Military Transitions Lessons Learned With James Mershon

James Mershon is a former US Navy Riverine Patrol Officer, Expeditionary Warfare Specialist, Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, and Distinguished Military Graduate, having served in key operational surface and riverine warfare occupations between 1991 – 2011. He entered the US Navy in 1991 during Desert Storm and later served in Operations Desert Strike, Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. He earned a degree in Mass Communications while having been a recipient of multiple Dean’s and President’s Lists for his exceptional academics, also having received a talent grant that covered his tuition.

Since his start with C5BDI in December 2016, he has led proposal and captures efforts, connecting large and small businesses with Gov’t customers and international businesses with U.S. primes, yielding over $2B+ in awarded contract value for C5BDI clientele. Mr. Mershon has also been pivotal in sit down meetings with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), DARPA, SOCOM, and at the Pentagon to include the Undersecretary of the Navy, all in shaping systems and processes to improve agile acquisition (A2) and promote rapid procurement.

When you transitioned from the US Navy – Riverine Squadron Two – what were you most afraid of during your transition?

Sequestration 2009-2010 (automatic spending cuts that occurred through the withdrawal of funding for certain (but not all) government programs) and how that may have affected life after the Navy.

2005: Shipboard VBSS Team/ SAR Swimmer in preparation for a multi-national interdiction operation
(James pictured at left)

Ships James served on as SAR/VBSS

And how did you work through those fears?

Luckily, I was able to transition immediately after a month of terminal leave with Raytheon as a Field Service Representative (FSR) in-country supporting my brothers with RIVERINE GROUP ONE.

What did you do well during your transition? 

Networked and coordinated with the existing FSR as he was transitioning to support a similar role with the USCG. This led to an interview with Raytheon (in uniform) before I was honorably discharged in Winter 2009.

Riverine Picture

What did you do poorly during the transition and more importantly what did you learn from that failure?

Knowing that I was going to be leaving CONUS and establishing my new base of operations with Raytheon overseas, initially, I could have made preparations to transition out of my home, but, after analysis, it was cheaper to keep my place as it provided me a place to go during the furlough. Especially, looking back, due to Sequestration, my Raytheon contractor job ended due to budget restraints after only 18 months, so, I had peace of mind in knowing that 1) I had a place to return to without having to go through the apartment/house-hunting process, and 2) I had friends who helped me by checking my place and ensuring all was well with my home while I was abroad. What I learned was to have a plan and be willing to seek advice from those who have experience with transitioning in efforts to cover as many contingencies that you can – inevitably, be ready for hick-ups #murphyslaw

What do you miss most about the Military? And do you stay connected to the military family?

Exactly that – the camaraderie was priceless – I remember my shipmates (sisters and brothers) more than I do all of the experiences – that said, it was sharing those experiences with my fellow sailors and bolt-ons that made the experiences memorable. Yes, I do my best to stay connected and feel beyond blessed to serve in an arena today that enables me to band together across the DoD forging new bonds while reminiscing with fellow warfighters across the Force.

2010: Oscar Mike (on mission) on the Euphrates (James pictured at left) as an FSR w/ Raytheon conducting an operational test of a Riverine Patrol Boat (RPB)

What advice would you give to someone who desires to work in business consulting?

Relationship – relationship – relationship. Without a solid relationship with your team, clients, and government stakeholders, one is in for a bitter haul. Know your market, continually improve your craft, and establish yourself in the community of interest. Build from your merits to help substantiate your place in your field. End of the day, seek to make “Raving Fans” out of your clients and government customers. This is accomplished by deciding what you want, defining your vision, learning what your client/customer “really wants”, seeking to understand their “truth”/reality, continually evolving your systems/processes, and pursuing your “Raving Fans” service as a constant feature of your business model. We started with two clients and ended with a half dozen by the end of our first year, and at the end of four years, we have had the privilege of working with 200+ clients delivering innovative technologies to the warfighter in every corner of the DoD – understand, this has required an “all in all the time” approach supported by a forward-leaning work ethos, coupled with the uniqueness of our small unit leadership environment, and while refining the art of communicating with one another and with our clients/government customers. Be strong, be courageous, be flexible, keep moving forward! #shootmoveandcommunicate #assaultthrough

Men’s Team C5BDI, having won 1st Place in the 2017 Jamestown International team triathlon sprint giving-charitable donation to
The Special Operations Warrior Foundation
(James in the middle)

Anything else you would like to say to a soon-to-be transitioning military member?

As applicable, that folks take advantage of their command’s transition assistance program (TAP) or the equivalent, command career counselor, etc., to enable every opportunity for success once transitioned out from the active-duty side. Also, consider the Reserves for those who did not retire from active duty, which can provide greater financial opportunity down the road.

Since leaving the military you have made a number of career changes; are there some tools/techniques you have used to successfully make those changes?

Building bridges and sustaining relationships – these two ideals have served me well…just like in the military, the keyword out here in CIVLANT is “J.O.B.” – be willing to accept an opportunity even if it differs from your literal job description from when you were on active duty, especially if providing for a family, etc. until you hunt down the perfect job for you. That said, leverage everything in your arsenal the moment you decide to transition out of active duty to prepare yourself for a healthy transition and rewarding future.

Tell me about your work at C5BDI and how that benefits service members and business leaders?

As a thought leader and commercialization guru with C5BDI, I support industry and government to ensure the right product and/or service from concept, to minimum viable product (MVP), to commercialization, which benefits the warfighters downrange. I accomplish the latter through C5BDI’s strong infrastructure and ecosystem that has been built up over time, indicative of unique systems, processes, and training, which keeps us on mission and consistent, albeit adaptable enough to change course if that’s what our customer service demands. In essence, I purpose to under promise and over deliver, without trying to deliver more than what I am personally capable of, which is another benefit of our C5BDI team #family, as we can leverage one another for the betterment of our industrial clients and government customers. This results in a win-win for government decision-makers, yielding rapid delivery of relevant technologies and support services via agile acquisition and non-traditional contracting avenues of approach to what I term non-traditional contracting vehicles (SBIR, OTA, CTMA, etc.). 

At the 2018 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) w/ C5BDI


James Mershon is a former US Navy Riverine Patrol Officer, Expeditionary Warfare Specialist, Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, and Distinguished Military Graduate, having served in key operational surface and riverine warfare occupations between 1991 – 2011. He entered the US Navy in 1991 during Desert Storm and later served in Operations Desert Strike, Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. Before his tour with Riverine Group One, he was an engineer on the USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG-49), plank owner and Search and Rescue (SAR) swimmer on the USS Laboon (DDG-58), and a SAR swimmer and Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW) on the USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). In 1999, he earned a degree in Mass Communications, having been a recipient of multiple Dean’s and President’s Lists for his exceptional academics, while also having received a talent grant that covered his tuition. He capped his Navy career as a plank owner and Riverine Patrol Officer (RPO) serving over 200 combat operations in Iraq with Riverine Squadron Two Det Two. Mr. Mershon transitioned out of active duty service and into a role as a military contractor supporting the Riverine Group One (RIVGRUONE) in Iraq 2009 – 2011.

After a sabbatical of sorts upon his return from Iraq as a Field Service Representative (FSR) for RIVGRUONE, he traveled to Nashville, TN where he completed a songwriting project, managed three artists, and has since had three songs distributed on compilation albums via Blue Pie Records including Country Music Television that can be found in the Amazon Music Store.

With ongoing musical aspirations since Mr. Mershon accepted a new government contracting role in 2012 with a multi-billion dollar corporation where he learned the ebbs and flows of government contracting and end-to-end business development (BD). In 2014, he transitioned to serve as the Program Manager for shipbuilding and engineering technical and professional services in support of the US Navy Mid Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC).

After a successful run at MARMC, Mr. Mershon redirected his efforts in 2015 and accepted a Director of BD position in the National Capital Region (NCR), having helped grow a company to almost 30M in value in 10 months that earned him a role as an Executive Vice President. After successes in the NCR, Mr. Mershon changed direction and transitioned from the defense contracting space to leverage his depth of related business acumen and experience to serve as a private business consultant with C5BDI.

Since his start with C5BDI in December 2016, he has led proposal and captures efforts, connecting large and small businesses with Gov’t customers and international businesses with U.S. primes, yielding over $2B+ in awarded contract value for C5BDI clientele. Mr. Mershon has also been pivotal in sit down meetings with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), DARPA, SOCOM, and at the Pentagon to include the Undersecretary of the Navy, all in shaping systems and processes to improve agile acquisition (A2) and promote rapid procurement.

Today, as calendar year 2020 comes to a close, Mr. Mershon continues to serve with C5BDI as a capture to proposal (C2P) thought leader and commercialization guru, leading new team members, all while contributing and absorbing technological innovation, ideation, and entrepreneurial excellence with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) executive education pipeline.

Leave a Reply....

%d bloggers like this: