40+yo Retired DOD ExPat looking for new career

Hello guys,

I’ve recently retired from the DOD, with my last contract being the Afghan theater. I am not looking for a mid-life career change and being that I don’t like desk jobs, I’ve thought about becoming a Mariner. I live in Jacksonville Fl, which homes one of the largest SIU hall; however, I’ve been warned from attending their program, even though it’s free, but was also told that this industry is heavily influenced by them and their unionization and that they are the largest union in the industry. With that being said, what are these warning all about, and what other options are afforded to me?

As for my intentions, I was thinking about working the Steward department, on the deep sea vessels. Being that I’m completely green at this, I’ve been try to do my due diligence, and research before jumping in the deep end, per-se, but with all the jargon and acronyms, used, you get lost real quick in the, already confusing and vast, information. Now I did get my MMC and TWIC…at least the sands of the Middle East, didn’t erode all my brain cells, I was able to figure those out, lol…

Now there’s a few local schools here in JAX, but are they even a legitimate option? Any guidance from you Salty Dogs, would be greatly appreciated!


If you got your MMC, I suppose you may be at least a bit familiar with this website. If not, the link is above.

This next one is a big read, over 800 pages. You can check for what schools have what approved courses on it. I would suggest downloading it and find stuff in Florida.


It will help you find schools in your area for basic safety training, survival craft, etc. Even if it’s on the list, ask them to present to you their course approval letter for any specific course you want to take.

On the main website, look under the merchant mariner credentials tab for checklists and you can see what the USCG looks for depending on what you want to do. You might want to choose the deck path or engineering path and get credentials along those lines in addition to the steward department, depending on what you are looking for.

Most of the vessels I’ve worked on have been in the oil industry and nearly all of them use third party providers for steward services (cooking, laundry, housekeeping).

Another option if you have a security clearance is Crowley or Military Sealift Command as a Civilian Mariner (CivMar).

Great information, thanks rmurphy1966! Yeah, I hoping to stick with the Steward option and let the younger pups handle the engines, lol… So these companies that work the Steward services, aren’t merchant mariners?

As for my Secret Security Clearance, my credentials have been deactivated. I’m sure it can be reinstated, but not sure what channels deal with that, since I am no longer a contracted asset.

But if you go the MSC way or companies that do MSC or other military contracts, even a deactivated clearance proves to them that you can get it and maintain it.

I just don’t know how many companies run straight stewards and hire them in house as opposed to third parties.

I have see job posts from Crowley needing stewards with secret level clearance though.

From my experience I’d say most of the companies that operate OSVs, Research Vessels, etc…out source for cooks/stewards. There are a few companies that provide people specifically for that service in the offshore sector be it on rigs or vessels. Usually all you need is a twic card and a few offshore safety classes for that because you technically aren’t considered part of the crew. …just need the twic to be able to get to work via whatever secure facility you need to go to. The fact that you have your entry level MMC and twic already should make you more marketable. The next thing to get would be basic training to become even more so.

There are a few boat companies that employ cooks/stewards on their own, that have vessels that require a cook/steward. Some of them the cook may hold an able seaman as well and has deck duties in addition to cooking duties.

In general things are really dead these days as far as opportunities go.

I held a clearance years ago and when I quit that employer it went inactive. About a year ago I was looking into some part time work with a gov’t contractor and they put in for my clearance again. It took from beginning to end about 14 months. From what I was told previously having a clearance does not make getting it again any easier, however the fact that you used to hold one will make a potential employer more willing to invest the money in you to get it back, I would think.
Employers can afford to be pickier than they have been in years these days. Just trying to let you know what you are up against, not discourage you.

Since Crowley’s home office, or at least one of their corporate offices, is here in Jacksonville, I spoke to a rep that told me, they only hire SIU union, but to be fair, I don’t recall mention my DOD past, nor my SSC. I wonder if that would change things.

Usually the company can hire from any other source if the union can’t provide them someone, but then the new hire will have to join the union within a certain amount of time.
Like rmurphy said they did have a positing so it wouldn’t hurt to hit them up again.

Thanks for the information Cton, as disconcerting as it may be.I was hoping the industry would be a growing and job secure option, sad to hear it’s not.

You’re right, wouldn’t hurt to try again!

It’s cyclical…things will turn around. I doubt it will reach its former grandeur though.
Just keep at it if you want it bad enough, networking is huge and should pay off eventually…it just may take a while.

But doesn’t help, I’m starting so late in the game, lol…

Everyone here will tell you including myself that they have sailed with lots of folks that had different lives/careers prior.
Few years ago there was a mate on my boat. He started out as an OS at the age of fifty one, for example…
Now granted when he started out the industry was so shorthanded anyone who could piss clean and had a pulse could get a job. It’s definately a more competitive market right now and having the right certs and timing is more important than ever.

lol… Yeah, just need to lock it down, what I need, and best way to obtain it.

One BIG issue is tuition, for these schools… the training and certs aren’t cheap, and there’s a ton of them, it seems. And since I’m deep in the rears, with Fed Financial Aid, from my college days, it’ll be coming out of pocket. Looks like SIU might be my only option, since it’s free, from my understanding.

I like hands on, jump right in training, vs this schooling, but I guess that’s how it’s done now. .

Crowley is big on the “military to mariner” thing. At least that’s what their corporate literature says. I’d call them back and drop the ex military card early in the conversation. They do hire almost exclusively SIU so you are most likely having to go to the “University of Piney Point”.

Hey DamnYankee, thanks for the information on Crowley, it confirms what their rep told me.

As for my past employ, I was a DOD contracted asset, not military. Though I was in theater with our military and lived on base while in theater, I get no military benefits and I am not a Vet. Not sure how or if they would consider that, but as for me, I don’t want to mislead or misrepresent myself to anyone here.