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Journey from Military to Civilian Life

Embracing Change: Journey from Military to Civilian Life


I welcome you to the Civilian Ready inaugural Blog with a mix of nostalgia, resilience, and hope. I am Jenny Cioto, formerly known as Jenny Gray, during my years in the service. As we embark on this transformative journey together, I invite you into some of my experiences—a narrative woven through the challenges of basic training, the highs and lows of a military career, and the unexpected shift that marked my transition to civilian life.


The Drumbeat of Basic Training: “Gonna Make It Gray?”


In basic training, my DI (Drill Instructor) would often shout, “Gonna make it Gray?!” Almost every time, we had to march, which is often in Basic Training. 


This became a common phrase people would tease me about when the DIs weren’t around primarily because of this particular rule called “Taller Tap,” which is where, when you are in formation with your squad, the taller people tap and go to the front. The shortest are always way in the back. That’s where I would be – in the back. No matter who I was marching with, I would perpetually be close to the shortest. 


Tall 18-year-old kids/adults set the pace for marching. My steps, in contrast to the strides of my taller counterparts, resembled a walking split...It was always a struggle to keep in step, and I, along with the other short recruits, looked ridiculous. Side note: in my head, I would picture how funny this must look, and then I would also be yelled at for smiling or laughing.


Sometimes, the DI would yell, “Regular size steps sasquatch!” Which would last maybe ¼ a mile. Inevitably, my squad, being one of the first co-ed basic training experiences, was shining a light on little challenges short women would go through in the military. 


In retrospect, it gave great foreshadowing to some of the unique challenges women faced in the military. 


Choosing Perseverance: A Knee Injury and a Decision Moment


I twisted my knee badly on an obstacle course in basic – as a result of overcompensating for being sick. It was really swollen. The Doc gave me a choice: Take a few days off and get “recycled” to the next squad, which would extend my Basic training a few weeks, or suck it up and continue. 


I chose to suck it up; My Dad always said it was mind over matter. The thought of adding two weeks to basic training and prolonging the torture was enough motivation to work through what my body was screaming. So Yes, I graduated on time, with a sigh of relief and pride of accomplishment. 


A Decade Unraveled: The Unforeseen End of a Military Career


Fast forward a decade, and the echoes of basic training were replaced by the solemn words of a Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). My dedication had been unwavering, the ruling was clear—I would be medically retired. The reason? The words I remember were that I would never be up to military standards. I had destroyed my shoulder and injured my neck during our last deployment. Though I had followed orders and tried as much as you could advocate for care in the military. The Doc still said that I had “waited” too long and that they would never be able to fully fix the damage and get out all the scar tissue in my shoulder and spine. 


I love that he said I “waited “too long because I did try to get help and was always told it was just a pulled muscle and to work through it – so I did. I’m being nice about some of the words said to me when I kept going back because of the pain, but that’s a story for another day. The main point is that by my working through the pain is exactly what ended my promising career early. 


Navigating the Turbulent Waters: Transitioning to Civilian Life


I had no backup plan. My love for deploying and traveling to different corners of the globe had been the heartbeat of my military career. The transition to civilian life hit me like a messy and emotionally charged tidal wave. Unprepared and without a contingency plan, I found myself grappling with the abrupt end of a chapter I had cherished. Tears were shed, questions were asked, and in the quiet moments, I sought solace in prayer.


Civilian Ready is a program I fervently wish had existed during my own turbulent transition. Whether voluntary or involuntary, the transition from military to civilian is a journey—one that should not be done alone. The 12-week curriculum offered by Civilian Ready is not just a guide; it’s a lifeline for those navigating the often unpredictable terrain of transitioning from military to civilian life.


Civilian Ready: A Beacon of Support in Transition

Voluntary or not, the transition is challenging. Civilian Ready provides a structured pathway for individuals to weather the storm and emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side. Through a carefully curated 12-week program, participants are not only prepared for the civilian landscape but are also equipped with the tools to navigate the unforeseen challenges that come with this dramatic shift.


As I reflect upon my journey, I am humbled by the prospect of contributing to a community that understands the intricacies of this transition. My hope is that through the shared experiences, insights, and the support found within the Civilian Ready program, individuals facing this transition can find solace, empowerment, and the resources necessary to thrive in the civilian world.


Join us on this odyssey—a journey that transcends the boundaries of personal experience and taps into the collective wisdom of those who have walked a similar path. Together, we can Transform a Veteran Transform a Nation!

headshot of Jenny Gray Cioto
Jenny Cioto

Warmest regards,

Jenny "Gray" Cioto

Financial, Life, Business Coach & Speaker

Transform a Veteran Transform a Nation!

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