Military Retirement Provides a Few Surprises for an Airman

Rex Temple trying out his civilian clothes while on vacation visiting a 13th century castle in Savonlinna, Finland, May 2011.

Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple officially retired June 1st  after 28 years in the Air Force. I got to know the airman through his blog and our weekly interviews on WUSF 89.7 during his tour in Afghanistan from May 2009 through April 2010.

Temple said civilian life has brought some unexpected surprises like on his first day not in an Air Force uniform. He wore shorts and a t-shirt.

“It felt rather strange waking up the next day knowing I don’t have to put on this uniform. I don’t have to go to work. What am I going to do with my time?” Temple said.

After a two-week vacation in Finland with his wife, Liisa Hyvarinen Temple, he started back working on his masters degree “doing a lot of research and writing a lot of papers.”

“I’m trying to manage my time appropriately, but at least once a week I have a friend, he has a boat, we go out fishing in Tampa Bay,” Temple said.

Fishing was one of the things outside of his family and his dogs, Charlie and Sam, that he missed while deployed in Afghanistan for a year. A year and a half later, Temple said he’s misses a few things about Afghanistan.

“I miss the camaraderie of my team.” Temple was assigned to an Embedded Training Team that trained Afghan National Army soldiers as well as handling logistics. “I tend to go back and forth because I feel so safe here in the United States and I really cherish the freedoms that we have. And I know what the people what they go through over in Afghanistan and I feel sorry them.”

He’s adjusting to retirement and when asked offered some advice on transitioning from military to civilian life.

Retirement has allowed for a little more time to go fishing. Rex Temple with his friend George Leach after a very successful fishing trip on Tampa Bay, July 2011.

“You have to have a plan on what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it and that involves all your family members,” Temple said. “Part of having that plan is you have to be financially set. Especially now with recovering from a recession, you just can’t walk into a job the next day.”

After almost three decades of military life, Temple has found he is missing a few things like the camaraderie with fellow airmen and he misses “the mission.” He’s now viewing that as a stepping stone to the next part of his life.

Temple admits he didn’t know what to expect in the civilian job market despite taking classes on how to write a resume and prepare for a job interview.

“It was really totally Greek because all I’ve known for 28 years is the military. They’ve told me what to wear, what to do and how to do it,” Temple said. “And now all of a sudden, I’m on my own. So, it was a big learning curve.”

Part of that learning curve included what to include in his resume.

“I think sometimes in the military maybe we’re a little bit humble and we don’t want to broadcast our accomplishments, yet that’s what’s imperative to put in a resume. You have to be able to stand out from your competition if you want to get a job,” Temple said.

So, he revised his resume to include elements like his school supplies drive for Afghan children that he started while deployed and continues. They’ve shipped almost 18,000 pounds of supplies and he’s still speaking to community organizations about the effort.

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