Basic Training and First Christmas in the Air Force

The big Flying Boxcar lumbered down the runway at Montreal and took off headed east. I was a passenger, sitting in the jump seat and proud to be one of the most junior members of the Royal Canadian Air Force. It was October, 1964. I was eighteen years old and four weeks into my basic training in St. Jean, Quebec, part of class 6441.

We’d been confined to the base for the first four weeks of our training and this was an opportunity to leave for a weekend. I was excited to be heading home to New Brunswick, flying on my first air force flight.

I joined the air force on September 22nd, 1964 in my home town of Saint John, New Brunswick. A few days later I was on the night train to Montreal, bound for basic training. During the night, the train stopped along the way and picked up half a dozen other young New Brunswick guys, all headed for the same place.

A sergeant met us at the train station in St. Jean and off we went in an air force station wagon to our new home at Manning Depot. That’s what they called the air force basic training centre. That first day was a Sunday and it was quiet around the base, which didn’t help my feelings of being homesick. I was also feeling a bit of “what have I done?” Then I had dinner in the mess hall with some of the other recruits and felt a lot better.

The next day we got right into our introduction to the RCAF and began a busy week getting issued with uniforms, etc. I especially remember the big, heavy greatcoats. I wondered why our summer uniforms were khaki but still with the air force blue/grey hat. It just didn’t match. But far be it from me as a brand new Aircraftsman Second Class to complain about air force fashion.

We had two course leaders, Corporal Whitney and Leading Aircraftsman Davies. They were a combination mother hen and drill sergeant, experienced RCAF members whose job it was to teach us about military life and get us through the ten weeks of basic training. There were about 120 recruits in 6441 divided into several flights. My flight leader was Bob Toivanen, a good-natured former member of the Royal Canadian Navy.

We lived in barracks, and learned how to keep the place sparkling clean, neat and tidy. We did lots of marching and I remember one team-building exercise in which we helped each other carry some big logs . . . not for any particular reason other than to show us how to work together. Three to a log as I remember it.

One of the first things that took place was assigning each of us to an Air Force trade. I already knew Morse code so it didn’t take long for the evaluators to decide I would be a radio operator. And we got vaccinated. The shot was called a 5 in 1 and was intended to prevent us catching any number of diseases. There were lots of rumours that some recruits had passed out from getting the shot so there was much chatter and worry about that.

After four weeks of training and being confined to the base, we wrote an exam that covered what we had learned to that point. Then we were allowed off the base for a weekend. That’s when I got my flight in the Flying Boxcar.

We graduated from basic training around the first week of December. The air force put on a nice dinner for us. After graduation, we went on to our trades training at Borden and Clinton, both training baes in Ontario. My last recollection of St. Jean is taking the train out of there bound for Clinton.

Shortly after we got to Clinton we were told we could take leave for Christmas. I headed home to Saint John and my first Christmas as a member of the RCAF.

That was a special Christmas for me and I’m glad to share this little story with you.

Jobs for Retired Cops

A police friend of mind challenged me about second careers for street cops. “There aren’t many jobs for retired police officers,” he said. That got me thinking about what opportunities are out there other than the ones I pursued.

“It depends on what you want to do,” a retired police officer said when I asked him about the best jobs for retired cops. That makes sense. We each have our own interests and ideas for what to do when our police career ends. Some want a full time new career, others a part-time job.

I looked around to see where former cops are working and talked to some that have gone on to second careers.

These are jobs I found retired cops working at right now.

Private Investigator: This is an obvious follow-up to a career in police investigations. Many private investigators got their start in police organizations. After they retired from policing some started their own investigations firms. Others hired on with PI companies that were already established.

Security: After a full police career, a natural second career would be in corporate security. But a friend of mine who did so reminded me the job is much more than rattling door knobs now. He took some training and got certified as a security professional. If this field interests you, check out ASIS International for all the latest in security training and certification at

Workers’ Compensation or Insurance Investigations: Two areas of investigation. One is fraud-related investigating suspicious compensation claims. The other is fatal and serious injury investigations in the workplace. I worked in this field after my police career and many of our investigators were retired police officers.

Author/Speaker: Who has better stories than cops? There’s a great organization called the Public Safety Writers Association where police authors can find support and share their experiences. Here’s a link.

Realtor: A friend of mine became a realtor after he retired from policing. He told me that you’d be surprised about how many of your police skills are used in dealing with people selling or purchasing a home. He said either of those transactions can be very stressful for those involved and sometimes it takes all his police skills to keep them calm as they go through it.

College Instructor: For all you police officers who are involved in training, this is a good next stop after your police career, especially if you have academic credentials.

Human Resources Advisor: A retired police officer I know got started in police HR and went on from there to work in corporate HR. He did some extra HR training before he left police work.

Long-haul Truck Driver: A pal of mine retired from policing and had always had a dream to be a long-haul truck driver.  He took some training after retiring from policing and spent several years driving all over North America. For him it was living the dream.

VIP Security/Chauffer/Personal Driver: If you’re a police officer you’ll be able to see the connection between your police skills and this type of work. Executive protection is an interesting part of the security business.

Small Ferry Boat Operator: A senior police executive wanted to do something completely different from the endless demands of leading a police department. This job certainly meets that need.

A few more ways retired police have made a living: rancher, gun smith, therapist for first responders, high school sports coach, doorman at a high-end hotel, and chief of a smaller department.

“I thought it was the last job I’d ever have,” said Tim Dees, a retired police officer. Then he went on to eight different jobs after he left policing.

What do you want to do? Take some time when you’re still in your police career to think about it. A lot of street cops want to work after they retire, but not under the same working conditions a police officer puts up with. Plan ahead. Get some idea what you want to do. Train and upgrade your credentials if necessary. There’s a second career out there if you want it.

John Eldridge
Retired police officer
Author of Second Careers for Street Cops

Plan For a Career After Policing – 5 Things You Can Do

This is for cops who want a second career. After 26 years of police work, 11 years in a second career, and five years of retirement, I get the opportunity to look back and see what worked . . . and what didn’t. My life and careers had the usual ups and downs, all valuable experience.  Along the way, I learned some things about moving on to a second career.untitled

There are many opportunities out there, but it takes some planning. Five things you can do during your police career to get ready:

  1. Think ahead. Don’t leave it to the end to start planning. What are your possibilities? Identify three careers you’d be interested in and start watching for information about them. Are they trending up or down? In other words, is there a future in the jobs you think you’d like? Look for second careers where there will be ample opportunities for employment.
  1. Create a resumé and keep it up to date. Make sure you have a record of all your police courses, seminars, assignments, promotions and commendations. Ask your Human Relations Section for a copy if you can’t remember everything. Use that material to build your resumé.
  1. Take care of your personal life. Police work can be challenging and we’ve all seen difficult circumstances that result from it. Don’t get so wrapped up in the job that you forget what life is like outside your police organization. If you get to the end of your police career and your personal life is a train wreck, it’s going to be tougher to sort out what to do next. Stay as healthy and fit as you can and find a balance in life. Friends outside of policing can help remind you there’s more to life than policing.
  1. Network. By the time you get to the end of your police career you will have met a lot of people. This is your network. networkMany of your police colleagues have gone on to other careers. They’ll know a lot about what jobs are out there, good and bad places to work, people to call, recommendations, and where you will find a friendly reception. Just remember, networking is a two-way street. They help you and you help them. Don’t wait till the end of your career to help others in your network.
  1. The money. As you approach retirement from policing, you will have decisions to make. Where to live, whether to get another job, and ongoing family responsibilities are all typical issues. There are more, depending on your personal situation. Money plays a part in a lot of these decisions. Don’t let financial chaos ruin this next stage of life. Manage your finances well along the way and get professional help when you need it.

John Eldridge
Author of Second Careers for Street Cops
Retired Police Officer

Retirement Blues

Here is guest blogger retired police sergeant and novelist Michael A. Black writing about police retirement.


Retirement Blues


Michael A. Black

When I took my psychological exam and the psychologist asked me why I wanted to become a police officer, I told him the truth: I liked helping people. Of course, there were a lot of perks that went along with that… Good pay, high job security, excitement, and of course, early retirement options…

Early retirement was something a lot of guys talked about. “Do twenty years and you can retire and collect your pension when you hit fifty.” Back then fifty seemed a long way off, but twenty years certainly seemed doable.

Sgt. Black Receiving the Cook County Medal of Merit

Sgt. Black Receiving the Cook County Medal of Merit

I came on the job and loved it. I didn’t think much about retirement until one of the sergeants I worked with decided to pull the pin. I liked and respected the man. We had a party for him, and after eating the cake and wishing him well, we all shook hands with the promise to keep in touch. We didn’t. He came by the station a few years later when another friend of ours retired and I was shocked how badly old sarge had aged. There were so many new people that didn’t know him he seemed like an outsider.

As we watched him go, one of my buddies said, “Once you walk out that door for the last time, it’s like you were never here.” That officer ended up taking his own life on the eve of his retirement.

I began to think about retirement that day, and what my life would be like after I also walked out that door.

As my twenty year mark approached, I briefly considered retiring, but I didn’t have the age and pushed all thoughts of retirement onto the back burner. I was a sergeant and able to do many different assignments: patrol supervisor, team leader on the SWAT team, heading up a plainclothes unit, major crime investigations… Why think about retirement? I had the best job in the world.

Still, I’d always dreamed of being a writer. I’d been published in both fiction and nonfiction and toyed with the idea of launching a writing career as I inexorably moved closer to going out that door for the last time.

I volunteered for a brutal relief shift ostensibly so I could go back to school to get my masters. I’d majored in English as an undergrad. I figured that I could perhaps do some teaching after I retired. I’ve always believed in hedging my bets.

I finished grad school, kept right on publishing stuff, and passed my thirty year mark.pswa-2016_sdcc-045

“When you going to retire?” one of my buddies asked me. I’d gone through several more incarnations including a stint in administration, which I hated. When I transferred back to the street as a patrol supervisor it was like going home again. I got my street legs back and recovered my love of the job.

desert-falcons-cBut still, retirement loomed. I’d declared my intention to pull the pin, but ended up extending my time as the date approached. I did another year. Like I said, I’d gotten my street legs back, I’d honed my squad into a finely tuned machine; I was kicking down doors; I was breaking up bar fights; I was chasing armed robbers; I was at the top of my game.

In other words, it was time to go.

It was finally my turn to stand up in front of the group, cut the retirement cake, shake hands, and walk out that door. Another retired officer slapped me on the back. “You’ll miss some of the players,” he said, “but you won’t miss the circus.”

He was wrong. I miss it all. Every time I hear the wail of a distant siren it brings me back to the old days.

Nothing lasts forever, and staying too long only results in disaster. In Joseph Wambaugh’s novel, Hollywood Station, they end up carrying the old sergeant, known as the Oracle, out on a stretcher.

I continue to hone my writing skills and now have 28 books to my name, and over 100 articles and short stories. I also teach writing courses at a junior college. It’s fulfilling, in its own way, but it ain’t police work.

As a retired officer, I’m still entitled to carry a concealed weapon. I have to go back to qualify on the range once a year. Last July I went in to do so and was introduced to a couple new officers who were about to start the academy. They looked so young…

If they would have asked me for advice, I probably would have said, “Stay safe, enjoy the ride, and remember to leave when you’re at the top of your game.”

Afraid to Retire From Police Work?

A friend of mine is getting ready to retire from the police department. He’s been a police officer for almost thirty years and wonders what retirement will be like. Many thoughts are going through his mind. Should I get another job? What will life be like at home? Should we move to a smaller city? He’s afraid he’ll miss the friendships, the policing challenges, and the occasional adrenalin hit from a hot call. Police work gets in your blood and it can be hard to leave when the time comes.

It’s true there’s a lot to sort out as you approach retirement from policing. But here’s the good part: you get to keep the friendships without the police bureaucracy. Your police friends will retire some day too and it’s easy to stay in touch these days. Lots of police organizations have retirement groups that help you stay connected. Join, even if the last thing you want is to stay connected to your police department and you don’t think you’ll go to the lunches or meetings very much. The benefit of joining is a newsletter or contact list from the retirement group that will keep you up to date and connected as much as you want to be.

A lot of us have found, once we retired, that policing was a big chunk of our life, but it wasn’t our whole life. Yes, we identified as being a police officer but as time went by we found other ways to define our lives. Retirement brings many new possibilities and ways of seeing the world. Think of it as a new stage in life, a new start. As a police officer you faced fear. This is a new kind of fear but once you make the leap to retirement you might just findIMG_1203 it’s the best time of your life.

John Eldridge

Retired police officer (that’s me with my dog on a retired police morning)

Author of Second Careers for Street Cops


Three Good Retirement Planning Books

Are you getting ready to retire? Maybe you’re already there but still need some insight into what makes for a happy retirement. It really does help to do some planning, or at least give it some thought. Lots of us get caught up in the “I’m outta here” euphoria but once you get over that, there’s more to retirement than we think. Think of it as your new career with lots of things to learn about how to be retired.

I came across three good retirement planning books, all published in the last couple of years. They each have their own approach to retirement planning and all have some very good ideas about how to deal with it.Books-3

Choose Your Retirement by Emily Guy Birken presents a number of How To’s, such as How To Retire Abroad, How To Retire Early, How To Go Back To School In Retirement, and others. Her sub-title is Find The Right Path To Your New Adventure and I’d agree with her that retirement is an adventure. It’s like being eighteen again and wondering what to do with your life. If you like this book, she also wrote another one called The 5 Years Before You Retire.

The Retirement Boom by Catherine Allen, Nancy Bearg, Rita Foley, and Jaye Smith deals with some real down-to-earth issues arising from retirement, such as what to do with your time, renegotiating life at home (a bigger issue than you might think), and simplifying your time. There’s an easy-to-understand chapter about managing your money and, even more important, a chapter about staying healthy. That chapter is great stuff for retirees who want to live a long and happy life.

Think you’ll never be able to retire? Try this one: You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think by Wes Moss, sub-title The 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees. It’s a lot about ‘the money.’ There’s no denying that money issues don’t end on the day we retire. Moss is a Certified Financial Planner and has much to say about money and retirement, all very interesting and useful. He has a couple of catchy chapters such as What Makes Retirees Unhappy? and 18 Traits Of The Happiest Retirees.


So before you hit that Send button and announce “I’m outta here,” do yourself a favor and look into some of the things that retired people usually end up trying to figure out. These three books are a great place to start. And if you’re already retired, read them anyway because, as you know by now, being retired doesn’t mean we stop dealing with the things life throws at us.

John Eldridge
Retired Police Officer
Author of Second Careers for Street Cops
Amazon Author Page
Twitter: @copsecondcareer
Member Public Safety Writers Association


Police Officers: Networking into a Second Career

Cops have the best networks. The bond between police officers is strong and builds a unique community of trust. Think about it. All those life and death situations that police come across, the stress, the many challenges and yes, the danger. It all works to bring them closer together than a lot of other employee

Police officers can use their networks to help each other out during their police careers and into a second career. Many officers have moved on to second careers after their police careers and are in a great position to help those that come after them. For example, if you’re a police officer wondering what it’s like to work for a particular organization, asking a former cop who works there will probably get you a well-informed opinion.

This is quite different from twenty or thirty years ago when police officers that retired did just that. They finished their police careers and went to play golf. Now they all want to work. So there are lots of retired police officers out there willing and able to be good sources of second career information.

There’s something about the term “networking” though, that police officers don’t like. Maybe it’s the meet and greet sessions that put them off. After years of investigating liars, cheats, and generally deceptive people, cops don’t like anything phoney and those wine and cheese gatherings can be artificial. There are other ways to network. Officers just need to look around as they are progressing through their own police careers and realize they are developing a network among people they can trust, within policing. This carries on into life after policing.

As well as the informal network that police are part of, there are police groups around the world that provide excellent platforms for networking, such as the International Police Association and the International Association of Women Police. Take a look on LinkedIn and you’ll find several groups that are related to policing, including Former Police Officers in Business and Retired Law Enforcement. These groups provide great opportunities to network and gather second career information. A senior police officer friend of mine suggested officers just need to think about all the training courses they’ve been on with police officers from other jurisdictions to consider what a wide network they have.

I wrote in an earlier article that police officers need a second career plan. Networking is a big part of that plan. It’s easy to do in the police community. Officers just need to give some thought to their own unique place in policing, who they know, and who their friends know. In policing, we all know someone who knows someone.

The holiday festive season is upon us. It’s a perfect time to reconnect with old friends or find new ones at the many social occasions that come up at this time of year. Cops are a social bunch. That section party, office get-together, or squad luncheon is all part of the networking experience. Police officers just need to keep that in mind when they’re enjoying the festive season with their police friends.


Originally published at Careers in

John Eldridge
Retired Police Officer
Author of Second Careers for Street Cops
Amazon Author Page
Twitter: @copsecondcareer
Member Public Safety Writers Association

Police Officers Need a Second Career Plan

There’s life after police work. A lot of my friends went on to second careers when their police careers ended. Some stayed in the investigations field and became private investigators or security specialists. Others wanted to try something completely different and found careers in business. Several became realtors. A couple wrote books. One went into banking. I stayed in the investigations area and had a second career in investigations management.JNESS-POLICE-CAR

You too have choices. There are lots of opportunities for retired cops but it helps if you have a plan. Now, you don’t have to reinvent your life to create a second career plan. Just give it some thought and put something together that works for you. Here are some suggestions that will help you write up a simple plan. You can change it as you get closer to the end of your police career.

Get your stuff together. Do it now while you’re not actively shopping around for a new career. Look back over your time as a police officer and start organizing your portfolio. Remember all those training courses and seminars you attended? Find all your certificates and get them into a sequential pile. The same goes for your commendations and awards, your professional designations, and of course your formal education.

Get all that material together. Be thorough. You should only have to do this once and then add to it later, so take your time and find everything. This is the foundation of your plan.

resumeBuild a resume. Get this done sooner rather than later. That way you’re ready to go if you find a job that interests you. Build your resume from the material you found when you looked back over your career and piled up your certificates.

Find a resume style that works for you. A simple Internet search will give you some ideas. Consider the advice of a professional resume writer. It might be money well spent to compose a resume in a professional looking format that you can build on. Keep your resume up to date.

Look ahead. Pick a date when you’re going to move on from your police career. This isn’t something you have to share with anyone so put it in your back pocket and keep it to yourself. With all the ups and downs of police work, know that you’re looking after yourself. You have an exit plan.

Pick a second career field you’re interested in and watch the trends. Does it seem like there will be opportunities there as time goes by? Focus on a second career with a good future. If your second career choice is in a career field with diminishing opportunities you’ll want to rethink it.

Don’t forget to network. You already know a lot of people. networkYou’ll meet more as your go through your police career. I found my network was very important as I moved into my second career and then my third. I help them and they help me. That’s how it works.

This is how you start your plan. You’re busy in your police career so this doesn’t need to take over your life. Just continue to develop it as your police career progresses, and remember there will be life after your police career.

Have a plan and be ready so you can take advantage of the opportunities that will be out there.


(Originally published at Careers in

John Eldridge
Retired Police Officer
Author of Second Careers for Street Cops
Amazon Author Page
Twitter: @copsecondcareer
Member Public Safety Writers Association


Seize Every Opportunity

IMG_1024“Come outside and see the decorations,” my wife called. So I did. It was early on Halloween night. Sophie, our golden retriever looked innocent enough sleeping under the kitchen table. My big mistake was leaving three delicious Halloween cupcakes on the table.

Five minutes later we came back in to find an empty plate, cupcakes gone, and Sophie happily looking up at us, orange icing dripping from her chin.002

Sophie saw something she wanted and didn’t hesitate. That can happen in your career too. Sometimes it really isn’t a good idea to overthink your plan. The best
decision could be staring right at you. Seize the moment. Grab the opportunity when it presents itself. If Sophie could talk, I’m pretty sure that would be her career advice.

John Eldridge
Retired Police Officer
Author of Second Careers for Street Cops
Amazon Author Page
Twitter: @copsecondcareer
Member Public Safety Writers Association