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Taking Care of Our Own: The Marine Executive Association

This article was originally published in Leatherneck Magazine -

“You are a Marine for life.” “Ma­rines take care of their own.” “A Marine never lets a buddy down.” These principles are drilled into every Marine at boot camp, and by the time we arrive at our first duty station, we believe it with every cell of our body.

So how much thought have you given to life after active duty? Active-duty Ma­rines live in the moment. You have to.

Never in the history of the Corps have we demanded more of our young warriors. Your duties require absolute focus. It is not easy to contemplate the day you will leave active duty, but that day will come. In fact, most of us leave active duty at the end of our first period of obligated service.

About 67 percent of you will serve less than five years before leaving the active ranks of our Corps. That means that most of you reading this article will spend about the same time on active duty as you spent in high school. In a few short years, you still will be a proud Marine, but you won’t be on active duty. You will be looking for a job and your next challenge.

Our manpower models are designed to make you a Marine, ask a great deal of you in a short time and return you to civilian life better for your experiences and forever proud of your service in the world’s finest fighting force. You will have been changed forever, but what happens next?

To determine how well we do making Marines for life, try this experiment. The next time you drive back to your hometown, when you are 100 miles away from any military installation, start counting the number of military service flags in front yards and the number of bumper stickers or license plates on cars that proclaim pride in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. Keep score. Give one point for Marines and one point for all other military branches. We’ll bet that the Marine Corps numbers will equal or exceed all other military branches combined.

There is a vast network of support across America that wants to help you because you wore the Marine uniform. Those bump­er stickers and flags are visible signs of that support. So how do you harness that network? That’s where the MEA comes in.

The Marine Executive Association was formed to take care of our own. Created in 1982 by six Marines, its charter is much wider than its name would imply because it provides help for every Marine leaving active duty. MEA is a volunteer organization of Marines whose only pay is the satisfaction of helping other Marines.

Many members of the MEA are placed strategically within the business community. MEA chapters can be found across the country, and even if there isn’t an MEA chapter in your area, it’s likely there are members who know someone who can help you when you arrive at your chosen destination after discharge. The MEA Web site provides immediate access to allow you to find friends or locate a Marine in the geographic location you intend to settle who already has said, “Welcome home, Marine. I can help you.”

The MEA provides transition support services including a jobs board that contains both senior- and entry-level jobs, interview coaching, résumé review and, most important of all, networking support. The MEA even has transition support services at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., for wounded warriors and helps wounded troops regardless of their military branch.

MEA has more than 2,600 members, making it an extraordinarily powerful and focused social network. Its sole purpose is to support you. Best of all, it’s free. The only thing that MEA asks is that those who receive help from the organization should “pay it forward” and help other Ma­rines working their way through transition.

Although MEA meets reg­ularly aboard major Marine Corps installations, few Ma­rines of any grade learn about MEA or even think about tran­sition until they are getting ready to leave the Corps. That’s too late. Senior leaders must ensure that we provide as much attention to a Marine’s exodus from active service as we do when we welcome a recruit on those yellow footprints. We need to be aware of all support services available to Marines, par­ticularly after they’ve left active service.

How good is the MEA at helping you land a job? Here are some success stories.

• “In August, I put out an ad on the MEA Network that MTC Technologies was hiring for 14 fielder/trainers to go across the country/world to train deploying soldiers on the new equipment they will take to war. Within one (1) day I received 22 résumés, and eventually received 40 qualified candidates. Thanks to MEA member efforts, we’ve hired nine, count them 9, Marines in the last six weeks. Because you gents continue to pass the word, and care about other Marines, the system works. Thanks and Semper Fi.”—Bill Peters

• “Thank you so much for the information. I just got back from the MEA meeting. I made at least three good contacts in only three hours. I will definitely attend more of these meetings.”—Marine attending MEA job networking event

• “We cannot get enough former Ma­rines, and we have more jobs where these came from. I’m looking forward to meeting you at the next dinner/gathering, keep me posted.”—Marine employer

• “Just wanted to say that your network is very powerful. The day after you sent my résumé out, I received three e-mails asking about my salary requirement. After replying, two of the companies called and wanted to meet. I have an interview tomor­row. I found your network, everywhere. A young lady at the Fort Lee ID Card Cen­ter received a copy of my résumé a week ago. She said that my résumé is very impressive. I told her that I had the MEA in my corner and that it was because of the MEA Tips and Techniques that I was successful.”—transitioning Marine

The MEA works closely with installation transition programs as well as the entire Marine Corps support network, including but not limited to the Marine for Life program, the Marine Corps Association and the Marine Corps League. MEA’s role is to assist you as your post active-duty career counselor and coach. As you navigate back into the civilian community, remember that “Once a Marine” isn’t just a bumper sticker and that Marines truly do take care of their own.

You can find out more about MEA by visiting its Web site at, or by listening to the most recent interview about MEA at