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“I felt unhappy with the low-wage jobs I held before I enlisted in the Navy. Joining the military awarded me an excellent opportunity to learn new vocational skills and the ability to serve my country around the world.”

Aaron Puente joined PRIDE Industries in 2011 as a Safety Manager at FOSSAC (Fitting Out and Supply Support Assistance), San Diego. His hard work and expertise in Shipboard Safety have led to a safer and more conducive environment for PRIDE’s employees; under his leadership; the site won the 2017 AEU’s (American Equity Underwriters) Safety Award in the Stevedores (Ship Loader) Small Employer Category.

Before starting his career with PRIDE, Aaron served in the Navy for 24 years. “My retirement and transition to civilian life had its struggles,” said Aaron. “For years I was programmed to do things a certain way. Fortunately, PRIDE found me at the right time as I retired in 2011. As we revised the safety protocols, my military skills helped give me the expertise to make the necessary changes in order to protect our employees while making our customer happy.”

“I enlisted in the Navy on July 9, 1987, as an E1 Non-Designated Seaman, later moving up to a Signalman (sailors that specialize in visual communication). At basic training, I still recall being woken up at 4AM by the company commander throwing a trash can while being yelled at by the ACC (Assistant Company Commander). I remember thinking ‘what did I get myself into?’”

“My first ship was the USS Truxtun CGN 35; in 1988, while onboard I was involved in Operation Praying Mantis (an attack on April 18, 1988, by U.S. forces retaliation for the Iranian mining of the Persian Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War and the damage to an American warship) in the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.  This was the start of the Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in late 1989 to mid-1990, which I also fought in while being stationed onboard the USS Jason AR 8.”

“During my service, I was taught a variety of vocational skills. As a Seaman, I learned Morse Code and nautical flag (semaphore) signals. Later as a Navy Counselor, I learned administrative skills, shipboard safety and management. However, the most important skill I learned was leadership, especially when I was promoted to E5, Leading Petty Officer. There was a lot of trial and error, but I adjusted and developed my style of leadership that helped me move further in rank and responsibility.”

“Before I joined the Navy, I only had a high school degree. With their support, I earned a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Management, and an Associate degree in Counseling and applied psychology.”

“I retired after 24 years of honorable service as an E7 Navy Counselor (Career) Chief.  I wish I could have “stayed Navy” even longer, but I had reached the maximum number of years to serve in my position.”

“Transitioning from military life to civilian life is difficult. For many years you are in a job you love, thinking you’ll be there forever. Then in the blink of an eye, you are retired. Keeping your military professionalism is crucial because it distinguishes veterans from others in civilian jobs. Enrolling in support programs can also help; the Navy has an excellent transitioning program called Senior Enlisted Assistance Transitioning Program (SEATAP), or the National Veterans Transition Services, Inc (REBOOT).”

“As a veteran with a disability, I have been proud to contribute to FOSSAC, San Diego’s success and to help create opportunities for others with disabilities. At the end of every workday, I come home happy and with a smile on my face, knowing that I made a difference and that I continue to serve my country, and did so for 24 years with honor.”