daily basis. Whether it is second-guessing yourself like I did or facing the transition, what helped me is preparation. I started interviews a year and a half early. It was a scary time, but I hit my goal of three interviews per month and learned something new with each one. Many tried to make me feel guilty for leaving, but I remained passionate about what I wanted.

I saw Shift on LinkedIn, applied, and was accepted. I prepared early, everything went smoothly with my chain of command, and the timing worked out. 

There are unknowns that cannot be controlled, but control what you can. Having a mentor helped me. Chief Kevin Keosibounheuang kept me mentally and emotionally stable throughout my transition. I learned from him to stay prepared. 

Ask yourself, “What action am I taking toward my goals?” Despite trials, if you set your mind to something, it is attainable.

Do you have a story that would inspire other veterans?

Email us at pathways@shift.org to share your story with our veteran community.

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