Episode 338 Michael Conner Finding Meaningful Opportunities in the Trades Transcript

This transcript is from episode 338 with guest Michael Conner.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And today my guest is Mike Connor. Mike is a former 75th Ranger Regiment. He’s a veteran who specializes in understanding the obstacles military personnel face when they’re leaving the service. And his last position was a platoon sergeant for the Warrior Transition Unit at Walter Reed Medical Center.

And he understands The strain that military personnel have when they’re reentering into civilian life. So welcome to the show, Mike. Uh, really glad to have you here.

Michael Conner: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, you bet. Um, I know we told a little bit about your background, um, but [00:01:00] for folks who maybe aren’t familiar with you, uh, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and kind of how you got into what you’re doing now?

Michael Conner: Sure. So, um, I came in the army in, in, uh, 1994. Well, I kind of, I knew what I wanted to do all the way through, um, high school. So I was in, uh, JROTC in high school and we used to go up to, uh, at the time, Fort Lewis and we saw the Rangers up second range battalion faster open off the tower. And I was like, and probably my junior year in high school.

I was like, that’s what I want to do. So I, uh, joined the army in, in 94. Um, went to the recruiter and they said, Oh, we can’t get you in the Rangers, but we can get you airborne school. So I was like, Oh, that’s great. So I went to airborne school and went to volunteer for the Rangers. And they said, well, the, the, uh.

The liaison is on leave. So you’re going to have to go on, um, we had, we had me on orders. So they had me on orders to, uh, uh, 25th, 25th light in, in Hawaii. So I went on 30 days leave prior and, [00:02:00] uh, in Oregon, cause that’s where I’m originally from and I, uh, I ended up, um, uh, getting a wild, wild hair and, uh, having my dad drive me up to Lewis.

And I walked up to, I walked into Second Bat. I remember, and I went to the staff duty NCO and I said, uh, uh, I’d like to volunteer for the unit. And they’re, wait a minute. So they went up to, uh, to the PAC office and they came down and, and, uh, It was Sar Major Balog, but at the time it was Sar First Class Balog.

He was the pack in COIC for 275 and he was like, can we even do this? So, um, so what they did is they were like, okay, all right, can you take a PT test right now? I was like, sure. So I go in the car, grab some clothes and, and one of the staff duty guys gave me PT tests. And, uh, then they cut me orders, um, to report to, um, uh, the, uh, to Fort, Fort Lewis.

And then from there I was supposed to go to R. I. P., but when I got there, the second bat was [00:03:00] in, um, Panama, and they got tied up with the, uh, there’s a mission that it got tied up with when, and Cubans were down there and they end up having to raid a compound with the, had to do with the old, the whole Cuban, um, it was Operation Safe Haven, uh, it was 94, 95, and so, um, nobody was there to pick me up, so I sat at the, Replacement Battalion, or the Intake Battalion there at Fort Lewis for like three weeks.

And then finally they just cut me orders down to 7th ID, um, and uh, And I’m like, I felt like, I was like, I’m not, you know, I’m not supposed to be here. And everyone’s like, yeah, whatever. So they threw me in a, in a line squad at 3rd Battalion, uh, Charlie Company, uh, Manchus, which is a 3 7. They used to formerly be Fort Ord and ended up, uh, putting me in, um, in that unit in Charlie Company.

And then like three weeks later, we deployed to Panama. So I ended up going to Panama with them. And then when I came back, I was like, uh, [00:04:00] I kept, I, you know, my squad leader, I kept telling me, I’m not supposed to be here, I’m supposed to be going to rip. And finally when I got back, they, they cut me orders to go to rip, and then I went to rip, made it through rip, and then was that second bat spent, uh, second bat from 95 till till 2000.

Then I went to go be a Ranger school instructor. for the mountain phase, uh, from 2000 till, uh, just after the towers fell a few months, I went back to rope, uh, range orientation program. These are all before now they have RASP one, RASP two, but they used to have RIP and rope. So I went through rope and went back to second range battalion, the same company.

And platoon I left from, uh, took a squad there as a squad leader. We went to, uh, to Afghanistan a couple of times, then I got promoted. Then I went to go to regimental headquarters to be a RIP instructor for a couple of years, and I went up to Ustasak after that, uh, for a. Uh, U. S. Army Special Operations Command for, and served for three years on a team called SORCI, which [00:05:00] is Special Operations Research Support Element.

It’s kind of a high speed, um, uh, force mod stuff. And at the, and then after that, I got a conscience and I was like, I gotta go back and lead troops again. So, uh, so I, uh, Went to, uh, Charlie, at the time it was Charlie 3 8 Long Range Surveillance at Joint Base Lewis McChord and, uh, I was a Detachment Sergeant there.

And then right about then I was coming, I did, I was about there for three years and then ended up going and getting an assignment at Walter Reed in, uh, which was my most challenging assignment, working with the Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed and ended up retiring out of there, so. After that, um, well I, I guess I can, that’s a good intro, I can go into the rest

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Yeah. Yeah. No, that actually was, was really good. Um, I, I liked the fact that you don’t take no for an answer. Uh, really, you just

kind of knocked on the door and he’s like, Hey,

uh, I’m I’m here. I want to volunteer. And I, I, um, I’m not going to just walk away and be like, Oh, okay. No is a good enough answer for me.

So, um, it’s kind of, kind of cool. Um, you know, kind of hearing your story, uh, and how you got to where you are. Um, really it’s, it’s a, uh, to me, it’s a unique story. I never really heard of anyone who just kind of. Showed up, uh, you know, another unit and was like, Hey, I want to volunteer for this. And how do I, how do I get in?

What do I do? You know, all that, that kind of stuff, which, which is cool because it, it just kind of shows the attitude that you have. [00:08:00] Um, it probably shows a little bit about your, your background and your, um, your determination and, um, you know, perseverance, willing, willingness to, uh, think outside the box to. accomplish an objective, right? And I’m pretty sure the Rangers appreciated that type of mindset and that type of attitude, uh, as well, which is probably why they, they didn’t just slam the door in your face and tell you to get lost, you know?

Michael Conner: right.

Scott DeLuzio: Um, so. You, you mentioned, uh, your time at Walter Reed was one of the more challenging, uh, times.

What, what was, uh, what was that time like, and what was, uh, challenging about all of that?

Michael Conner: Um, you’re so at Walter Reed at, um, the warrior transition, uh, battalion or brigade at Walter Reed. We were dealing with the most, uh, injured and, uh, I had in my platoon. I had a few of the, um, severely injured. I had some, you know, very, very, some great influential people to, uh, medal of honor recipient. [00:09:00] Um, yeah.

But they were some of the, the worst of the wounded came to Walter Reed and dealing with them on a daily basis was an honor. But it also taught me a lot about myself more than anything, you know, humbleness, humility. Um, the, uh, it, you know, and it’s, it’s just, uh, and it also brings the reality of war of what, uh, the consequences.

Everybody sees the glory and the, The hugs and high fives and stuff. But a lot of people don’t see the aftermath of, of how, um, how war is, you know, devastating. And there’s a lot, I mean, there’s a lot more amputees this war, I believe. I don’t remember the percentages off my, but the, the interesting part about that was, uh, had to do with our, our, um, the.

and medical, medical education on the battlefield was much better now, and more people are surviving to make it to that point. And that’s one of the reasons that the [00:10:00] injury rate was a lot higher because there’s, there’s not as many deaths, you know, we’re beginning, which was great because more individuals at a, at a, at a level of, you know, a squad level are, are trained to, you know, to, To, uh, take care of, uh, trauma on a, on a satisfactory level to be able to survive, you know, stop the bleeding, get them to get them to the surgeon.


Scott DeLuzio: right. That’s right. Yeah. And that’s, that’s an incredible advancement that we’ve, we’ve made because I know even as a, uh, you know, an infantryman, uh, when I deployed to Afghanistan, uh, in, this was 2010, um, you know, the amount of medical training that we went through, um, and, and it was, it was not just. Me, it was, you know, a whole, a whole bunch of us. So it wasn’t like we had to rely on the medic if something happened, like we, we could handle things, maybe not to the same degree that the medic could, could do, but we could stop the bleeding. If something happened, right. Or, um, you know, someone has a collapsed lung.

Like we knew what to do to kind of [00:11:00] handle those types of situations temporarily. You know, we, we weren’t going to be the ones going in and reconstructing things and figuring everything out. We would be able to stabilize a person though, until they got to the point where, where they can be in, uh, you know, the, the right hands, as far as the, the medical, uh, side thing, uh, of things goes, um, but, but you’re right.

Like. people, you know, even like, you know, Vietnam era and stuff like that, they didn’t have that level of training, but they also didn’t have the level of protection either. As far as the body armor goes and all of that, they, they had, you know, next to nothing, they, they might’ve had like a flak jacket, but that wasn’t gonna.

Michael Conner: no, it stops nothing. Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: with, with too much, you know, like maybe, maybe a little, uh, you know, glancing blow with a, you know, shrapnel or something like

that. Maybe it might help with that, but it’s, it’s really not going to help too much with the direct impact or even explosion, uh, you know, from a grenade or something like that.

It’s not going to, not going to do too, too much, uh, you know, if it’s, if it’s that close, right. Um, And so, yeah, those people just wouldn’t have [00:12:00] made it. And so they wouldn’t have made it to that point where they had the, uh, the option of being amputated to save their life. Right. And that’s, that’s where you’re talking about there. Um, well, well, it may sound terrible that, yeah, there’s more, uh, you know, amputees or there’s more injuries. Um, at least these people are coming home alive with them. Pulse, right? Um, and so that’s, that’s a fortunate thing, I think. Um, you know, but then, then there’s that, that flip side of it is now these people have to learn how to live, um, maybe with lost limbs, lost eyesight, you know, decreased mobility and they have other issues now. Um, and I gotta imagine, you know, from your point of view, seeing these people come through, um, probably took a toll on you, didn’t it?

Michael Conner: Yeah. The, the, this is one thing that they were very, um, the, the whole organization was very smart, um, on taking care of yourself as, uh, as a caregiver. So basically, cause you are, even though you’re in a leadership position, the squad leaders, platoon sergeants, there’s a, you know, the whole company structure, you are, uh.

Um, you’re [00:13:00] still caregiver and, and part of, you’re part of a, um, uh, you know, you’re part of the, the team, you know, you got, you’re pretty much your squad leader, your platoon sergeant, then your social worker, your, your nurse case manager, all the, the whole, the whole shebang, and they made sure that. Uh, you are, you are, they, they would bring in acupuncture for, um, like weekly, this is, uh, some, you know, they would bring, they would do stuff for, for the individuals like us because it does, they have something called compassion fatigue you’re probably familiar with that, it sets in, it’s when you deal with people that are injured for so long, um, or you’re dealing with people that are injured, you start to lose, you know, you’re like, oh, that guy’s only missing one leg, you know, this guy’s missing two, so you start seeing them, uh, on a weird, Uh, So you have to be careful with that.


Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Yeah. And that, that’s definitely not a place that you want to slip into, uh,

especially, uh, you know, not in front of those people. I mean,

in, in the back of your head, everyone has, you know, these, these [00:14:00] other kinds of thoughts that, that maybe aren’t socially acceptable to, to get out there and start talking about.

Right. But, um, You know, it’s, it’s, uh, you know, just a thing that we, uh, we have to deal with. And it seems like they, they were good about that and provided you with some, um, you know, some outlets to be able to, uh, kind of cope with some of that and, and, and help out. So, so you got out of, uh, you retired from there.

Um, you got out of the military. Um, how was that transition like for you as you were getting out?

Michael Conner: So, I guess the best way to put it is the, the longer, the longer you’re in, the more institutionalized you become.

So, and it’s the more difficult it is, the transition is, even though you think it is, you think, Oh man, I’ve been in 20 years. Everybody thinks the guy’s been, he’s squared away. He’s going to be able to get his, his, his stuff together, but the, it’s a, it’s a challenge.

So, um, I don’t know, I hate quoting statistics, but I just met actually last week with, uh, with the helmets and hard hats reps. And [00:15:00] I think it was around, I think it’s 80 to 85%. I’m sure somebody will fact check me on that, but 80, 85 percent of people, um, when they get out of the military. Change their plan from the original plan they had when they, when they, when they ETS or retired.

So, um, the challenge is. was to, I thought I knew what I wanted to do. So I ended up, um, working, working with, uh, my brother in law’s as a project manager. And I, and I really, it didn’t, it didn’t, it didn’t work out too well for me because it just wasn’t what I, what I felt was right. And then I looked into like nursing.

I looked in a lot of different paths. I was going to go overseas, do security contracting. And my wife was like, no. And, uh, so, um, one day and I ended up taking college classes. So, uh, you know, using the post 9 11 GI Bill. And that really wasn’t for me either. And I remember I was in the middle of taking class and I looked up and there was an advertisement [00:16:00] for, um, for deep sea commercial diver.

So I was like, you know what? I’m gonna pick up the phone call. So I call month later. I’m enrolled up in New Jersey of Divers Academy International, which doesn’t exist anymore because my organization actually bought the school. So we, uh, we run a, uh, I’ll talk about that later, but we run a, um, commercial diving.

School now, but, uh, so I ended up going there for four months, putting my life on pause for about four months going to getting my, uh, commercial diver certification for, uh, deep sea diver, hard hat diver, underwater welding, and those kinds of things, even though it’s just all familiarization there, pretty much as a school, 30, 000 for how to blow bubbles underwater, but, um, so, uh, after that, I didn’t know.

So I was contacted by, uh, the Powell Drivers and Divers Union. And, uh, and took went that path and worked as a went through an apprenticeship for four years, uh, with and worked with, uh, as a pile driver [00:17:00] and, uh, kind of, and then mapped my way into what I’m doing now. Um, on the union side, supporting the men and women of the organization.

Scott DeLuzio: Now, so you also are, uh, basically offering advice to current or former, uh, military members, uh, going through this transition stage. Right? Um, and you, you’ve been there, you’ve gone through this, this stage yourself and, um, you know, you were maybe part of that statistic that you quoted, even if the numbers aren’t 100 percent accurate, there’s, there’s a good percentage of people that just say that, uh, change your plan after leaving the military.

And I, I think there’s another statistic and I’m not going to get the numbers right 100 percent because I, this is just off the top of my head. Uh, but I think it’s somewhere between like One in two years that, uh, a service member lasts or a veteran lasts after leaving the military in their first job. Um, and then they, they move to some other job.

I don’t know necessarily if it’s in [00:18:00] a totally different career field, if they’re there, they tried, um, you know, there’s one field and they, they’re like, no, that’s not for me. And then they move on to something else. Um, or if it’s, um, you know, just changing. uh, changing jobs at a different company or whatever, but I know it’s, it’s somewhere around one to two years, uh, that, that most veterans last after leaving the military in their first job. Um, which kind of goes along the lines of what you’re saying, right?

Michael Conner: Yeah. No, I think one of the, one of the, the things that is, uh, I think we leave the military with, with, Some people might disagree, but we leave the military with an inflated sense of self worth. I, we think that we’re, we, and my best advice to anybody is take a big bite of a humble sandwich. And like I, I tell people, I tell our veterans that we bring through our, our program.

Um, you know, and I did the same thing. I was like, if you are as good as you think you are, then you will rise to the top, you know, but everybody wants that, that [00:19:00] 100, 000 a year right out the gate, you know, and I mean, shoot, if you work the Intel side, I mean, yeah, that that probably is a reality,

Scott DeLuzio: That’s probably easy to get that.

Michael Conner: the individuals, especially from the combat arms field, infantry, field artillery, um, armor, there’s not a lot to equates to what we do on the outside. And that’s why I got into the trades, um, because it, it’s, I mean, I think it’s one of the best, best kept secrets in the. in the, in America. It’s a spot where you can make six digits with no college debt, you know, so.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s right. And that’s something that I think, uh, a lot of people overlook. Um, I don’t know what it is, uh, if it’s a, just this old school mentality that it’s. You know, not good work or it’s, um, you know, that it, it’s not going to pay well, you’re not going to be able to. Afford a home or, you know,

raise a family on, on a salary doing something in the trades where, um, you know, I, I see people, you know, [00:20:00] just that, that I know from our neighborhood here and whether it’s electricians or plumbers or, uh, you, you know, you name it, they’re, they’re making. Loads of money.

Uh, and, and they’re, they’re, they’re doing just fine. They, they own their home. They, they have two, three kids, you know, whatever. It’s like they, they’re living the American dream and they’re, they have no debt as far as college goes. And they’re, they’re able to, um. You know, work their job, a job that they enjoy.

And they, they, uh, they, they can make a good living doing that. And so it’s like, yeah, why wouldn’t more people look into that? You know,

Michael Conner: Yeah. Plus, I mean, plus you’re earning, um, a benefits package, so you’re earning a pension. So like I retired with a military pension. I’m working on a second, second pension also. So, I mean, that’s, that’s, that, that, you know, pensions are kind of going away too in America. It’s, it’s one of those things that’s good because who, I mean, who wants to work till they’re 80, you

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Right. Yeah. At some point you need to enjoy life, you know,

and that’s saying that you, [00:21:00] you may not enjoy the work that you do.

Uh, you, you might, but, but there’s more to life than work. Uh, there’s, there’s family, there’s, there’s a whole world to see. And, you know, like some people might want to go travel and see the world or, you know.

The country or, or, or even just explore their backyard, you know, like their, their, their areas in their state or nearby within driving distance, they may not have had the opportunity because they’ve been, you know, chained to a desk for the last 40 years or whatever, you know, that’s like, no, that’s not the best way to go.

So, um, so what are some of the challenges that you, you see when you’re kind of mentoring some people as they’re transitioning out of the military, what are some of the challenges that you see other people having?

Michael Conner: Um, well, the big challenge is, is especially somebody that, that has never been in the, in the real market. So like somebody that’s come in when they’re 18 in the, in the ETS. So they have never really, I mean, they went from their family to, um, to getting thrown to the wolves and they’ve had a mom, they’ve had a mom and a dad the [00:22:00] whole time.

It’s just a transition. Mom and dad was the, was the, was the military. And now you’re, you’re on, you’re on your own. And the first reality check. that you’re going to have in the civilian world is that everybody’s from themselves. So, and that’s, that’s the biggest, that’s the biggest thing is, is everybody it’s, and it’s a shock, isn’t it?

You know, that’s, that was the biggest shock for me. It was like everybody, it was, it was accept, acceptable to look out for number one

Scott DeLuzio: hmm. Mm

Michael Conner: and screw everybody else. And that was, that was socially acceptable. And that was a big shock for me. Like my time, and I’m going home and I, I stayed. Until like the work was finished.

You know? And I mean, it’s like people had told me to go home and, and that, that’s a big culture shock, you know? ’cause we’re, if us from the military, we’re used to working as a team where we’re used to, when another person’s down, we pick ’em up, we pick up the slack, you know, we watch each other’s back and, and that’s where we’re, we’re used to now.

That’s number one challenge. Number one challenge. Number two is dealing with that first layoff [00:23:00] because it’ll happen because you know, it’s that. And that’s a huge challenge. So making sure that you’re financially secure enough to, to, uh, to deal with the layoff and then also, uh, using all the assets that you have at your disposal to be able to make it through.

That’s one of the reasons that I went with, um, a union and working in, in the trades is that my. What I do now, but my, my, my rep, my business agent, make sure I stayed employed and this day and age right now, right now is the time to do it. Because right now we have, um, the, the workforce is aging. So I think it’s like between 40 and 50 years old in the trades.

And, um, we right now, if you want to be successful and make big money, getting into trades right now, especially from the military is, is, is definitely a way to go, you can make a lot of money and. If you, the, the show up to work on, we already have the [00:24:00] hard, the struggle, cause I recruit people all the time from different communities.

And the hard part where we have is a person, guy or girl show up on time, work hard, and then, um, have a good attitude. I mean, if you have those three, you go right to the top. Right to the top. I guarantee you, you go right to the top.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. I mean, like just showing up is, is such a huge thing. I think these days, I mean, you see, I don’t care what the business is. You see help wanted signs outside the windows all the time. Um, people looking for. Just people who want to work.

And, um, and when they get people to work very often, you go into some of these places, whether it’s a restaurant or grocery store, whatever it is, sometimes it’s just the crappiest of attitudes that you’re dealing with. And it’s like, I, I don’t want to go shop there or, or. You know, spend my time there if I’m getting crappy service from people. And I got to mention, it’s the same thing across any industry, you know, even in the trades, you know, um, you don’t, you don’t want somebody who’s [00:25:00] showing up to work and they’re, they’re dragging ass and they’re not, they’re just not motivating to be around.

And, you know, that brings the morale down of everybody. You know, when you have that, that, that kind of, I don’t know, crappy negative personality going on. Right. Yeah. So

Michael Conner: Another, another good thing with the, with the trades and it’s, it made it an easy transition as to alleviate the, the, uh, difficulty of transitioning out to military. It’s, it’s very, um, carpenters and pile drivers. I mean, pile drivers, basically that’s, was, was my trade and basically the pile driver is a steel carpenter, I guess the best way to put it.

Um, it’s the instead of, uh, what you’re using, steel, you use a lot of welding and stuff like that, but the, the construction trades is very much like the military. So it’s, it’s an easy transition, especially for, uh, for an 11 Bravo infantryman to come straight across. It’s an easy transition, you know, cause you’re, you’re, you’re still, you’re still living a structured life within construction and, you know,

Scott DeLuzio: [00:26:00] Yeah.

Michael Conner: easier.

Scott DeLuzio: Now, I know a lot of times people coming out of the military, especially, you know, the folks that were, um, that you were dealing with in your last post, um, you know, there’s, there’s medical issues. There’s, uh, you know, maybe physical limitations. Um, Especially in, uh, you know, some of the trades physical, very physically demanding, um, you know, are there any, um, you know, opportunities in those, those areas for people who maybe are, uh, you know, they got knees or back or, you know, hips or whatever issues that they may have, um, you know, any opportunities for them in the, in those, uh, those areas that, Maybe they can work, work around that.

Michael Conner: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s, it’s what you can tolerate. So it’s, um. I mean, um, you know, I have, I have back knee issues. I’m shoot. I was on jump status for many, many years. I mean that we all do. Plus I’m, you know, 47. So that hit my age, you know, didn’t, didn’t help all that much, but, [00:27:00] um, it’s, it’s basically what, what you can handle.

And you, you’ll find out that it’s not as difficult as, as what we were used to putting up with, you know, like, you’re like, Oh, I got, we got to do this for eight hours, 10 hours, you know? And it’s, yeah. up a patrol base and sleep So, you know, I remember

Big deal, you

Scott DeLuzio: Like that’s, you’re supposed to be wet. It’s raining like that.

Michael Conner: it’s raining. It’s like if it ain’t raining, we ain’t training, right?

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Um, uh, so, uh, just like, you know, the military, uh, trains, they’re, they’re people you go through basic training, go through AIT, you go through all the, the, the training, um, are there educational, uh, opportunities that, uh, new folks to these trades could, uh, take advantage of.

I don’t want to say take advantage, like in a negative

Michael Conner: Oh, no, it’s

Scott DeLuzio: the opportunities are there is what

Michael Conner: No, [00:28:00] absolutely. Absolutely. Um, so it’s, uh, so most, most apprenticeships I can speak from the pile drivers and the carpenters apprenticeship. Um, it’s a four year long apprenticeship and it’s earn as you learn. So you are, you’re already, you’re up from Jump Street. You’re already earning a pension and annuity and a wage.

Your wage is based on the current journeyman wage. So you’re going, you’re going to classes five times a year, a week at a time. And you’re also working in the field. Um, and you’re earning, you’re earning a wage, you’re earning, you’re earning the benefits, you’re getting the education. You, um, uh, you can use your post 9 11 GI Bill, so it, it makes up for the difference.

So, like, let’s, for example, First Year Apprentice is 60 percent of journeymen. You’re getting 100 percent of, of the, um, of the, of the post 9 11 GI Bill. And, um, and so, and it depends on the area. So, let’s say the D. C. area is like 2, 500. And then, um, as you go to second, the GI Bill drops, and then [00:29:00] third, fourth.

So, it keeps you at, uh, that journey, that journeyman level. And, uh. Which is great. So, but you’re getting education. Um, you’re, you’re learning all about your trade. You’re in the field with a signatory contractor, this union contractor, getting your time out in the field, working full time overtime. And then, uh, at the other end, you, you come out with your, your, uh, as a journeyman.

And then, uh, we have journeymen upgrade classes. And as, as we, we cover any, any classes near the industry, we cover it. So any, any follow up training that, uh, as long as the members are member in good standing, you can attend it. All the training is free of charge, including the apprenticeship is free of charge.

So the money comes as a contribution from this, our contractors that pay for the school, but the, um, but the, to the individual going through the training and working at, it didn’t cost them anything.

Scott DeLuzio: That that’s great because I know a lot of people coming out of the military. Um, the, the thought of going to sit [00:30:00] through, uh, you know, four years of college or whatever, to get their degree, it’s just

not really appealing to them. You

Michael Conner: Nah, that wasn’t appealing to me.

Scott DeLuzio: And it’s for a lot of people, you know,

it, it, it really is. Um, it’s a lot of work, um, and, and trying to work a full time job and earn a living while going to school is. Difficult. Uh,

and you’re doing that. It’s not just like you’re, you’re doing that for a month or two and it’s just, you know, you gotta deal with it. And when you get through, you’re, you’re done. It’s, it’s four years. Um, you know, and that’s a lot to, uh, to do. And especially if you already have a family and, you know, You got bills and everything else.

Like, like anyone else has, it’s not like you’re a 18 year old kid going to college who has not a care in the world, you know, other than going to class. Um, you know, it’s a, it’s a totally different thing. So, you know, this, it seems to me like a great opportunity for people who are looking to. Start that [00:31:00] next career after

leaving the military, right?

And you’re getting paid as you’re, as you’re training. Um, and, and you’re able to kind of have the best of both worlds. It seems like, um, um, no, what about the people who, okay, let’s say they’ve, they’ve gone through, you know, all the training they’ve worked for a few years and, um, they. have this entrepreneurial mindset and they, they want to maybe branch off and start their own uh, business.

Is there any, is there a good path for somebody like that who, who can kind of go in that direction as well?

Michael Conner: Absolutely. You’re talking about like, so like they came in as a carpenter and then they want to start a drywall business

Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Yeah,

Michael Conner: yeah, absolutely. So we, we educate, um, small companies are, are, that’s, that’s the American dream, right? Be able to do. to start your own business and do your own thing. And we, we fully support that.

We, we, we help the, we help small and large companies that are signatory to us alike to, uh, be successful in, and [00:32:00] through training, walking through the steps. Cause the hard part is it’s easy to say, I want to make a business. You know, I want to start a business. The hard part is what do I do now? How do I bid?

How do I take my company that has five to take it to 30? You know, those, you know, what is the next step? So we, we bring. Individuals that are in, um, um, have smaller companies and bring them around larger companies. Now we, we make the connections. We, we do the introductions. We introduce the subs and the GCs.

We, you know, we were, I guess the, the best way to put what I do now is I build, I’m, I build, I make opportunity. I build opportunity, you know, so I, I create opportunity for, for, for members and workers. I create opportunity for companies, you know, to be successful. And when you have, um, A healthy economy like that, you have people going to work and they’re making a good livable wage and you have, um, companies bidding money, make it, it’s, it’s, it’s a happy, it’s a happy world.

Everybody’s making money when everybody’s making money. That’s everything works out. Well, so, well, we, yeah, we, but go back [00:33:00] to your original point. Um, yeah, we, we help out. are members that want to start companies. I mean, that’s, we like that. So

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And that, that’s great too, because, um, you know, some people, uh, maybe even the people that I was talking about before, where maybe they, they’ve done this for a few years and they’re realizing that maybe the military took a bigger toll on their bodies than they originally thought. Um, and, and maybe it’s just something that they’re like, you know, I would.

I would rather be more on the business side of things. And, um, you know, they know the business enough because they’ve gone through all the training and not to say that they can’t do, uh, the, you know, the, the physical work, um, at some point if they, if necessary, but, um, you know, maybe they, they’d rather be out there, you know, uh, bidding on jobs and, you know, doing the business side of things as opposed to the, the day to day on the boots on the ground kind of stuff.


Michael Conner: yeah, especially, I mean, if you’re a disabled veteran business owned company, I mean, there’s federal contracts that are just sitting there waiting for you to grab.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s right. Yeah. [00:34:00] Yeah. And that, that just makes a ton of sense. Like, you know, if you can, if you can get those opportunities, you know, based on that, um, why wouldn’t you, you know, um, just take, take advantage of that, uh, because you’ve, you’ve earned it really. I, I think, uh, you know, a lot of people don’t, uh, put enough weight into, um, You know, the, the stuff that you’ve earned through your military service, whether it’s even things like the GI bill, um, people just, you know, they may not really understand that, Hey, this is a benefit that’s available to you. Take, take it, use it and get your,

uh, and it doesn’t have to be used for college either. Like you were saying, you can use that for, you know, some, you know, other, other kind of, uh, technical training or, or trades or anything like that.

Michael Conner: And it’s funny because that you mentioned that. So like, when I, when I, when I talk to, and I go out and I, I do. Uh, TAP briefings and all that stuff. I, I talk to, uh, you know, transitioning military members and, and everything like [00:35:00] that. And, um, when I get them to us, the first thing I say is, okay, have you done your, have you done your VA benefit?

Have you done your VA? Have you, have you done your, your disability? No, I was like, get it, get it done. Have you, you know, have, do you know about, cause a lot of some, it really depends on the post and your chain of command, but some people, they come out and they’re, they’re squared away. And, uh, and then some, they’re just like, well, how do I file?

Like it’s, you know, so I, you know, I walked them through the, the, what they can do to better themselves, not only Um, with our organization, but, you know, on the, on the military side, making sure they’re doing the right thing because those benefits are afforded to them and, and they are, um, it’s, uh, they earned it.

They earned it. So, you know, a lot of people are like, Oh, I feel bad that you earned it, dude. Go ahead and file for it. You know,

Scott DeLuzio: And, and the other thing too, I, I hear this from people too, is that they feel like if they apply for, [00:36:00] whether it’s disability benefits or any other kind of benefits that they’ve earned, uh, they feel like they’re taking away from somebody else who maybe deserves it more than them, right? And that’s totally not the case.

Um, I’ve, I’ve had it. Uh, people on the show, I’ve even had the, uh, undersecretary, uh, former undersecretary of benefits at the VA who explained the whole process. And, um, as far as that, that funding goes, the funding will be there. It doesn’t matter. Um, you know, if you apply for it or somebody else applies for it, there’s going to be funding for both, uh, people.

Uh, and so go apply for it and take those, those benefits that you’ve earned. Um, you know, you’re, you’re just really. Tying the hand behind your back if you don’t like, you’re, you’re, um, you’re not taking full advantage of all the opportunities that you’ve earned. Um, and I know a lot of times people, um, you know, bitch and moan about how the, the military doesn’t pay enough or, you know, all this right. Yeah. Granted, you know, especially lower enlisted, you know, they’re, they’re not getting paid all [00:37:00] that, that much money. However, when they get out, there are so many opportunities financially, uh, for them that if they don’t take advantage of it, well, then that’s, that’s on them. You know,

those things exist, right? Um, you know, I, I. I like talking about this because a lot of times I feel like when people are leaving the military, um, you said this before, they, they have this inflated sense of self worth, self worth, like they’re, they’re going to just start off at some, you know, executive level position because they had 20 years in the military.

Well, you know, a lot of times people don’t care about. Uh, as much, you know, I mean, yeah, the military service is probably important. They, they probably look favorably on that.

Michael Conner: Yeah, of course.

Scott DeLuzio: imagine that they’re going to be like, Oh my God, I’m never, never going to hire you because you were in the military, right?

Like that, that just, I don’t think would happen, but, um, a lot of times, especially, you know, people who, you know, rose up the ranks [00:38:00] in the military, they get out thinking that they’re going to get these higher level

positions. And sometimes they have to work, maybe not entry level, but somewhere, you know, somewhere a little bit above entry level, uh,

Michael Conner: you’re gonna have to, you’re gonna have to prove yourself. And like I said, if you’re that good, you’ll be fine. I mean, you go out and say, Hey, I went to ranger school. People are like, what’s that? You know, is that what

Scott DeLuzio: that’s about as worth as much as someone saying that they were a boy scout when they were a kid.

Michael Conner: exactly

Scott DeLuzio: it really

doesn’t matter too much, you know? Um, you know, but, but I think this is a great path, I think, for a lot of people who, um, they don’t see college in their future. They don’t, they don’t want to go to college.

They don’t, that just not for them. Um, not to say that they’re not smart enough or capable of, of learning, because clearly if you’ve been in the military, you’ve learned your job, um, you’re certainly capable of learning, um, but. Some people just sitting in the classroom for four years is not their idea of a good time. Um, not to say that there’s not going to be some education that you [00:39:00] need to do for, you know, something in the trades, but, um, there’s a lot more, I think, on the job, hands on learning, uh, available, you know, as far as those opportunities go, right?

Michael Conner: No. Yeah. And it’s, it’s, uh, and it’s important. I mean, the infrastructure, this is the United States is what keeps everything moving. Problem is people get pigeonholed. When people don’t know what they want to do, they go to college and then they end up on the other end with, with debt. And then they’re driving an Uber.

They went, they went to go, you know, I mean, and

Scott DeLuzio: Sure.

Michael Conner: it’s for, for nothing that they went to school for just because they couldn’t do anything when they could be successful in a career. That, uh, is very lucrative and has a, uh, uh, you know, a pathway to, uh, being able to retire with dignity. So,

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, it’s, it’s good, honest work that, that they’re, they’re doing. And, you know, they can look back, you know, at the point of retirement and look back and be like, you know, I, I, I did some, some good stuff, you know, including the [00:40:00] military service, but also, you know, everything else that you, you did afterwards.

And so, um, you know, I got to imagine it, it probably feels good if, if you worked on some construction project of some building that didn’t exist. Um, you know, prior and you look over and it’s like, Hey, you know, I, I took part in that and I, I helped build that, you

Michael Conner: absolutely. I drive through D. C. and I’m like, Oh, I did that. Did that. And I was in the basement doing time. Yeah. So you, you see a lot, a lot of stuff and, and, and it’s, you know, it’s a sense of pride.

Scott DeLuzio: it is. Yeah. Yeah. And, and that’s stuff that, that will outlive you too. Like that, those buildings will, will be there for years and years afterwards. And, and you had a part in that and that’s, that’s kind of cool. You know, I think back to, you know, some of the pictures from like the, I don’t know if it’s the thirties, forties, whatever, like, you know, New York city skyscrapers and you got

the guys eating lunch up,

Michael Conner: Yeah. That’s a classic picture. I love it.

Scott DeLuzio: And, and, you know, you got those people up there and those buildings still are standing today, you know, and, and it’s like, those, those are, uh, you know, that, that was some, some good [00:41:00] work and they can look back and be, be kind of proud of it. They, they shaped the skyline of the city. Right. So, um, well, Mike, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today.

Um, I, I want to talk, uh, I want to give you the opportunity to talk about, um, kind of more about what you do and where people can go to find out more information about everything, uh, that, that you do in case anyone is looking to, uh, kind of get involved, uh, with that or, or help out or, or get some help, um, as, as far as their transition goes.

Michael Conner: No, absolutely. So what I do now is, well, um, when I, when I. Um, when I, I got done with my apprenticeship and I was working in the field as a, as a, as a journeyman. And then the, uh, there was a job, um, opening as the pile driver and diver, uh, representative for the, for the, for the union. So, I applied for that, uh, interviewed and, uh, and, and got hired and.

I did that for four years and then this February I got promoted to a senior [00:42:00] rep. So I cover the region for Washington, D. C., everything south of Baltimore and all of northern Virginia. I cover

seven, eight reps and then 3, 000, about 3, 000 members in the area. Um, so we have, there’s a lot of opportunity. That’s nothing but opportunity, nothing but a bunch of work and education and learning and, and. And our, we, we have a, our council, the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters is very.

a very good council going back to the dive school that I was talking about. We just, uh, we purchased it about a year or a year or so ago. And we’re putting through our first diver class free of charge. Doesn’t cost them anything. Cost me when to go. I use my post 9 11 bill cost me like 30 grand to go to dive school.

The individuals we’re sent, we’re picking the, some of the best individuals to go. Um, and then putting them through the course for free. Once they get through the course, then they will go through the apprenticeship and work and be working [00:43:00] as, as commercial diver apprentices. Um, and I, and it’s, you can’t beat it.

So your obligation is to, uh, by going through the school, your obligation is to work, um, as a union diver and make good money. So

Scott DeLuzio: Mm hmm.

Michael Conner: a good obligation to

Scott DeLuzio: Sure. Yeah, exactly.

Michael Conner: And, um, but, uh, if anybody’s interested in, in carpentry, pile drivers, anything, they can reach out directly to me. So I don’t, I don’t care where they’re from, who they are.

I can point them in the right direction anywhere in the United States. You know, if an individual wants to better themselves and, and they live in the Pacific Northwest, I can get them hooked up in that direction. I can, I are, we’re, our parent. Organization is the UBC United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

We’re, we’re, uh, we’re all the United States and Canada. And so we were, we’re a very large, one of the large, large, very, very large union. So you probably, you might’ve heard of it,

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. And I [00:44:00] think, I think, um, you know, having that, uh, that network of people, you know, across the country and even up into Canada, like you said, um, it just helps the, uh, availability of, you know, opportunities. So if you’re not in the DC area, uh, like you are, um, doesn’t mean that there’s not still construction projects going on all over the country.

Michael Conner: Yeah, any, anywhere, anywhere. So, um, yeah, but they, I mean, do you, do you want to pass, I can pass out my email address. I can give my number, but

Scott DeLuzio: you know, you can give me that information and I’ll make sure to put all of that in the show notes for the folks that want to maybe reach out. I’ll, I have your, uh, I think your LinkedIn profile as well. I’ll put that in there so they can, they can reach out and connect on there. And, uh, you know, so that way, um, you know, we, we can always, uh, you know, keep, keep that updated and, uh, anyone wants to get in touch, uh, you can just reach out through the links in the show notes.

So, um, before we wrap up. Oh, go ahead.

Michael Conner: I would say it’s an amazing path. I, it [00:45:00] was a life changer for me. So, and I want to share that with other veterans because. I think that, um, there’s a lot of people that could do very well. I mean, most people in the military can do very well in this, in this field and make a lot of money and support a family and, and, and enjoy themselves, you know, actually have a, have a retirement on the other end.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and I think that’s, that’s one of the biggest things is, uh, you don’t want to get out and just face like the rest of your life working a job that you hate and you, you dread going. Yeah. You may be making some money doing it, but it’s like, it just sucks the soul right out of you. It’s like, like, you know, find something that you enjoy. Uh, you know, I don’t care what it is. Everybody’s going to be different. Some people might be listening to this episode and think to themselves, no way do I want to work in, in that type of industry. Fine. That, that, that’s not for you, but there’s something out there for you. And I think the important message to get across is figure out what that is.

Um, and ideally [00:46:00] figure that out sooner than later. So you’re not constantly starting off at the ground floor. Um, you know, figure, figure that out, but you know, you might have to do some soul searching to actually figure out what that. Path might be, um, but, but once when you do, uh, make the connections, like you said, you have contacts, you know, across the country, you’re able to, you know, put people in contact with, um, make connections with people in whatever the industry is.

I don’t care what it is and, and figure out, you know, how do I get into this? What’s the best path? Um, what educational opportunities are out there to kind of get me a step up, um, and use those, uh, those opportunities because when you have. Other people on the civilian side who maybe have to pay for those things out of pocket or figure out how to get loans and everything like that to, um, uh, to get access to these things. We’re dealing with military members who have access to GI Bill benefits. And, you know, a lot of times that’s going to cover, uh, you know, a [00:47:00] good, good portion of, uh, what you might need. And so. You know, that, that’s, that’s a good opportunity right there. And, and that gives you that, that step up above everybody else.

And I think that’s a, for the people who are thinking, Oh, the military has this, uh, you know, huge advantage. That is the advantage. I think you, you have that ability and if you take advantage of, of that opportunity, um, you know, there’s, there’s really nothing you, you can’t do. Uh, if. If you want to,

Michael Conner: Right. Right.

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um, before we wrap up this episode, I, I always like to try to end, uh, episodes with a little bit of humor and I want to do a segment that I call, Is It Service Connected?

Um, it’s a bit of a, a bit of a comedy kind of thing, uh, for viewers and for yourself who maybe aren’t familiar with it, Is It Service Connected? Is, it’s kind of like, um, America’s Funniest Home Videos, uh, Military Edition. So we look [00:49:00] at some video of a service member doing something stupid and we try to predict. Whether or not that would qualify for VA disability somewhere down the line. It’s

kind of just a little, little. Humor at the end of the episode. Um, so I’m going to do that now. I’m just going to pull this up so that you can see it as well. And then we can, we can chat about it. So right now for the podcast listeners who are not watching the video, um, you can either go check it out on YouTube or Twitter or X, whatever they call it now. Um, but if you don’t have access to that, I’m going to pull it up on, on here. I’ll try to describe it as best as I can. Uh, it looks like. Um, I don’t know, maybe Iraq or Afghanistan somewhere, uh, we have, looks like the back of an MRAP opened up, uh, looks like two soldiers heads peeping out out of the top maybe, um,

Michael Conner: Maybe. Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: and let’s, let’s see, let’s see what, what happens in this video. So right now it looks like the truck is moving and a couple [00:50:00] soldiers kind of running alongside and one behind it. hopping in as the vehicle’s moving. That’s probably not a smart idea, but okay, they got in okay. Oh, no, they got one. Two that didn’t get in. They’re trying to get in. Now that thing’s picking up speed too. And he’s

down. Oh, yes. He’s trying to climb in the back. He flops right down on his face and now he has to run and catch up again. But this time they, at least they, they stopped the vehicle for him. So now he’s able to get in. Oh man. Um,

Michael Conner: definitely service disconnected.

Scott DeLuzio: I think

so. I, I think, I think he, he probably. He landed kind of hard too,

Michael Conner: Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: that was, that was on a, uh, a moving vehicle too.

So I got to imagine there’s something going on there.

Michael Conner: Yeah. That’s funny.

Scott DeLuzio: you know, maybe he had some knee pads or something like that, that might’ve braced the fall a little bit, but I think he, the video is a little choppy. He [00:51:00] might’ve hit his face on the ground too. So there’s maybe some head injuries there. Who knows?

Michael Conner: Probably his pride though. His

Scott DeLuzio: I, for sure, the pride got, got damaged, uh, big time there. Um, that, that one, uh, man. Yeah, that would be embarrassing to watch afterwards. Um, anyways, well, thank you again, Mike, for taking the time to join us, um, in sharing, you know, everything that you do and, and your path from the military into, uh, your civilian career. I really do appreciate you taking that time to come on.

Michael Conner: Well, I appreciate you having me. I really enjoy it. And like I said, if any, uh, any of your listeners want to reach out, even if they just want to, uh, an idea of a different path, um, I’m more than willing to, you know, they can get me on, uh, whatever LinkedIn, email my, my phone. It’s fine.

Scott DeLuzio: Excellent. All right. Well, thanks again.

Michael Conner: All right. You take care.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that [00:52:00] book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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