After separating from the Army with 18 years of service, being selected as a Special Operations Soldier, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan a total of six times and earning a Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal with a “V” device for valor, Jeffrey Adamec was lost and unsure of what he would do with the rest of his life.
“You get that hard reality when that DD-214 (Discharge from Active Duty) gets handed to you … the realization that you’re never going to put that uniform on sets in, and all you want to do is put it back on because we made it our identity,” Adamec said during a “Harnessing Your Warrior to Achieve” presentation hosted by Carolina Career College, March 23, in Fayetteville.
Adamec shared his personal struggles, as well as his successes, during the presentation with a group of service members to help them face the new challenges of post-military life.
Adamec’s military career began in 1995 after graduating from high school. He became a combat medic and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division; he then went on to become an Army Ranger with the 2nd Ranger Battalion. His next assignment landed him back at Fort Bragg with the 82nd Abn. Div. With encouragement from his wife, Adamec decided to pursue the rigorous Special Forces selection process.
“I was the last person to come in on every event. I showed up there out of shape. I complained and whined and cried to myself. I hated every single minute of selection. But at the end, they selected me; a first time go. Why? Because at that moment in time, I had gotten to the point where no one was going to tell me I couldn’t do something,” he said.
Adamec’s first deployment was with 3rd Special Forces Group during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
He participated in Operation Viking Hammer as well as the Battle of Debecka Pass.
“(Debecka Pass) was probably the most significant 12 hours of my entire young life,” he said.
It was this battle that led him to earn a Silver Star.
According to his award citation he “destroyed four Iraqi armored personnel carriers and one enemy position with Javelin anti-tank missiles while under fire when his team attacked a fortified ridgeline in northern Iraq. Those actions helped secure an intersection linking Mosul and Kirkuk, Iraq.”
In 2009, Adamec was deployed to Iraq once again with 3rd SFG and his Army K-9. He and his dog were responsible for nearly 35 “finds,” he said.
“We didn’t hit one IED (improvised explosive device) when that dog was there. That dog saved so many people’s lives. But because we saved so many people’s lives, we became a target.”
Enemy forces conducted a false ambush on Adamec’s vehicle, shooting its tires. While he was changing the tires, the enemy struck again.
“An RPG hit the back of the vehicle and threw me off and I broke my back in three places and I got TBI (traumatic brain injury),” Adamec said.
The event also caused his post-traumatic stress disorder to surface.
“I’m not afraid to say I have PTSD. I wasn’t one of those guys who didn’t want to go get help. I wanted to get help so I could get better and go back out there. What made it worse was my TBI and back weren’t going to let me get back in the fight,” he said.
It took him about a year to recover as best he could from his injuries.
“I couldn’t do things, like remember things, like where I was going. I’d get in the car to drive to work and eight hours later I’d be sitting in a Food Lion parking lot trying to remember if I was supposed to pick up milk or bread. That’s a true story,” he said.
So, in 2013 Adamec separated from the Army. After his separation, he said he felt lost and like he had no identity.
He got a job as a security manager at retail establishment, but he wasn’t happy. He decided to try being a contractor overseas, but that didn’t make him happy either. He got a very well-paying job with the Department of Homeland Security in Chicago, but was once again left unfulfilled.
“If I wasn’t kicking in a door or holding a gun or challenging myself I wasn’t happy,” he said. “I was trying to chase something and be something I wasn’t going to be anymore.”
He and his Family left Chicago and moved back to Fayetteville. He began working training dogs during the day and taking IT classes at Carolina Career College in the evening in Raleigh, North Carolina. His days would start at 4 a.m. and not end until after midnight. It was hard and challenging he said, but it was the first time in a long time he was happy.
IT was outside of Adamec’s comfort zone He said there are some things he still doesn’t understand; he is bad at math, and, because of his TBI cannot count without using his fingers. But Adamec thrives on challenges and has become successful because the military taught him he can do whatever he wants if he wants it bad enough.
“I’m not supposed to be an IT guy because I was an 18B (Special Forces weapons sergeant) — a big, dumb, gun guy, but I’m in IT working my ass off. I’m happy because I’m outside of my comfort zone, because it was hard to do. It didn’t have to be carrying a gun, I didn’t have to be passing selection.”
He said for a long time he was chasing trying to be a warrior again and he was taking jobs to get that warrior feeling back, but he had forgotten that a warrior is who a person is, not their job title.
“When I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started challenging myself is when I became happy,” he said.
Transitioning out of the military causes an identity problem with many service members because they think they were once warriors and heroes and now they are not, he explained.
“Warrior is not in the job title of any Soldier MOS (military occupational specialty), but Soldiers consider themselves warriors, and they are warriors, but not because they are defined by their job title,” he said. “You don’t have to have a gun in your hand and fighting bad guys to be a hero. Every day I wake up and look at my daughter and she looks at me like the world was created by me. There it is, I’ll be a warrior for her and a hero for her.”
He says service members transitioning into civilian life need to challenge themselves so they don’t get bored. Having a mission to accomplish can also help with the transition.
“Don’t be scared to get out of your comfort zone; you did it all the time in the military,” he said. “If you want to do something bad enough you’ll make sure you’re prepared for it, and if you’re not prepared for it, you just don’t quit. No matter how bad you think you’re doing.”
Adamec says he is always open to talking to any service member who has questions or is having a difficult time with the transition process. He can be reached on Twitter by searching jeffreyadamec, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JeffreyAdamec or through his podcast website at http://changeyourpov.com/.
“I try to look at myself as someone who can influence people. If there’s an 11B out there who puts SF guys on a pedestal, and he has some problems, he can look at someone like me — who is open about PTSD and who says that he can have a better life even without the military — then he can try to emulate that.”