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Latisha Gill, Intermodal Coordinator, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico

What service were you in and how long did you serve?

While serving in the United States Navy, I acted specifically as a Religious Program Specialist and was part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Additionally, I became air/surface warfare qualified and had the opportunity to travel to Dubai, Malta, Spain, and Bahrain while serving.

What motivated you to join the military?

Being a single mother served as my greatest motivation to join the military.

What elements of your service career have helped you in transitioning to a private sector US-flag maritime position?

The wind beneath my wings is my own self-confidence in my abilities to be successful. You might encounter people who underestimate you or don’t understand how to see greatness, but the military expects greatness from everyone so it’s hard to just sit back and do nothing. My confidence in my ability to take on any job and figure it out is unbelievable. I feel proud of myself when I make things happen, regardless if I get a pat on the back from anyone else.

How difficult did you find it to get your military sea service (if you had any) evaluated?

Not many employers outside of the Armed Forces understand how to comprehend what you are capable of when you say you were in the military. They don’t understand that just because you were a “Chaplain’s assistant” that it also means you acted as a firefighter, facility maintenance, event planner, maintenance to inventory, maintain yearly operations budget, etc. It requires some education to explain your full skill sets.

 Please explain the process you took to get your credential, and any recommendations you have for others leaving the military and transitioning into the maritime industry.

I went on the internet and found a website that helps with advising transitioning the experience you gained in the military to civilian work. Unfortunately, it really didn’t help me much since I didn’t have a way to prove that I did these things. The temp agency however allowed me to prove these things to employers but again it was difficult for them to believe I was able to do the job.  This website, and additional recent investments made by the Armed Forces, is helping with the transition process.

What training have you received in your new position — and what new skills have you developed through on-the-job training?

I have learned A LOT about the maritime industry. Through my curiosity, I have asked many questions and continue to be a student of the trade. The company I work for leaves you in the room to train as much as you want and my military experience taught me that the more you know the better you can do your job. With that I am happy to say that I have learned about operations at the terminal; commercial sales; customer service; booking shipments; pricing and contracts; intermodal; invoicing; and collection processes.

 What is most familiar to you in your current position relative to your rating in the service?

One skill that I execute is analysis. The military teaches you to look at a process and constantly question if that is the best way to get a particular task done. The company I work for now has a continuous improvement program but before this existed, I always looked at the way things were done and questioned how to do it efficiently. I am also familiar with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that walk a new person through daily tasks step by step. We were taught to write these so a person off the street can come in and follow the process. Being a team player is about understanding it’s about the team winning and not just yourself. My leadership training experience has helped me navigate through the corporate noise.

What similarities have you found in the way the maritime industry operates in comparison to the military? Has this helped in your transition process?

I personally found that there are many similarities. I was in an administrative role while in the military, so it was easy for me to apply my skills. Unlike other positions, I was surrounded by executives and learned how to develop a report with them. They taught me that they want to be part of your success. They care about what happens to you. These experiences taught me to choose workplaces that were conducive to supporting my success.

What advice would you have for a separating service member interested in this field upon leaving the military?

I would suggest that they go back to school to get a bachelor’s degree in order to get the most bang for your buck. If you are not able to do so try temp services so you can find where you fit in this industry. There are so many things you can do within the maritime industry.