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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci, Navy Region Southwest Reserve Component Command
SAN DIEGO — Information Systems Technician (IT) 2nd class Cole Bennett served seven and half years on active duty as an Aviation Support Equipment Technician (AS) stationed aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) in Yokosuka, Japan and at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) in San Diego, Calif.
Despite spending almost eight years on active duty, Bennett said he never felt a deep connection to his assigned rating. However, when he became aware of opportunities available in the Navy Reserve, Bennett said his career took an unexpected turn, one which paid rich dividends in the form of a rewarding civilian career.
“I separated from active duty because the job I pursued just wasn’t my calling,” said Bennett. “I was forcing myself to stay in that field because I was afraid of life outside of the Navy, but transferring to the Navy Reserve was the best choice I could have made — not only because of the job I learned to do — but because of who I ultimately became.”
After completing his active duty enlistment and transferring to the Reserve, Bennett soon found that a transition to a different rating community was what he needed to begin thriving in the military. His initial journey to the civilian world wasn’t quite as smooth and he faced many speed bumps along the way.
After a rating change from AS to IT, Bennett was sent to his primary job school and gained a solid foundation in information technology. The schooling was extremely beneficial, but the civilian jobs he was applying for wanted someone with more hands-on experience. His new reserve community and unit, Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron One (MSRON 1), provided him the opportunity he needed.
With his first set of Active Duty for Training (ADT) orders, Bennet was able to sharpen his IT skills and excel in ways he’d never previously envisioned.
“I grew professionally,” said Bennett, “I essentially went from being a promotable Sailor on active duty with no real ambition to an early promote Sailor in the Reserve who now routinely works on a Department of Defense system most IT Sailors never have an opportunity to work on.”
In June, 2020, Bennett moved to Panama City, Fla. and began working at his first civilian job — as a system administrator at Science Applications International Corp — where he supports all expeditionary command and control systems in the Navy. His job is to focus on system repair, and training Sailors on how to navigate, use and run their command IT systems. It’s a job where he routinely supports several vital expeditionary communities with IT needs.
“My Reserve career and civilian career work in harmony by being part of the same program,” said Bennett. “When I am on Reserve duty, I focus only on MSRON 1. When I am at my civilian job I focus on MSRON, divers, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Seabee systems.”
When Bennett trains Sailors, his goal is to train them with an operational mindset. “I ask them ‘what needs to be done to keep the system alive to support your command?’” said Bennett, who routinely sees Sailors learning how to do things that a few weeks prior they might have thought were impossible.
He offers IT instruction to network administrators and he holds them to a high standard — a standard he said he was only able to begin to hold himself to once he joined the Navy Reserve.
“The Navy Reserve is what you make of it,” said Bennett. “I used the skills I got in the Reserve to better my life. The Reserve gave me a second chance.”