Justin Ouellet (“JO”) from our Boston office was named Next Jump’s 2014 Avengers Award Winner. This peer-nominated award recognizes the Next Jumper who most exemplifies steward-leadership. We’re exceptionally proud of Justin and wanted to share some of his stories and what makes JO a unique Next Jumper.
(Photo credit: John Hilliard)
The Blog Team looked over the letter that you wrote to Charlie after the Avengers ceremony and we noticed that you mentioned your time in the military. Would you mind sharing a bit about your experience?
I graduated college around the time of the dot-com bust. There weren’t a lot of tech jobs in the industry so I started working for my father as a sales rep up here in MA. Working for family is not an easy task. It gets very difficult. So one day I said, “I wanna do something, I wanna have an experience, I wanna get out and see the world and not be trapped in Suburbia”. I went down to the recruiters and I went in (my dad coulda killed me) and enlisted. They picked me up at my father’s house on July 28, 2004 and I went down to Georgia and did basic and advance individual training. I learned how to be a network switch operator. And learning that my first tour station was in Einsiedlerhof, Germany, I went home with an engagement ring. I’d been dating my wife for about seven years at that point and I knew that if we were going to survive we couldn’t be in a long distance relationship. So we got married and she went with me to Germany where I was a network switch operator and participated in training. A lot of the soldiers in tactical movements and in signal equipment were going to Afghanistan or Iraq. I spent the majority of my four years in two different bases in Germany, one being the Warrior Preparation Center and the second being the Grafenworhr, an artillery range by the Czechoslovakian border. But in 2008 when I was nearing the end of my military contract my wife had severe baby fever. She was a teacher in the school system for the department of defense on base. She got pregnant and she said to me she wanted to go back home and do the white picket fence. I separated from the military in July of 2008 and came home with her to MA.
Did you enjoy your time serving?
It’s a love hate relationship. There are things now that I look back on and say, I had a blast. Sometimes you’ll be out on a five mile run and you’ll be going up a hill and cursing and you think you’re gonna die. You’re carrying a rucksack and when you’re out there you curse it, but then you look back and you say, “God those were the best years of my life”.
What’s one thing that you have done in your life that you never thought you would be able to accomplish?
One of the pinnacles of my military career was at the end of basic training. They drive you about 17 to 20 miles out to a site where you bivouac. You actually do live fire and some simulated battle for about a week. I remember digging a foxhole and sitting in it with my buddy. We were in a V formation covering our sectors and we sat out there in the rain. I remember one evening literally waking up in a puddle. And constantly over this week you’re being attacked at night, and then you’re doing different types of simulations during the day. At the end you have to march back to your barracks, 17 to 20 miles away. They mis-booked our camp area so they had to push us out another 3 miles or so to Fort Benning, Georgia. So we had about a 22 or 23 mile trek back to the barracks. And when I tell you about blisters on your feet and you’re carrying a full 30 to 40 pound ruck, your Kevlar, your bullet proof vests, 90 rounds of ammunition and your M16… twenty-three miles is an eternity. They actually even threw CS gas grenades at us while we were marching back and I remember the struggle to get our gas masks on. I remember starting off at midnight and we arrived back at our barracks at 6 or 7 AM. But when you got back there and you didn’t think you’d make it another mile, the blisters are popping on your feet, your ankle’s twisted… when you finally get back there the sun is coming up, they’re playing music and you gather around the bonfire and the commander comes around and takes a single pin with no clamp on the back and punches it into your chest– they weren’t tears of pain, they were tears of joy. I couldn’t believe it was over. And that feeling of accomplishment, getting through that, was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Have you ever experienced a feeling of pride similar to that outside of your military experience?
I deviated away from the family business and away from security and instead I started with my military career. Coming out of that I started with Next Jump and my wife was pregnant and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to provide. I asked myself, “Am I going to be successful enough?” I knew we would make it somewhere. You know, every man and woman will tell you that the birth of their child is the most magnificent accomplishment in their lives. But the feeling that I’ve come this far and I’ve learned at Next Jump and I’ve progressed in my career to the point where I can provide my family with the kind of home that I had dreamed of… I think my biggest success or accomplishment is finding that professional success has enabled my family to live the life that I hoped they would have. And right now I look back and all of these other small successes that I could tell you about, they all combine to provide that sense of accomplishment to me.