After spending 20 years in the service and another 15 as a “contractor”, I can honestly say I never had any experiences like Chris Pine in his most recent movie – The Contractor. I am a big fan of Pine, and I enjoyed him in this movie, even though it was a bit fanciful.

Pine plays Special Forces Sergeant James Harper. He has a blown-out knee and is trying to heal while maintaining his position on the team by taking ill-gotten steroids and narcotics. Harper is subsequently discharged from the Army for his problems. As he watches the family bills pile up, his former teammate and good friend Mike (Ben Foster) reaches out with a potential off-the-books contract proposal from a veteran named Rusty Jennings (Kiefer Sutherland). The money is good, and with quick jobs, it gives Harper purpose and a method to provide for his family. Predictably, everything goes downhill quickly – and Harper’s very first mission blows up in his face.

A Few Words on Sergeant Harper’s Job Search

To his credit, Harper had very little time for his transition, and he was under tremendous financial pressure. However, he did not perform any major planning and like many of us in transition, took the first job offered. Here are a few of the things Harper should have taken the time to study and to perform some introspection:

  1. Attend a military Transition Assistance Program (TAP) workshop and get some additional transitional training or reading if possible.
  2. Spend time thinking about transferable skills and what will be of utility in the commercial world.
  3. Start out on a strong foot by seeking our reputable – military friendly companies.
  4. Learn a new vocabulary to speak in civilian terms, without ever using the word civilian. Civilians do understand “why” the military calls them civilians – and they think it is not nice.
  5. Network early and as much as possible.
  6. Connect with recruiters and headhunters.
  7. Develop an elevator speech and play up your strengths.

The Skinny on Contract Positions

If you like Sergeant Harpers idea of short-term, high-risk gigs with excellent pay, there’s a segment of the defense contracting industry that you might consider. Private security contractors consistently seek young, healthy, skilled service members with combat arms experience and language skills. Just like Harper’s situation, these defense contractors prefer cleared, ex-Special Forces candidates. Companies in this niche include Triple Canopy (subsidiary to Constellis), DynCorp, and others. Websites like, and, can provide a method for locating security positions around the world.

The Conventional DoD Contract Position

Most contract positions are not nearly as exciting as television and the movies. Typical defense contracting jobs provide a good salary, and they are a path to future personal financial goals, allowing you to watch your kids grow up. Defense contractors actively seek candidates with military experience. Working for a large reputable contractor can be a comfortable fit after a military career. However, large and small contractors use for job offerings, providing an easy research method for thousands of defense contract position listings.

You have acquired a great many skills during your military service. These can be easily applied to your defense contract career. Contract jobs are available in a multitude of skills and experience areas, such as IT, logistics, program and project management, inventory control, training services, operations support, etc.

Bottom line: don’t feel like you are type cast into a particular career field. That was part of Harper’s challenge. Now that you are beginning your military transition, know that you can do what you have always desired. Finally, if there is a new line of work you crave and you need skills, training, or education, then use your GI Bill and go back to school. For more information, check out the latest book by Gr8Transitions4U, The Periodic Table of Military Transition.

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Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at