Brian HendersonMarine pilot Brian Henderson’s plan is to leave the armed services next summer – and he has been thinking about his life outside of the military. He decided to draw up a plan for his future. “I thought about my next steps and I decided on two things. I wanted to utilize the GI Bill, considering it was available to me, and I wanted to use the time that I had left in the Marines to essentially set myself up for success on the outside,” he says.

After talking with senior officers and people in the business community, he decided that earning an MBA would be one of the better graduate degrees for his future direction. Next, he had to decide on a school. “I found out about the Executive MBA program at San Diego State, and also found out that the GI Bill would pay for it completely. So, I said, ‘That’s what I’m looking for.’”

Today, he is attending classes and working toward his master’s degree. He has much to say about his classmates, “I study with a pretty diverse group – and there are other military personnel in my class although the majority of my classmates are not in the military. Working with such a diverse group is beneficial because each person contributes a different perspective to our class discussions.”

Henderson’s goal is to position himself for leadership and management when he leaves the Marines. He believes that one of his strongest skills developed in the Marines was his leadership ability, but he realizes that this skill must be able to transfer over to the civilian workforce – and that means education and experience.

“From the very beginning in officer candidate school the Marine Corpstests your leadership abilities. We are put in positions where we must lead our peers. This is perhaps the most difficult challenge for a leader because you can’t use your rank as a crutch when giving orders. The classroom provides a similar environment; you are with a group of peers – there is no rank structure. You have to discover ways to lead people who are on the same level as you and develop your techniques.

Education is giving me that,” he adds. “For example, in the Marines, I am in charge of a 40-man maintenance shop. I report to the major and I have to use my decision-making skills to get these 40 Marines to work as a team and achieve a specific goal. I must learn how to transfer those skills to the business world. For instance, a vice president might put me in charge of a certain sector or division.

I’m learning how to take the vice president’s intent or vision and get that group of people to achieve it just as I do in the Marines.”

“I think that everybody should use their benefit. The government makes it available to service members. If you don’t take advantage of things that your country or your government is making available to help you out, you’re basically selling yourself short. I always preach to the younger Marines to take advantage of what your government, what your country is allowing you to do. You’re putting in four years or eight years or ten years of your life. Use what they are giving you.”