Learning To Speak Project Management: A West Pac!

Every week I host a free webinar for military Veterans. During these lively, interactive 120-minute webinars, we do two main things. First, we describe and discuss the meaningful, lucrative opportunity project management presents to them based on their military training, abilities, conditioning, and talents. Second, we help them translate military missions into commercially viable project summaries they can use on their PMP® application, their resumes, and in their job interviews. This ability to translate military experience into something a civilian hiring manager recognizes, understands, and will pay for neutralizes a big transition hurdle Veterans have faced for generations.

Every 2 weeks, I will showcase a recently-translated mission-based project summary from these Missing TAP Class© webinars here on LinkedIn. It should prove fun, informative, stimulating, and productive. I hope to field many questions from you, both in the comments below and during our weekly Missing TAP Class© webinar found at Vets2PM.com.

1) The Framework

We begin with the framework that allows us to do what we do.  The Project Management Institute provides this framework through three components.  First, PMI publishes the ‘how-to’ manual of doing projects in the CIVDIV; A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge©. The PMBOK© defines a project as any endeavor that is temporary and produces a unique product, good, service, or capability. This is also the definition of a military mission; non-standard work to do with a unique outcome and a due date. Second, PMI authors a situational-based exam that tests a candidate’s knowledge of how to apply the universal project management standard in the PMBOK©, which results in the awarding of the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential upon passing it. This credential conveys to the hiring manager that the project management experience they see on the Veteran’s resume is valid because they know that the Veteran had to show PMI a minimum of 4,500 hours of experience leading and directing project activities to even sit for the exam.  Third, PMI also publishes the PMP® Examination Content Outline, which lists the forty-two project activities project managers do to consistently deliver successful projects.

2) The Tools

We use three simple tools, one of which is extremely familiar to Veterans; Excel! The first tool is a spreadsheet that provides instructions and video links to help the Veteran complete the Experience portion of their PMP© exam application. It counts characters in each summary to ensure we stay within the maximum character count of 550, tracks the total numbers of hours and months of experience entered, and provides analysis of the project’s breakdown among the five process groups of Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. Our second tool is a Word document containing a dozen or so completed project summaries written by Veterans and accepted by PMI. One of them is even documents a Marine’s retirement! It’s fantastic! The third tool is paper and pen.

3) The Process

OK, the three-step process is as simple as the tools. Step one is to jot down five to ten reflective, conversational statements about a mission you’ve planned, led, communicated about, and closed out. Missions are synonymous with projects. Step two is review the project activities contained in the tables found on pages 5-12 of the PMP Examination Content Outline. Step three consists of synthesizing the two sets of statements. This process produces a detailed, succinct, cogent project summary that is in a language familiar to many a civilian hiring manager, Project Management. Watch!

4) This Installment’s Example: A West Pac Cruise!

So there we were, about two thirds of the way through the webinar (see the war story starting…), and I asked all of the attendees to think of a military mission they’d done. Why? Well, since all military missions have a commander’s intent and a commander’s suspense date, they’re temporary and unique, and that’s the definition of a project. This means we can translate them into commercially viable project summaries then.

To do that, we’ll use the project activities found in the PMPECO (yeah, that’s my Navy talking). So, an attendee offers “OK Wright, let’s see you do a West Pac!”. That is a Navy term for an overseas deployment aboard ship. With step one in mind, I replied “OK Chief, please tell us a little bit about the cruise”.

He then executes step one, jotting down some reflective statements about his ‘project’. We collectively recorded “[1] Prepared crew to include house hold goods, shots, dental, and training. [2] Evaluated shop status and perform maintenance to prepare it for deployment. [3] Secured arms and ammunition and gear. [4] Evaluated project team to ensure skills and qualifications meet mission. [5] Held kick-off meetings with team and leadership to discuss project, culture, safety, security, and sustainment. [6] Then, arrived on station and ‘burned circles’, [colloquial for execute tasks identified to achieve project objectives for sponsor (read Skipper!)].  [7] Performed intra-project maintenance on equipment necessary to execute tasks, filing and arching paperwork as necessary; and finally [8] documented, processed, and awarded project team citations”.

We then picked out Tasks 2 for Initiating, 4 for Planning, 1 for Executing, 6 for Monitoring and Controlling, and 7 for Closing.

Task 2 in Initiating concerns identifying key deliverables based on business requirements and identifying project goals and stakeholder expectations so they can be planned for and managed during project work. It matched up nicely with statement [5] above.

In Planning, task 4 focuses on developing a schedule that considers project scope, resources, and milestones. Statements [1, 2, 5, 6, 8] all represent schedule milestones.

For Executing, the group liked task 1, which is all about acquiring and managing project resources, to include the Sailors doing the project work and the tools and materials they need to do it. Statements [3 and 4] fit this bill nicely.

In Monitoring and Controlling, statements [2 and 7] represent task 6 nicely, as this task is concerned with collecting lessons learned intra-project to continuously improve performance.

Finally, for Closing, the group liked task 7, which linked up nicely as we documented project and team member performance, collected lessons learned, and filed all paperwork.

Our ultimate summary came out something like this…

Initiated project by gathering requirements, identifying milestones and deliverables, and holding the project kick-off meeting.  Planned procurement and human resources needs based on identified tasks, standards, skills and proficiencies.  Executed project schedule meeting all milestones. Continuously assessed team performance and reported project status to stakeholders.  Archived team performance paperwork and issued awards and citations.


There we have it Gang! We just translated a uniquely military mission, a West Pac, into a commercially viable project! The listening civilian hiring manager would only hear a project manager speaking though, not a Sailor!

The value in this ability is immense! Civilians know what to do with project managers and how much to pay them! When you’re speaking Project Management, you are completely familiar to them! You just overcame the language barrier that’s been dogging our military transitions since Legionnaires left the Legions of Rome.

Bravo Zulu!


Eric is a decorated two-Service, two-Era US Military Veteran; Serial Founder; experienced, credentialed project manager and PMI Chapter-recognized mentor; and an entertaining instructor/public speaker on project management, deep learning and the military transition, PMI’s PMP®, CAPM® and ACP® exams, Vetrepreneurship; and project manager development. He helps Military Veterans change their lives profoundly through project management, entrepreneurship, and AI through inspiration, translation, training, and placement. For more information, please visit https://vets2pm.com, www.militaryvetstone.com, and www.linkedin.com/in/docwright2012.

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