In this episode, Brock talks with Hunter Anderson.
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Hunter served one enlistment in the Navy as an Aviation Electronics Technician. He participated in two carrier deployments aboard the USS George HW Bush and USS Harry S Truman. After a brief stint working in the shipyards, Hunter extended his passion for service to working at the Fire Department in Williamsburg VA. We talk about the importance of positive self talk when confronting difficult situations and how finding the right job doesn’t feel like work.
Hunter also explains how he used the OJT portion of GI bill benefits to receive a stipend while training at the fire house. This program isn’t talked about a lot, but is applies in many different industries. You can find more out about the program here.
Whether you’re in the service for four years or twenty, you have learned skills, led teams, and learned what it takes to execute under pressure. While those past successes are valuable, they don’t always translate to a life or career when you get your DD214.
Join Tim and Brock as they break down the skills and strategies current and former military members are using to build a successful careers on the outside the service.
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Brock Briggs 0:16
Hello and welcome to the Scuttlebutt podcast. Our guest today is Hunter Anderson. Hunter is a longtime friend of mine now, did one enlistment in the Navy, and is now an EMT and first responder with the Williamsburg, Virginia Fire Department. Hunter, welcome to the show.
Hunter Anderson 0:33
Thank you, buddy. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it, man.
Brock Briggs 0:36
Yeah, I'm looking forward to our conversation. I've said we've been friends for a while. But I think that this will be a good conversation to share some of what you know about the Navy, the Fire Department, those types of processes. I think that you've got some good insight that other people could learn from. You wanna start us out with talking about what led you here? What led up to you joining the Navy? What's your background?
Hunter Anderson 1:02
Yeah, so if you asked me 10 years ago, where I'll be age 25, like I am now. I did not expect to be in a town called Williamsburg, Virginia, with three dogs and a cat and being married to the love of my life, right? Like, think everybody imagines what their life's gonna be like, and really never happens. How you think it's gonna happen?
That’s so true.
Yeah, I was raised in Florida, down in Key Largo, in the Florida Keys. And when I went to college right after I graduated high school, and had no clue. I wanted to do that kind of caught up in that party scene. And my grades were slipping. So I kind of, I tried to remember I was a little bit tipsy after a party and I googled the Navy. And I put some information in, the next day that called me and I was like, “Wow, am I really gonna do this?” So I did. So I signed up really quickly. I left really quickly. And yeah, I did four years from 2015 to 2019, as an aviation electronics technician, just like you. I got out in 2019, worked at the shipyard, Newport News shipyard for about a year.
And then I finally decided to pursue something I wanted to do for a long time and be a firefighter EMT, which it’s been a dream so far. You know, growing up, always wanting to be in the medical field, but never really knew where. I met an EMT one day, and they kind of explained to me what an EMT was. And like, wow, I wanna do that. But I kind of got lost in the so many different options out there, I guess. So kind of put that aside when I joined or when I went to college. But you know, and then I let the Navy, tell me what they want me to do. Which was kind of a mistake of mine. However, at the end of the day, and it worked out for the good, I guess.
But when I got out, I kind of do what I have to do to make ends meet. And then that's when I decided to drop what I was doing and pursue, like I said, my dream job. And I've loved it ever since. So I've been a firefighter for over a year now. And it's been just a crazy roller coaster. But it's been awesome. That's for sure.
Brock Briggs 3:11
You signed some type of contract commitment with the Fire Department the same way that you do the Navy, or is that kind of
You can walk away at any time?
Hunter Anderson 3:20
I can walk away, but I did sign a contract. Not every Fire Department is like that, but because they put you through schooling. So a lot of fire departments want you to be an EMT before you even apply. But I got a little bit lucky because I was a veteran, I got kind of a step up, and I got hired over EMTs.
But so they sent me to an EMT school, which they ended up paying for. But I signed the contract when I got hired that if I were to leave, I have to pay the money back over time, which is kind of a good idea, in my personal opinion, because I feel like a lot of people, they get that qualification and leave, which kind of puts the Fire Department at that position.
So it kind of gives you a little bit of incentive to stay because they paid for you. It's different from the military, because you can just up and leave and you can just pay back your contract. So that's, yeah, that's something I have to do. I can leave whenever I want. But I don't plan on it. But it's one of those things where, like I said, you just gotta pay it back when you do leave in a certain time for, I think three years for the pay back. So..
Brock Briggs 4:24
Yeah, I think a lot of people if they could buy their way out of their contract with the military, they would.
I'm not sure if that's actually an option. But I think that if people could, they would have tried that by now.
Hunter Anderson 4:36
Oh, yeah. There's actually a little hack that I discovered a couple of weeks ago. So the neighboring fire department was hiring and they offered a lot more money than my department pays. So we actually had a number of people leave, but what they did was they ended up selling their leave basically. And that paid for their, like the rest of their contract, which I thought was a little bit of a hack, I guess. But it's like, even in the Navy, if you can do that, that'd be kind of a steal. People would do it all the time. But it was kind of interesting to hear people do that.
Brock Briggs 5:09
Yeah. That is interesting. Our backgrounds are similar in so many ways. I went through a very, very similar experience with going into college, giving that the old college try, as they say. Basically, having no direction, no drive for really much and ending up joining the military. I think that there is, that's one of the biggest problems facing people graduating high school. You get to that age, and you're like, ‘Hey, there's so many options of things that I could do.”
And then it's almost a relief joining the military. Because once you're in, it's kind of scary, leading up to signing your life away for however many years. But then once you're in, that decision is made for you. And it's a good thing at the time. But I think in hindsight, I look back at some of those points. And I really wish that I had the ability to make the decisions that I wanted to even though I didn't know what to do.
Hunter Anderson 6:08
Brock Briggs 6:12
Did you feel like while you were in, there were things that you wanted to pursue, but maybe couldn't because of your time in? Or?
Hunter Anderson 6:20
That's a good question, because I signed up for EMT school twice. So the first time I did it, I was using tuition assistance. And I ended up getting deployed on six days notice, with the Truman, so I had to cancel my classes. And then I tried to do it again with the Virginia Beach rescue squad. So Virginia Beach, they actually give you free EMT training, which is normally a few $1,000 at a community college. But the caveat to it is you have to volunteer 24 hours a month for a year. From what I know, I think I'm not sure if that's changed since I last talked to them.
But at the time, that's what they told me was, you know, it's not a bad gig at al. I'll volunteer 24 hours a month, for a year for that kind of training. But I ended up having to drop that because of commitments from the Navy. So I had two different opportunities to pursue EMT school. While I was in and get a head start on my next career, even if that wasn't my next plan career. I would love to be an EMT, while in the Navy, I mean, especially in Virginia Beach and volunteer and get those hours in and feel like you're doing something good for the community for sure. But my obligations with the Navy didn't allow me to do that.
Brock Briggs 7:38
You talked about that sense of like giving back to the community. Did you not feel that way just by being in, just by having signed up for four years?
Hunter Anderson 7:48
I did. But I think it's one of those things where when you start getting paid you look at it a little bit differently. I think there's actually been a lot of studies that show that people who do things for free, tend to enjoy more, you know, that is your passion. People always say, if you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life. But I think the majority of people who find those jobs, they love, even my job now that I love. It's still one of those things where it's like, damn, I have to get up in the morning and, and be somewhere. Because I'll get fired if I don't go there.
But if you volunteer, it kind of just I guess I just hits a little bit different. It just, you know. Yeah, I love being in the Navy and what I did for the country, in the community, but volunteering, just one of those things that hit differently. And like I told you the other day, I don't know if you remember this, but I was talking about Madison how she's like, “Well, I would love to volunteer some time.”
And my head was kinda like why like, I'm, you know, we have a lot to do. And she's like, “I don't know, I just love the feeling of volunteering. And I love the feeling of doing something you don't have to do, especially for somebody else.” And that actually made me think a lot about the idea of volunteering. And like you said, you volunteer at the botanical garden. And I was like, “Wow, I like really admire you doing that. You did not have to do that at all.” And yeah, I don't know. It's just, it's a different feeling that I love personally.
Brock Briggs 9:11
Yeah. Well, and I think while you're in the military, it certainly doesn't feel that way. I know that I didn't feel like I was making this big sacrifice. I mean, maybe a little bit out to see when you're just kind of like down on your luck and life in general because it sucks. But when you're just showing up to the Navy or whatever branch in your day to day job, it doesn't feel like you're really making that large sacrifice.
But then once you start talking to other people, and I think I had a big realization once I got out, like just an appreciation for people that did sign up, even my past self. Like, I think it's easier to make that observation from the outside looking in, rather than when you're the one doing it every day.
Hunter Anderson 10:01
Oh, yeah, definitely. I agree with that.
Brock Briggs 10:05
What do you think? If you had to say, what are the biggest highlights of your time in the Navy? What did you really enjoy? Or they could be bad highlights too.
Hunter Anderson 10:19
I love deploying to be honest with you. It was really hard at the moment. I missed a lot of things in life that I wish I didn't miss like weddings, births, funerals, you know. It's hard to miss those days. But I love traveling. And once you get in a groove on deployment, it's actually pretty fun. You know, I'm sure you can agree that some great times on the ship and it was really fun to, I guess, put away time of your life to do something of that nature. And especially seeing new countries, I had a lot of fond memories in England with you, you know. And, you know, while places I traveled like Greece, Israel, Bahrain, Dubai, those were the times I really, truly remember.
But even talking about the deployment, a low life for me was getting deployed on six days notice, you know, like, I signed up to deploy. I wasn't trying to complain about it. But I had a lot going for me in life at the time. I had just got back from that first deployment. I finally started becoming a leader that I wanted to do my whole life at Oceana, when we were stationed there, because all the experienced people left. I had a really solid deployment under my belt, where we had a really, which was really successful. And I finally felt like I became the leader I wanted to be, and I started pursuing school. I signed up for EMT school.
And next thing, you know, they like, “Hey, let's talk to you.” And I was like, “Okay,” and they said, “Hey, you’re deployed next week on the Truman.” I said, like, how can you guys do this? I just got back my first one. I'm in school right now. I'm in position to be the production supervisor of a shop. I have, I just moved. I was three days into my new apartment. I haven't even unboxed anything, like, I'm like, I just got here. And I'm gonna feel like I'm just now, you know, happy with the hard work that I have given everybody. And they said, “Sorry, it's just the way it goes.”
And, you know, as upset as I was at the time and even though I sound upset now, it was another cool experience, traveling even more than I did before, seeing another new country that I hadn't seen before, and helping out a work center that really, really needed me. That work center on the Truman that I worked with was very, very new. Nobody knew what they're doing, and it’s not their fault, because none of them had been to school for that job. And I was like, how did this whole entire work center get this job that haven't even been to school for? And that's not their fault at all.
But so basically, I was a production supervisor and the worker, you know what I mean? So, but I ended up doing, I think, a good deed by teaching them everything I knew. And kind of passing down that knowledge to them. You end up being a short deployment, it was like four months, as opposed to the first seven month deployment I went on. But I guess the deployments were definitely the highlight as well as the low light, you know. Yeah.
Brock Briggs 13:20
Yeah. The military is weird. That way, we're especially looking back on it in hindsight, how something can be so bad at the time. But when you're looking back on it, you're like, “Oh, that was so good.” Like, and just the disparity between your understanding and like perception of it. And I think that you highlighted on one of the larger problems that the military has, as a whole is keeping and retaining qualified, strong leaders.
They set you up, they say, “Hey, come and list, we're gonna teach you this job.” You kind of don't care or maybe you're not really filling your shoes yet. Like you said, you have to work towards becoming the sailor or the soldier that you wanna be. And then kind of once you get to that point, you realize that maybe that the military isn't what you wanna do for the rest of your life. And so, do you wanna talk a little bit about what it maybe took for you to get to the point where you felt like you were the person you were trying to be while you were in?
Hunter Anderson 14:26
Yeah, so that's actually a little bit of a long story. I think that growing up, I was always classified as a follower, rather than a leader. I played sports growing up and I was never the loudest person on the team. And even when I was, I consider myself a good athlete and like some people on the team would call me like, the better player of the team. I still didn't wanna be a leader. I was, I don't. I'd rather listen to someone and be in charge.
And it's actually a long talk about my dad. He's like, I want you to be a leader not because I want you to be the biggest bass guy out there, because I feel like you'd be a good one. I said, I don't know, I'm content with being a follower. I was really content with that. And then it wasn't until I joined the Navy go to boot camp where they forced me to be in charge of something. I think it was like the Ford whole, like, some closet. Like you're in charge of this closet. And I was like, “I don't wanna be” but like, they're like, “Well, you have no choice.” So the guys underneath me, had trashed it. And I got in trouble. Like, I'm like, how am I in trouble? They're the ones that did it. And they're like you're in charge. So then I realized forced leadership was a really big part of the military.
But then after a while, you kind of get tired again. You kind of get tired of really just seeing low quality work. And then I come, motivated me to be the leader that I never was, you know what I mean. And motivated me to be the best person I can be. You know, and because I was a follower, for so long, I was such a good follower, that I think it was time to graduate to be a leader, I guess that makes any sense to you. I think in my personal opinion, the best leaders are also the best followers. And it really motivated me to just again, be the best I can be. And at one point in Oceana, I was the highest qualified. You know, I had the most deployment time under my belt of any of the workers rather than out the LPOS with the workers. And I personally had the most experience and the most knowledge, I guess. And it felt good.
And I started to, when you look at those Navy evals, you know how there's like all these categories, aside from your job, like things you do outside your job. I wanted to pursue EMT school. So I was not only hitting the categories that I needed to in the work center, but outside of it. So I essentially was the person I wanted to be at work and outside of work. And I was hitting all these goals, left and right. And I felt like it was just like so motivating to do more and do better. And I guess, at one point, you know, like I said, I was saying all those checks in the box that I didn't even need to do, and to get deployed and lose all that and it kind of hurt at the time. But that's what I signed up for. So I quickly got my act together, pack my bags and left.
Brock Briggs 17:22
What forces you to adapt and like really stay on your toes?
Hunter Anderson 17:27
Yeah, and it teaches you that in life. It doesn't even matter about the military, maybe think about other things. So like if you're lost somebody close to you that you never think about losing, especially if you built a relationship with that person. That's what that reminded me of, because I had lost someone close to me at the time.
And it's one of those things where life teaches you. Life is gonna change no matter what. It doesn't matter what sector it's in, whether it's work, or life, or even your personal goals, like working out all the time, getting hurt. You know what I mean? Like, it's one of those things that taught me a lot about life. And I really sincerely appreciate the experience that I had getting deployed, and six days notice like that.
Brock Briggs 18:13
You think that you can be ready for that? You know that change is part of the job description.
Once you reach a certain age, I think you have come across enough opportunities or examples of times where your world has literally flipped upside down at a moment's notice. How do you prepare for something like that, do you think?
Hunter Anderson 18:37
Honestly, it's one of those things where it's, I feel like you can't. It's an experience, you have to experience as weird as that sounds. And I think being a first responder after the fact taught me that, because we get calls at any moment's notice. And you have to figure out what's like, you know, the best path to take. So what happens not to get sidetracked by my current career, but it's kind of a good example. We get calls and they'll tell you the category of the call and while you're driving there. Dispatch action relates to you all the information they have, you have a very short period of time to gather all that knowledge and come up with a game plan.
Whether it's a fire, or if somebody's heart has stopped or they're in cardiac arrest. Or it's something as simple as someone not feeling good. You gotta really come up with a game plan really, really quickly. So, you know, if you're not a first responder, you're not ever gonna experience, not that you're not gonna experience it, but it happens to me so often I start to kind of get used to it. So that kind of looking back on my military experience, if that had happened more often, then I would probably be a little more used to it. But it's the first time I was ever in a really good position and then I got flipped upside down. This is the very first time it's happened to me, you’re a little like shocked, you know, what do I do? So it's again, it's an experience, you have to experience, you have to go through life.
And, you know, because not everybody has experienced it. You can go through your whole entire life and not ever have anything crazy happened to you really. I feel like, or, you know, some people, it's gonna be really off topic, but I was actually watching Survivor the other night. And it was the whole category of the season was David versus Goliath. And they basically categorize the Goliath as the people who their whole life got handed to them. And the David's were the people that didn't have anything or had everything bad happen to them. They grew up poor. They had all the, the short end of the sticks and all that. And it's like, I feel like, so that kind of shows you people in life can get things handed to them. Some people won't, but unless you experienced, like adversity, it's hard to adapt to it, I guess.
Brock Briggs 20:55
Yeah, you almost have to allow yourself to experience bad things to almost get good at handling bad things.
Hunter Anderson 21:05
That’s what I'm trying to say here is kind of went off on a rant for a bit. But you know, it's kind of hard to explain, I guess.
Brock Briggs 21:13
No. Everybody listening is here for the learning and the survivor references. So that falls right into the description. I guess I'm gonna take that question and go a different way with it. If you can't prepare for it, how do you think that people can handle not allowing or how can people respond to situations that are maybe unexpected, and keep that from breaking them? So I think that maybe people who have had their entire life handed to them in a certain instance, everything gets turned upside down, they have a choice. And we have choices every day to like, say, “Hey, this is gonna be an obstacle, and I just can't cross it. And there's nothing I can do about it.”
Or, you know, there's people, the other side of the coin is, how do we solve this problem? And how do we get past this? And that can be taken a couple of different ways, you know. If you lose somebody close to you, there are people that just drown in grief for years and years and years that were, you know, like being deployed on last minute notice. I'm guessing you had the opportunity to be extremely resentful about that, if you wanted to be. So how do you think that people can decide to work through things?
Hunter Anderson 22:37
Honestly, I think it kind of comes down to self talk and manifesting the response you wish you had. If that makes any sense, you know. I think positive self talk goes a long way. And it's one of those little things you can do to kind of encourage yourself, because when you're in a situation like that, of any nature that you know, things are going wrong, it's like there's nothing you can do to reverse time. So it's really up to you to figure out what to do. And if you can't do that, the least you can do is say, “This is gonna be over eventually,” you know, and then kind of talk yourself up, I guess.
But for the people who just haven't experienced it, it's really, really difficult. And I think you do need to have an open mind and understand that people go through things and the toughest people have gone through the worst things. I don't know. It's yeah, it's a really hard topic to talk about, especially if you haven't experienced stuff like that. But I guess just positive self talk is the best thing you can possibly do. Aside from just living it, because you have no choice. Really, like, you gotta do it.
Brock Briggs 23:57
Yeah, I think that, that's right. There's this concept in Stoicism. I read a book called Meditations, a new translation by Marcus Aurelius that kind of outlines the whole thesis behind Stoicism. And there's this idea that you have this higher self, this ultimate, like the perfect version of yourself, that we day to day have to like wake up and serve, and like aspiring to be the best version of your possible self. And I think that in situations like that, you know, “Hey, I don't wanna be hung up on this for the rest of my life. And like, the bigger me, would work through this and not just kind of run from the problem,” so to speak.
Hunter Anderson 24:46
I agree because, you know, again, at one point you really had no choice but to stick with it. You physically can't run from things that are inevitable especially, just for example death in a family or someone you're close to, there's nothing you can do to get that person back. So it's one of those things where you physically have to overcome it one way or another. You again, you really have no choice. So I guess, things that are less dramatic than a death in a family like even getting deployed on six days notice.
I know people have gone through so much worse, people have been deployed to physical combat zones, because my deployment actually wasn't. Half of it wasn't a combat deployment, half of it was exploring the Arctic Circle. We were the first carrier to go to the Arctic Circle in like 30 years and like that, so we were pretty much just exploring. To my head, I'm like, “Why am I doing this for such a little reason, I guess.” We're just, you know, Americans trying to show power that was legitimate, when we were told.
We were told that Americans need to show power, and that we can operate in the Arctic Circle with the Russians. That's what I was told from day one. And I know people go through so much worse. So I guess, in my head, I was like, “You know what, I'm angry. I'm upset. But this is something I can get through. It'll be over soon. And I'll learn from it.”
Brock Briggs 26:22
And that's a tightrope to walk, though, I think. One of the first couple episodes that are talking with somebody about comparing your time or like accomplishments with other people, and how, in the military, you're, like, automatically stacked up against other people, like, whether it's your EVAL, or, you know, like this qualification or this project lead, or like advancing or whatever it is, you're automatically, always in this comparison mode.
And I think something along the lines of what you're saying, it's too easy to compare, like somebody else had it harder than me. So I have like no room to complain. I think that, that's good in a way where you can kind of help yourself or work through something difficult. But you can't like lean on that too hard because there will always be somebody who's had it worse than you, it doesn't matter. I don't care where you grew up. There's somebody that's got it worse. And so I get leery of leaning on that too hard when because then your own experience almost as invalidated.
Hunter Anderson 27:36
Yeah, no, I agree with what you’re saying, completely. And it wasn't really meant in a way to invalidate I guess, it's one of those things where it kind of gives you a sense of encouragement, I guess. Like you said, someone's always gonna have it worse than you. And you learn about it. You look at the news, man, someone's always getting shot, a country is always going through hunger. And in all these, you hear all these crazy stories in the news, and then you go on social media, and people are posting how great their life is.
But I think, you know, like I said, I guess it's just a little bit of a way to encourage yourself, rather than truly comparing it. I would never truly compare my experience to someone who had a really, really, really rough time, you know, a lot worse than me. But I guess it's a sense of positive self talk that I can try to find a way through it, in the eyes. I guess it's all really all there is too deep down inside, you know what I mean.
Brock Briggs 28:41
Yeah, no, I completely understand and hear where you're coming from. It doesn't mean your own experiences are invalid. But..
Hunter Anderson 28:49
Yeah. Again, every side of that answer.
Brock Briggs 28:54
It's a tough thing. I feel like I am just beginning to like scratch the surface of really trying to understand my time in the military. And every time I feel like I'm making headway on it, there's like kind of another element that maybe I haven't thought of, so but talking and having conversations like this, I think are extremely beneficial to anyone that's looking to kind of process that experience and move forward with it. So I'm guessing that because you only took one enlistment and didn't sign the paperwork for any more time that the military was not your long term goal. Is that the nice way of putting it?
Hunter Anderson 29:37
Truth be told, no, actually. That wasn't really the case for me. I don't know if you're in at the time when they came out with a memorandum throughout the whole entire Navy when they said that they want your end of service to match your rotation date. Were you there at that time? So that happened to me and they gave me a piece of paper that said I agreed to do this. I said yes. I said yes. And then two days later, okay, actually rewind a bit. They said that paperwork had to be completed that day.
And I said, I'm not ready to make this commitment. I'm one whole year away from getting out. I wanna have a little bit more experience. I kind of wanted to get orders. I wanted to get orders and see where my next step was. Because if I got like Hawaii orders, or Key West, or Spain or Greece, that would be awesome.
So this was gonna add more time to your contract. Is that right?
Yeah. So they asked me to add more time. They asked me to add a year to my contract. And I wasn't ready to make that commitment. And they had said, you need to make this today. And then, you know, I think I got bullied and so I said yes. Two days later, they come back with a piece of paper, same question. They're like, ‘Oh, there's a typo. And it was invalid.”
So it's like, when do I have to make this decision? They’re like, “right now.” Okay, yeah, sure. So, two whole weeks go by, I was doing a lot of thought. I'm like, you know what, I can't stand for them. Like, I'm not gonna get bullied into a decision like that. Because their threat was if you choose to re-enlist, you're gonna go needs the Navy, and you're not gonna have input for your orders. So that was their incentive. So, two whole weeks go by, and they bring me another piece of paper saying, “Hey, we made another mistake. We need you to sign this again.” So I said, the third and final time, I said no.
And I remember throwing a piece of paper, not throw it, but like I slid the paper to the guy, I'm like, “I'm done. I can't do this. I'm not gonna be bullied into a decision like this.”
Forcefully slid the paper back to them?
I was like, if I stay in, I'll get needs the Navy, any day. So, I said no. And that was what kickstarted me getting out. I had the decision to stay in. But like I said, I wasn't gonna needs the Navy, that point. They already kind of irritated me. And ultimately, I was ready to take the next step in life. I loved my time in the Navy. And I was ready to use my benefits. I was ready to use what was promised to me for joining like the GI Bill, like moving assistance.
And really just thought I was ready to be a veteran and pursue bigger things. With having the Navy, the military is back, I guess, in using my experiences to do what I wanted to do in life, because I didn't like being an aviation electronics technician. I actually remember, I had to do the paperwork called CYA, where it tells you where you basically you’re saying I'm staying in or getting out.
And on that paper, it was a computer form. It had a list of cross rate options. And I clicked on it and the guy who was doing it told me, he goes, “AT was number 47 on your list, because it listed all the jobs in order from your most similar to your ASVAB, all the way to the bottom.” And number one ended up being a hospital corpsman. Which is like what I do now? I'm a medic now. So it's like one of those things where like, they knew the whole time and that was the best fit for me, but they chose “needs the Navy” from day one. So, you know, I ended up upholding my decision to get out and being really, you know, happy about it. And I was very happy with my experience, but I was ready to move on to the next chapter, for sure.
Brock Briggs 33:52
Yeah. That's such a wild thing to hear that. It's almost like the universe was like, “Hey, you need to get out. Like here's the paperwork. We're telling you to sign it like just say yes, I wanna get out.” Oh, you filled it out incorrectly, twice. Like, I mean, I know that the military is notoriously bad on paperwork and people stuff get lost but that is wild.
Hunter Anderson 34:17
It is, I always tell people that story. I'm getting out. I was telling them I was getting out because people was asking why did you get out like well, for example, number one, I tell them that story. Well let me add to my scroll here go through, you know, all these reasons why, but that's number one right there, I guess.
Brock Briggs 34:36
That's interesting, too, that you said that they were trying to use going needs of the navy or I'm assuming that there's some kind of equivalent in all branches like you'll have no control over your next set of orders or where you're gonna go as if you have some kind of leverage already to pick. It's like when you go up for orders you put in your selections but I don't know how often people actually end up at their first choice of place anyway.
Hunter Anderson 35:05
Exactly. Well do they throw in the cross framing? They're like, we'll make you a plumber in the Navy. Like I'm dead serious. The paperwork said we have the option to transfer you. If your job is overmanned, we will transfer you. I'm like, that blows my mind. Like, I was like, I'm literally being held at gunpoint to make this decision. And I'm like, “Oh, my God! I can't do it. I can't. I really have too much pride.”
The Navy taught me to have pride. So I mean, it's almost like they shot themselves in the foot there. You know what I mean? You know, maybe when I was first enlisting, and they told me I had to be a job that really, really shouldn't have been, I knew I wasn't gonna like I probably would have said yes, anyways, because I was ready to do something other than college. So I guess, like I said, they shot themselves in the foot there.
Brock Briggs 35:57
Yeah. Hey, I hear that 100%. And I know a lot of people's experience has been similar in terms of how much bargaining power you really have when it comes to signing up for more time or trying to implement your own choice into somehow what your future is gonna look like. It usually doesn't work out the way that you think it well.
So you decide to get out, and then you end up going to work at the shipyards.
For those that don't know, or have lived in Virginia or not former Navy here, the shipyards are, I think there's two of them, right?
Hunter Anderson 36:41
Yes, there's Norfolk Naval and there's the Newport News Shipbuilding.
Brock Briggs 36:45
How many people would you say that our former Navy that work at the shipyards, is it like 100%? I was there people that..
No, because I know a lot of older guys. It's like I bet you're 40 years late. I knew from the day I was born in Newport News, I was gonna work here. So at Newport News Shipbuilding, I think they told me there's 30,000 total employees. And I never got a number of how many were veterans but a really good number were especially because I got hired through a contracting company who found my resume on Indeed. They saw the word Navy, and they called me. That's what the guy told me. He's like, “I call everyone from the Navy that I see on Indeed, and ask them if they want this job because they'll hire you, regardless of your experience.”
So, I was an AT. We're working on electronics in the Navy. They offered me a job as an electrician. And I was like, “Oh, I guess you can see the similarities.” But when I got to my crew, this guy's like, “Yeah, I was an EO. I worked on ordinance.” I'm like, what specifically? He goes, I just lifted the bombs in the aircraft. I didn't do anything but that and like, he got the job. And I was like, “Wow.” He goes, “Let me guess who's your recruiter.” I told him the guy's name. He goes, “Yep, he called me too.” I was like, “I don't feel special anymore.”
Brock Briggs 38:05
Dialed in on those Navy guys, it's not electronics specific.
Hunter Anderson 38:09
They just want workers. They didn't care at all what I did. So..
Brock Briggs 38:14
But, it sounds like over the years like hearing your experience there, it doesn't sound like it was bad.
Hunter Anderson 38:21
Oh, I got paid the most I've ever been paid, like in my entire life. It really was insane, honestly. Not trying to be boastful by any means here, but if I worked, I got 1500 a week, which was like almost double I got in the Navy. So and that's because I was a contractor though because like they pay a little more, not little more, a lot more for out of state workers. And because I'm from Florida, I still had Florida ID and a Florida license and you know, all this stuff. So it was kind of a little bit of a loophole, I guess, that they paid per diem for me. Because I had a Florida license plate, you know what I mean.
And it was very, very hard work. I came home, my backup was just black from the hard work that I did, but the pay was just like insanely good. So it kind of gave me it was kind of a you know, good and bad thing because, yes, I was getting paid a lot but it didn't give me a real sense of the pay from the outside world. And that's actually where I struggled when I left that job. I got my pay was like, I get paid now a third of what I got paid in the Navy. So it's like if I'm making double I did in the Navy and then a third of what I did in the Navy now, it's just hard. It was hard at that first.
Brock Briggs 39:49
What ended up leading you to decide and like walk away from that type of pay? I heard so many stories of people like landing into a “good job”, like a good paying job, I guess. And the money ends up being too good for too long for them to walk away from. So obviously something must have happened or really must had a change of heart to walk away from that.
Hunter Anderson 40:15
Well, I've discovered first and foremost that money does not buy happiness. That you know, you hear that all the time, and people kind of counter with love. I’ve never seen someone frown on a jetski. I'm like, well, I'm like, you've never worked at the Newport News Shipyard, man. So it's one of those things where the work, it was hard. I've always been a hard worker. But I guess it was a mental thing. I think I struggled mentally more than I did physically. I came home hurting every single day. My joints hurt.
And my head was constantly hurting from the hard hat that was just squeezing my head all day long. And again, not trying to be physically inferior here, but it was very, very difficult work. And the money was good but I had no energy to even spend it. So like I would sleep all day long when I wasn't working. But there was terrible leadership there. I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. I was already struggling with other things in life. I was going through some really hard times, period.
And I struggled really hard mentally. I went through actually really bad depression when I was working there. And I actually remember texting you. I don't know if you recall that. But I texted you one day, I was like, “Man, I’m struggling.” This is a long time ago. But I remember seeing an ad for the job that I work at now. And I was like, I can't afford to do it. So I saved up some money over time. And then I applied for this job. And then I got it. And I was you know, I had some money and savings that I could continue to live the lifestyle that I had for a little while.
And then I got to downgrade that just because I was so used to the money and I can't afford the lifestyle. I lived in the Navy and the shipyard than I do now. I'm with my wife now. So we split bills, which was easier. But I couldn't be single and do my job now and live the way I was living before, for sure.
Brock Briggs 42:22
Yeah, I think you hit on a couple things that I wanna talk about. One, the idea that money doesn't really solve anything for you personally. I've heard that money solves your money problems. But it's really easy to once you have some money to realize that if you are having issues that they generally are much bigger than that, like it's maybe bad behaviors, or like maybe it's bad money management. That was one thing as a young E-2 or E-3, I was spending 90% of my check on beer or just like fun things and I've got a car payment. And I'm like, just don't have like my financial life together. That's kind of what ended up leading me to go to school for Finance. But that like good money management, like isn't really instilled in the military at all. And so even once you get it, you don't really know what to do with it.
Hunter Anderson 43:23
Exactly. No, I agree with that completely. You know another thing is like I made a certain amount in the Navy. And I always had the mindset that I didn't make a lot for some weird reason. I don't know if you ever heard that in the military. But I always heard the military isn't paying well. So when I made a certain amount of money, and I was doing really good in the military, I was like, “Oh, they don't pay anything here. I can get a better job outside the Navy,” you know what I mean. And then I remember getting, I had multiple job offers outside the Navy.
And it was like my first offer was 13 an hour. I was like, you know, no disrespect to that price. But I'm like, I'm not making that now. I make a lot more than that now, so I didn't I just, being young and dumb, I didn't understand that. That was like, a legitimate issue. With getting out, is like you're not always gonna find the job that pays as much as you think is gonna pay. You know what I mean? I was financially responsible in the Navy.
But when I got out, and I got a really high paying job. After several offers of several low offers, I finally got a good offer. I'm like, “Well, I can make a good living outside the Navy.” So that's when I started getting financially irresponsible. Because I didn't understand that, that’s, you know, the most I'll ever make in my probably entire life. Like if I don't pursue anything other than what I do now.
Brock Briggs 44:46
Well, the pay in the military isn't bad. You know, it's definitely not life changing. But I think that that is an important thing to understand too. You're not gonna just get out and like unless you've got like some really in demand skills, or maybe you've got some schooling or whatever it's hard to roll right into. Or maybe, if you've been an officer, they're more inclined to like jump into like a higher paying job, or maybe even 20 years in. I know like in this area, specifically, they wanna hire people who have been in for 20 years.
But if you have only been in for one enlistment, and you know, you are 22 years old, and that's what you have, like, that's great. That kind of says something about your work ethic, but maybe not your qualifications. So I think that's an important thing to understand when you're getting out is what's realistic in terms of how much I can go get paid with the skills that I have.
Hunter Anderson 45:46
Oh, yeah, for sure. Definitely.
Brock Briggs 45:49
So how do you make that, you said something, you're getting paid like a third of what you are getting paid before? How do you make that decision to just like, chop your lifestyle, down to end make a lot less money, or maybe do something else, like with a career or maybe a different direction. Is that a sense of purpose thing? Does that come back to the volunteering thing you were talking about earlier?
Hunter Anderson 46:17
That comes back to just pure happiness, man. I wanted to be happy. And I knew deep down inside, this is what I really wanted to do my whole life. You know, I wanted to be in the medical field, like I said, and I wanted to make a difference in the community. And I ended up doing, was saving a bunch of money, I end up saving a lot of my paychecks, and then I got the job offer. And then they ended up telling me, “Hey, you can use the GI Bill for this.” So on a different topic, that's something else I wanted to talk about was the GI Bill that I used.
But at the time I didn't even, when I got the job offer, I didn't know that. When I was pursuing that I did not know you can use the GI Bill for this career. And so that was actually a little bit of a factor when I took the job ultimately. But I end up going through some financial hardships where I had to spend essentially my whole entire savings. And there was a period of time where I wasn't getting a GI Bill because there were some paperwork issues that happened. So I went probably six months without getting a GI Bill.
And I was like really, really, really struggling. And it was extremely hard. But it is one of those things where I looked at the big picture. And I said, “Hey, I'm like, I'm gonna get this pay soon, the GI Bill soon. But it's also going to give me time to live this lifestyle I truthfully, wasn't entirely expecting.” So I wasn't really expecting to make as little as I did. Obviously, they offered me the job with the salary, but with my savings, and the GI Bill, I'm like, “Okay, I can, you know, use that as a counterbalance, I guess, in the difference in my bills, and eventually adapt to that lifestyle.”
Then I was getting married. So it was like, I knew my bills are gonna cut in half. So it took kind of a little bit of trial and error and a lot of thought. But looking back on it, I would rather struggle and continue to do my job now and work something on the side because that's another factor is like as a firefighter, I work 24 hour shifts. So I have a lot of time to do other jobs. So it's like a worst case scenario, I work a side job or whatever.
But it ended up working out. And after a year, I learned to adapt to the pay without the GI Bill. Because in my head, I had to say I'm not gonna get this forever, because you only get it for a certain amount of time. So I started to live off of my salary. But it definitely took time. But I started to learn how to do it.
Brock Briggs 48:47
It takes so much discipline to understand, “Hey, this is how much money I have coming in. And this is like what my bills are.” And like making that work and not being able to like do anything else. I remember there were so many times using the GI Bill going to school, where it's like, “Hey, I'm going to school full like way more than full time. I don't have the time to carry a job. And I have to make what the GI Bill is paying, like I have to be able to live on this somehow.”
And so you really start to get creative about how you spend your money. And it really calls you into question on what you're doing for fun on the weekends. Are you dropping half a paycheck at the bar on a Friday night? Or are you maybe staying in and you buy an Xbox and a game and just that's your fun on the weekends or whatever it may be.
Hunter Anderson 49:43
I actually had to start donating plasma to pay the bills at one point. I don't know if I ever remember telling you that, but so you can sell plasma in your blood. It actually pays pretty good and I was making oh, I will tell you this. I still do it. And here’s the reason why? Because the money is really good. And you get paid nearly $500 a month to get it, they put a needle in your arm, and they take the plasma out of your blood, which sounds absolutely ridiculous. But like, there was a period of time where I struggled so badly, I had to do it to pay the bills.
And then when I started to get some more income, I started to learn how to manage my money, I kind of kept doing it. I was like, you know, it's too easy. I'm not afraid of needles. You know, I work in a field where I needed that, you know, gruesome things don't bother me. So they pay really well. And you do it twice a week, you don't have to, but like, you can as maximum. You can do it twice a week, and you make a lot of money off the I'm like, “Wow, I can invest all this money.” And now that I don't need to pay the bills, I invest pretty much all the plasma money. So it's like, you know, it’s a random source of income that I learned from struggling so bad.
Brock Briggs 50:59
There's that whole idea around like living really, really frugally and within your means that you know that, that won't be forever, ideally, like your goal over time, like, you're likely gonna start making more money. And when that happens, that frees you up so much, you're like, “Oh, wow! I'm used to living on $500 a month and my paycheck just doubled, or whatever. Like, if I just keep my lifestyle the same, the amount of take home pay that I have just grew exponentially,” and like you can do so much more like invest for your retirement or whatever it may be. That's such a strong concept to understand, and like basic Financial Management.
Hunter Anderson 51:45
Brock Briggs 51:49
See, you talked about using the GI Bill in like a way that you weren't really aware of be able to use that, talk a little bit about that. We've ideally have a lot of people that would benefit from understanding like how the GI Bill works, and then maybe the program that you specifically used it for.
Hunter Anderson 52:10
Yeah, so I'm using the post 911 GI Bill for on the job training at the fire department. I did not know you can use that. Maybe I should have paid more attention on TAPS or TDPs of the class they make you take when you're getting out. But I don't even recall them mentioning it. I thought I was pretty, I paid a lot of attention in that class. But when I got the job offer, you know, I got to the point where I wasn't applying to them anymore. They wanted me. They use, now its their time to get me to take the job rather than taking somewhere else. So they're like, “Well give you the GI Bill.”l And I’m like,” The GI Bill for what?”
And then they sat me down and told me like you get the GI Bill for being on probation at the fire department. So I got home, I looked into it. And they were right. There's a section of the post 911 GI Bill where you can work essentially an apprenticeship. Actually, did a little bit of research before this podcast on what you can use it on. I found a list of companies you can use it for, like they’re like tire companies. Procter and Gamble, you can use it for industry. There's a list that goes on and on of companies that will actually pay you GI Bill housing allowance for just being new, essentially.
The fire department and police academies are probably the two biggest ones people use it on. Because your program has to be approved. Not every, like tire shop, and not every random shop, you know is approved to use it. But you can actually go online and there’s a little calculator you can type in a company and whether or not they haven't, and they'll show you how much they're going to pay you over time. So the first six months you get 100% of your BAH. The next six months you get like 90%. It starts dropping and I think you get 24 total months of being “an apprentice” in any job. Not any job but the ones that you know, are applicable. But at the fire department, that's what they offer me.
So I've been getting BAH the whole entire time I've been there besides the Fire Academy and the EMT school. All the reason why I didn't get it then is because the paperwork got messed up and they've had to do a lot of work to get that paperwork approved. But ever since I started working as a fully qualified firefighter, I've been getting BAH which is like really nice. Like I said, a lot of companies do it. So it's a little hidden gem I guess that a lot of people don't know about and it can really help you financially. You know, I don't recommend that if you're trying to pursue a degree because you only get a certain amount of time to use the GI Bill.
If you're trying to pursue a bachelor's degree, you're not gonna be able to use the whole GI Bill for that and OJT training. So there's kind of a little sacrifice I had to make for the extra pay for the time being. But I like using it. It's really, really helpful. Like I said, just for the time being.
Brock Briggs 55:29
What's that 24 months that you use for like OJT? Does that come out of the 36 months of the total use of the GI Bill?
Hunter Anderson 55:38
Yep, it does. It does.
Okay, so you have like..
Hunter Anderson 55:42
When you wanna use it. So I'm only using it for a year. My plan was to use it for a year. So it's 12 months, I already have classes under my belt. So I should be able to get the degrees that I want with the GI Bill. But honestly, it's really helpful for people that don't wanna go to college. Because not everyone wants to go to college, there's nothing wrong with that.
So if you wanna pursue being a mechanic, you know, being a firefighter, being a police officer, you can use get that extra money, that housing allowance,. They also give you a little bit of book allowance, which is kind of funny to me, because if you're working a paid job, they don't make you pay for books. So like they gave me like $700 for books. I'm like, I have never bought a book in my entire life working for the fire department. They just gave it to me. So it's just a nice little extra paycheck.
But there are caveats to it. Like I said, only specific companies can do it, a lot of them do. And you can look it up online, which ones do which ones don't. I just read that you can't transfer it. So if you have a spouse that wants to do it, you can't give it to your spouse or anything like that. So again, it's a little bit of a hidden part of the GI Bill. A lot of people don't seem to know about it. But you can look it up on va.gov. And you can get some more information on it. The FAQ sheets are really short, meaning it's pretty straight to the point, what you can do with it. But it's pretty nice.
Brock Briggs 57:09
Yeah, when you were telling me that you had gone through this process, and had been like using the GI Bill for something other than school, I was like, “Wait, what?” like that's just like in the military. So many veteran benefits are out there that you just don't know about. And like, you really have to do the research or like, you almost have to hear from somebody who's done it before, how they did it, or like at least be aware of its existence, so you can like track it down. And like, once you kind of know you can talk to the VA or talk to whatever the resources about how to implement it. But just kind of the knowledge that it exists, I think is half the battle right there.
Hunter Anderson 57:53
Exactly, for sure. And I've heard of a lot more hidden gems, GI Bill. They don't have like, no facts on but I remember just talking to people be like, oh, you can do this, you can do that. And all the GI Bill and all the benefits. And it's like, I'm like I told you not remember hearing about this. So it's not that they didn't tell us. I just feel like it's one of those things where if it's not in your head on what to ask. I don’t know if you experienced something or learned something new. They're like, what questions do you have? I'm always like, I don't know, it's because I wanna, I need to experience to ask the questions. Because I don't know what questions to ask. And now I guess I was one of them. I don't remember asking that in the task class, because I don't recall that ever being a topic. But I don’t know.
Brock Briggs 58:44
I don't remember that being a topic in my class either.
Hunter Anderson 58:47
Okay, that's my thought too. Because a lot of people don't know. They don't know about it.
Brock Briggs 58:53
Well, and I think that that questions to ask is such a big problem. Because so much of the time while you’re thinking about it, once you have it made up in your mind about, “Hey, I wanna get out. And I wanna like maybe go this direction,” you kind of have some idea. But all of your peers at the time while you're in, maybe at TAPS class, you don't even know what to ask about. You don't know what problems you're gonna have with the VA. You don't know none of those people have gone through VA health insurance. None of them have used the GI Bill before, so nobody can answer your questions.
And I think that there is a really bad feeling of being out. Now you're completely disconnected from your support network. And now you're trying to figure out how to like implement all these benefits and things that you've earned, but there's not a lot of resources there to help you.
Hunter Anderson 59:48
Yeah, and that goes back to a topic we’ve talked about in the past and it's like tax reform. You know what I mean, reforming the class they make you take when you get out because it's, again, they forced you to take it. So you have to take it to get out. And most people were like, “I'm so committed to get now that I don't really need to hear this,” which is the mindset of majority of my class was. I was genuinely interested in learning of what I can use when I get out, and what field I can go into.
And essentially just how to transition out just the class to me was so flawed. I felt like there's so many, so much room for improvement. It was a week long class, and I remember we took breaks every 45 minutes. So it's like, I understand you can't pay attention for X amount of time. But when we're taking so many breaks. It was one of those things where I can't concentrate. I need to like, you know, really get this information down. You can really skim it down to a three day class, if you really needed to.
Brock Briggs 1:00:50
If you were other than this specific portion of the GI Bill that you're using for OJT. If you were exiting the Navy again, starting tomorrow, what would you wish that you would have known prior to exiting? And how would you have implemented that?
Hunter Anderson 1:01:09
Like we've mentioned, I think, just how to utilize benefits and what exactly you can do when you get out. The head instructor of my TAPS class was not a veteran. So she didn't, we had a lot of questions for her. And she's like, and she had answers to a lot. But she read it from a book. And then she had or she's like, “Alright, I got to ask somebody.” So I think just the whole TAPS class needs to be reformed, period. I think it needs to be run by purely veterans.
And I wouldn't even be upset if they like put advertisements out for one or two day job offers where you can just talk about your experience of TAPS. You know what I mean, especially if you have to use a benefit or something along the lines of would I use. If they put a job offer saying hey, well even if it's not a job offer, I'll volunteer to go to the TAPS class and tell them about my experience using the job as a firefighter. Like, I just think that you do a better job at teaching more permanent information about, you know, things you're gonna experience when you get out. Especially because I feel like a lot of people join out of high school, you know.
I met so many kids that were 18 years old, that didn't even have a job outside the Navy. So when you're working a career such as the military for years, you never even had a part time job. It's hard. It's really hard to get out. I feel like I think just focusing on the easiest things to learn maybe rather than all the nooks and crannies and stuff you learn that you’re gonna use when you get out.
Brock Briggs 1:02:51
Yeah, there are a lot of specific details, but also not a lot of specifics. Maybe not specifics that pertain to you. It's almost like the TAPS class needs to be run like maybe before you get out and then maybe like six months after, to see like, “Hey, what problems have you occurred or like run into?” And I'm guessing that there probably is a pretty large disparity or the tax class would be run a lot differently.
Had they talked to veterans six months after they've left to figure out what problems they had, you know, what should we be spending more time on after you get out? Whether it's health care or use of the GI Bill or then you can kind of really dive into the specifics?
Hunter Anderson 1:03:40
Yeah, I think you should take it before you even make the decision to get out. I think they should be very, very real with you and say, ‘You know, your job as an aviation electronics technician on F/A-18 fighter jets is not necessarily gonna translate to civilian world.” F/A-18, is not in the civilian world. You know what I mean, like, you know, obviously they will tell you that, but I think they should.
Before you get out, you should have to take a class that kind of gives you a little more insight on what the civilian world is gonna be like. Especially because like, I don't know, if you remember when you were deployed, you had to take classes on adapting to the real world again. Like they had offered all his classes like reconnecting with your spouse, and like they had a state trooper come out and say, like, “Guys, don't get drunk,” and it's like stuff you should already know. But you've been gone for so long, they try to teach it to you again.
I feel like they should be somewhat similar in a way where it's like, “Guys, here's what you need. If you've been gone out of civilian world for years, here's what you need to expect again.” You know what I mean, which sounds kind of silly because obviously when you're not deployed, you get to go home every day. And it's not like your military career essentially becomes your nine to five, but you still have that military mindset. So I feel like they should do a better job of just teaching you what it's like to be a civilian again, before you make the option to get out, you know.
Brock Briggs 1:05:11
I agree, very completely. And I think one of the large things that's missing with that reintegration is understanding how to take what you've done, the titles that you've held, the jobs, all of that, and turn it into verbiage that other people will understand.
A couple of weeks ago, we recorded an episode with Austin Lieberman, and he was very, very heavy and adamant about how to use words that people will understand, you know. If you were in charge of this program, like being able to talk about, “Hey, I was responsible for this aspect of budgeting or changing the titles, you know.” It's not electronics technician, a project lead, or whatever it is using real world words, that mean more to people and not the jobs that you're gonna be working at. Because like I said, they have no idea what it takes to be an electronics technician, like they just don't.
Hunter Anderson 1:06:16
There was someone who asked me what my job was in the Navy, and was like, “RFI US use.” He was like, “What?” I was like, “Oh, yeah, it doesn't make any sense to you,” like, not trying to treat it like they're, you know, stupid or anything, but just you're so used to like the acronyms in the military, you're just like, you don't know what to say.
Brock Briggs 1:06:38
I think that, that also is one of the driving factors behind what keeps the military community associated with the military community. Nobody wants to learn how to translate that or like, kind of reintegrate back into just, “Hey, I'm not affiliated with the military anymore.” And that's, I don't know, I know that a lot of the friends that I've made while in the service, like, I feel like those are gonna be my friends forever, versus, you know, it's because we have something in common.
And I think that, that's an interesting line and conversation to have around, how willing people are to translate their time into the ways that other people can understand that.
Oh, yeah, for sure.
So you wanna talk to us a little bit about what it's like becoming a firefighter? You've talked a little bit about being heavy on the medical side, and maybe not being exactly like you're doing a lot of firefighting. What has that been experienced like? How has it been different or the same as kind of what you were expecting?
Hunter Anderson 1:07:46
We'll start from the beginning that I would actually say that the fire academy was a lot harder than military boot camp, my personal opinion. The reason why is kind of surprising, but in the military, you're forced to do everything. You live there, you're told when to go to sleep, when to wake up, and you have a whole curriculum plan on what to do. I remember they actually forced us to study. I remember they gave us flashcards in bootcamp and they said, “Write this down.” So every person wrote down, and they're like, show me what you wrote down. And they showed, we showed the military instructor what we wrote down. And they said, “Show it to the person next to you.” So they physically forced you to study flashcards, right?
So everything was forced in the military and in the fire academy, your success is entirely up to you. You don't have to go home and study but you're gonna fail a test. You don't have to take care of your body and eat right. You can go to McDonald's after the fire academy, but you're gonna fail the PT test. And you can tell pretty much would have been the military who had it because there there have been quite a number of us who took it really seriously, as if it were boot camp. And there are other guys like who was good as accidents after class. And those guys did the worst on the PT test. And some of them, you know, failed it.
So again, it's one of those things where you have so much freedom in the civilian world that your experience in the fire academy was up to you. But honestly, it was probably the most challenging thing I've done physically. Because even though I don't fight a whole lot of fires now, they make you go through fake fires, where they put you in buildings where the temperature is really really really hot. And you have to essentially search for these fake victims and zero visibility and it was so challenging, man. I remember I came out a couple of those, they call them burned days. I came out a couple of burned days like barely alive, man. My blood pressure was super low. It was dizzy. I couldn't talk straight. It was a very challenging experience. And then you go to EMT school which is mentally challenging. Being an EMT is not easy.
So in the military, you and I, we troubleshooted technology. And as an EMT, you have to troubleshoot a person. And everybody's different, every person on the planet is different. And all those, all that technology, we worked on the same. So eventually you start seeing repeat patterns. And you definitely see some repeat patterns in humans. But it's hard to figure out what's wrong with somebody. Especially because we're not doctors, we're just trying to get them to the hospital and do what we can intervene for the time being, which is whatever the transport time is.
But the whole process of becoming a firefighter EMT was very, very challenging, especially if you pursue being a paramedic, which is the EMS world, emergency medical services world, there are levels to what you can and can't do. EMTs like me, I have a very basic set of knowledge. I can get someone in the hospital. I can do some certain interventions. I can do CPR on somebody, but paramedics, they can shock people, shock people's hearts back into place. They can cut someone's throat open and stick a tube down to make them breathe. It's a really complicated field. But I thought the military definitely set me up for success in this field. And it's really, really challenging, but it's probably the most exciting field you'll ever get into in your entire life. I love it. I love every single day. I go to work, for sure.
Brock Briggs 1:11:38
Do you think that the military set you up for that?
Hunter Anderson 1:11:42
So they call it. They call the military or not the military, the fire service, as well as the police, they call it paramilitary where there's discipline. But it's not like the military. But we don't have to march to the trucks, you know what I mean? But you have to be presentable. You have to look good. You have to be physically fit. And you have to obey orders. There's a chain of command. I have a captain. I have the chief, you know. There’s ranks to the fire academy or the fire service and even the police service.
So it set me up. So, my chief, I call him chief, like I sandwich sheaf in a sentence. A lot of people who have not been in the military don't understand what it's like to call somebody a chief, right? So saying, chief is second nature to me, you know. And you see, again, it's the structure thing I feel like. But it's a fun career, man. It's like, best thing I can think of, it is made for me.
Brock Briggs 1:12:51
Like, it gives you a lot of the structure of the job, and maybe the same sense of fulfillment that the military gives you, but more of the leash on your personal life in terms of like, “Hey, I wanna take time off, or I wanna go to school or I wanna go do this other thing.” It gives you the leeway to be able to do that with, like I said, the same kind of sense of fulfillment.
Hunter Anderson 1:13:18
Definitely, for sure, man. So as we talked before we started filming. I am on vacation right now. I took two days off work. And I had a three day break. I worked 24 hours, and then I had an 11 day break. So I use two whole vacation days for two weeks off work essentially. In the military, that's a lie. It's like half your vacation for a year. So it's nice, for sure.
Brock Briggs 1:13:48
Yeah, that's a ton of time off. Is that a typical Fire Department schedule or how the most firehouse schedule up?
Hunter Anderson 1:13:57
The majority of firehouses will run 24 or 48 hour shifts. So it just really depends on where you work. A lot of the neighboring counties from where I'm at follow the same schedule. So it's 10 days a month. But 24 hour shifts, which sounds like a lot of time off, which it is but it's also a lot of work in the time being. I work 56 hours average a week. So it's not a four day, it's a lot more than a 40 hour workweek, you know what I mean. And its called my hell week. I work 96 hours a week, which is just one week a month, where it's like you work every other day for 12 hour shifts, every other day.
But then you have a lot of time off towards the antsy. Every month you get at least a five day break, which is pretty nice for your physical mental health. And just being off work, it's nice, period. But yeah, like I said a lot of fire departments will do it. I was actually watching the Fire Department on TV last night and they worked a 48 on, 96 off. So that's their permanent schedule, 40 hours on 96 off, which is nice. Two days on four days off is pretty, I think it's a perk to the job.
But I don't know if that's just a fire cultural thing, because I never really understood why you can't just work eight hour shifts and have certain shifts, but I love it. I kind of like working a 24-hour and coming home and having a whole day off, you know what I mean.
Brock Briggs 1:15:26
I wonder with doing eight hour shifts, if the frequent turnover disrupts, like responding to calls or something like that.
Hunter Anderson 1:15:37
That's what I was thinking because, you know, we get a lot more calls during the day, but then the calls at night are usually worse. You know, if you go to a car accident at 1pm, you're gonna go to that call, thinking it's a fender bender. You go to a car accident at 3am, you're fully expecting somebody to be dead, honestly. You know, it's so I guess it's, I don't know, it's one of those things where you just have to kind of experience the full 24 hours ahead to let you go.
Brock Briggs 1:16:13
There's something exceptionally difficult about being a firefighter that you weren't expecting, going into it.
Hunter Anderson 1:16:22
I would just say, probably seeing people pass and also being the one to tell somebody that their loved one has passed. You know, being a first responder, whether you're a police officer or firefighter EMT, you kind of expect to see death, right? But I never really expected as often as I have. Especially seniors, it's a really tough situation. Like I think the last person that I witnessed was just 30 something years old. And they died from natural causes. So it was one of those things where it's like, damn, like, they passed at 30 something from natural causes. And I'll kind of never forget this. We went and checked her pulse. And she was far gone. She had rigor mortis, which is signs of death, you know, past resuscitation efforts.
And I think it was her sister around the corner and said, “How's she doing?” And we're just like, you have to, I never really experienced I thought I was gonna be the one to tell them. Because you kind of always look at, you watch, like TV shows and stuff. And it's usually the fire chief and the higher ranking people that give them the bad news. But I was, I remember looking around me, I was the only person there. And I had to tell her the news that her sister had passed. So it was like, that was something I truly didn't expect for some weird reason. Like I said, you know, I expected to see hard things in the fire service and the EMS world, but I didn't expect to be happening this quickly.
And there's a couple guys I work with that are pretty young. I think one of the guys I work with he's 21. Now, they hired 18. And so he could have been in the same shoes I was at 18 years old, you know, telling somebody their loved one passed, you know. That was something exceptionally hard for me to see. But, you know, somebody's gotta do it. And I guess I'm built for it in a way because my parents, my mom was in the medical field growing up, and she experienced that a lot. So it is something I was like, you know, I guess kind of used to.
Brock Briggs 1:18:45
I think that you mentioned earlier about how you kind of had this sense of like, knowing that you wanted to be in the medical field from an early early age or maybe even before the military. How did you know that, that was your thing? I think that getting out, a lot of people, myself included, have gone through a period of time where you're not really sure what you should be doing. You don't know what your passion is, what your calling is. How did you know that was your thing?
Hunter Anderson 1:19:16
When I was a kid, I used to love like I used to visit my mom in the hospital town because she worked. She was an extra technician and she did like CAT scans and MRIs and all that. And I remember going and visiting her and I'm like the hospital is so clean. I love it. You know I love the smell of a hospital. I love just being here. I knew the gravity of what she did. But I just love the environment, I guess. But on top of that, I love like ambulance. I used to love like listening to the sound of an ambulance and I'll see them drive by and I wanna chase them. I still wanna chase them so bad and see what's going on.
And at first it was me being snoopy, but then I'm like I wanna help, you know what I mean. When I remember seeing a commercial for the Marines back in the day where it's like, you know, most people run from danger or the Marines run into it. That kind of resonates with me a lot, because I remember you get, like I said, hearing ambulances. I'm like, I wanna everyone's going that way. I wanna go to the direction of the ambulance and see what I can do. You know, I have zero skills that can help. I just wanna know what I can do to help.
And I met an EMT, like I mentioned previously, and they explained to me what an EMT did. And then it actually wasn't until I was 20 years old when I got into a car accident. And then I remember an ambulance pulled up and the guy that got out was wearing firefighter gear. I'm like, “This is weird.” They put me in an ambulance. I'm like, “Hey, man, are you a firefighter? And are you an EMT?” He goes on, “Both.” Like, you're both and he's like, yeah. He said like most firefighters are EMTs. So, you know, that came and gone.
A couple of days later, I googled firefighter EMT, and I kind of read then that heavy majority of firefighters were EMTs. And I'm like, wow, that is like what I wanna do, you know. I wanted to be an EMT for a long time. But when I saw this guy get out, you know, this guy fight fires. And as an EMT, I'm like, “That's awesome. I wanna do that. So that's something I end up soon.”
Brock Briggs 1:21:18
And I think that you describe that perfectly when you get into the thing. And whether it be a field, a job, a certain industry that you're supposed to be in, it doesn't matter, all of the other little things that get in the way, like, “Hey, I'm getting paid,” you know, a third less than I used to, or there's these problems. Well, I've worked like two days straight, or like have to do these monster hours. That like sense of being where you want to be in like, I think, especially after the military choosing, “Hey, I am the one that's responsible, and I'm choosing to be here.” That is such a good feeling when you, you know, “Hey, I wanna be here. And that's why I'm here.”
Hunter Anderson 1:22:03
Oh, yeah, you know, something I love actually now that I think about it, above the 24 hour shifts and the 40 hour shifts is that those people you work with become your family. And if somebody else is willing to sacrifice 24 straight hours their life to do exactly what you wanna do, you pretty much have to find common ground eventually. Because you know, sometimes when you find a job, you don't always get along with all your coworkers. I'm pretty good at get along with everybody.
But just in general, you're gonna find a lot differences in your co workers. And it's the same in the fire service. But like, if that person's willing to put 24 hours with you, go into a fire with you, be your backup, be your ambulance driver, be your paramedic and be your captain, it really means a lot. And you sort of see them as family. So it's like, I'm not just going to work with my coworkers, I'm going to work with my family, especially when it comes to a fire, man. Because like I told you fires are rare.
But I remember my very first fire. I looked at the guy next to me, we've bumped fist and we're like, “Let's go. Let's do this.” And it was a very memorable fire. And we talked about it all the time. And it's one of those things where we got to get the job done safely. But you know, not every firefighter comes out of a fire, right? So and you learned about it the hard way. So those people become your brothers and it makes working 24 hours that much easier, I guess.
Brock Briggs 1:23:32
I think that, that's right. And in the military, I think it’s the same way to a certain extent, doing a job or like I said, even if you're out a job and industry, a specific career, where you're doing something that you are excited to be doing and other people have the ability to choose and do the same, you're naturally gonna be attracted to people because they think the same as you. And you find that common ground really quickly, like you said.
Hunter Anderson 1:24:03
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Brock Briggs 1:24:06
Well, cool. I wanna wrap this up with one big kind of final question. What advice would you give to somebody that's in or maybe getting out? What did you learn from your time in, that would somebody else needs to hear?
Hunter Anderson 1:24:24
I would definitely say that you need to prioritize happiness in your life. And if you're happy in, stay in. If you're happy with your career in the Navy, if you love traveling, if you love getting new orders every few years and you know, if you love that lifestyle, then pursue it. I feel like when we were in and a lot of people will rant about how much they don't like the military and it's one of those things where a lot of people I noticed they they gave into that and they were kind of talking about the military, but those are the ones that end up re-enlisting. It's like you’re re-enlisting for a reason because you clearly like it and you're clearly happy. But just most importantly, do what makes you happy in life. It's gonna take sacrifices to find that happiness.
For me it was with money. You know, I struggled with money when I got out. But I do a job that I absolutely love, love my coworkers, I love my job, I love driving the ambulance, I love driving, like, you know, being the back of a fire truck. And basically, I love my life right now. And I owe it to the military. And I think it's incredibly important that people prioritize happiness over anything. Whether you're in a relationship that you aren’t happy with, your with your current job that you're not happy with, you kind of just need, life's too short to not make the changes you need to do to just be happy.
And that's kind of what my biggest, that's actually why I wanted to be on this podcast, man. It’s to express to the veterans and the people, you know, getting in or getting out, or even people who aren't even in the military, considering it or even just people, period, man. Happiness is too important in life, man, you know. And I love what I do. I love my friends. I love my family. I love living here in Williamsburg, Virginia, a place where I never imagined living in my entire life. And at the end of the day, this is what I love to do. So yeah.
Brock Briggs 1:26:22
I don't think that I could have said it any better. I think that everything seems to fall into place, your job, your relationship, whatever other elements of your life are that you're dealing with.
Choosing something that makes you happy, every time and for the foreseeable future will always lead you down the right path.
I think that that's well put. If people have questions about maybe joining the fire department or wanna reach out to you, where can people go to get in touch with you?
Hunter Anderson 1:27:00
I highly encourage people to ask me questions as they, you know, if they hear this because I remember meeting you. I was with one of your buddies one time, he's like, “Oh, my brother works at the fire department.” And you know, we give you his number. And I did end up not talking to the guy, but I wish that wholeheartedly I did, because I would have, you know. Probably expected a little more understanding of the hiring process and all this stuff like that, because the fire service is a very, very interesting career.
And getting hired is very, very, very difficult. I got pretty lucky at my fire department who is hiring right now, by the way. But you know, and a lot of fire departments are hiring right now. So it's one of those things where I wish I talked to somebody a little more, so I actually really encourage anyone who's interested in this field. Let me know for sure.
Brock Briggs 1:27:48
Yeah, where can people go to reach out to you?
Hunter Anderson 1:27:50
Probably say, my Facebook or Instagram.
Brock Briggs 1:27:56
Okay. I'll be sure to link to that in the show notes and people can reach out if they've got questions.
Hunter Anderson 1:28:01
Thanks. But I really appreciate you having me. I really, really appreciate it.
Brock Briggs 1:28:05
Yeah, this has been fantastic. Thanks for coming on, and we'll be talking soon.