Navy Senior Chief Mike Elkins, stationed at Millington, Tenn., is cooking up part-time cash with his own barbecue sauce company. (Photos courtesy of Mike Elkins)
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Generally speaking, active-duty troops working off-duty jobs is not a problem, service officials say.
“Off-duty employment, or moonlighting, is permissible if it does not interfere with official duties, does not bring discredit upon the Army, and does not violate basic ethical considerations,” says Army spokesman Troy Rolan at the Pentagon. “They also need to make sure they check with their first sergeant or commander.”
That goes for the other services, as well.
“The first step for any airman would be to check with their supervisor to ensure that their employment wouldn’t violate any ethical or safety standards,” says Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley.
Most commanders probably will want to know what kind of hours you’re planning on putting into your second job and probe whether the extra workload might leave you less than your best when you’re back on duty.
“Most importantly, off-duty employment is regulated by Department of Defense 5500 7-R, Joint Ethics Regulation, Section 2-206a. Airmen need to fill out AF Form 3902, which can be found on our e-publishing website,” Tingley says.
Meanwhile, Air Force regulations limit off-duty employment to no more than 16 hours per week, although your commander can give permission to exceed that.
“This limitation does not apply to off-duty employment performed while on official leave status,” reads Air Force Instruction 44-102. Airmen also are supposed to have at least six hours’ rest between the end of their off-duty job and the start of their regular duty day.
Of course, some off-duty jobs are nonstarters.
According to Navy regs, areas of particular concern are jobs that could detract from readiness or pose a security threat, might make the military look bad or have the potential for major media coverage
1. Fitness instructor
A full-timer in the Air Force Reserve at Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., Lt. Col. Ian Coogan harnesses his passion for fitness and helping others into his part-time job as a P90X certified Beachbody coach.
“I do it because I am a big fitness enthusiast, and it helps me develop skills that I want to utilize when I do make the transition to the civilian world,” he says.
Startup costs were minimal.
“I became a Beachbody coach after doing P90X and Insanity for the first time,” Coogan says. “I loved the results I got from each program, and I became a big believer in their products, so I signed up to be a coach. I wanted to encourage and help other people get the same results as I did.”
He usually works with clients for about two hours a day.
“There is no set income level. It is my own business, so the amount I make is directly proportional to the amount of effort I put into it,” he says.
For the past two years, it’s been enough to pay for a “couple more vacations each year that I wouldn’t have been able to afford [otherwise].”
He says balancing his Air Force job with his coaching business can sometimes be a challenge. “But then I remember why I am doing this job, and I seem to be able to find ways to fit both in each day,” he says.
Whatever job you decide to do, Coogan recommends “doing something that you are passionate about. It is a time commitment, and it will take time from something else you can be doing, so you might as well enjoy what you are doing.”
2. Dale Carnegie instructor
When Navy Lt. David Boisselle was an administrative officer at Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., a few years ago, he had part-time jobs teaching as an adjunct professor at several colleges and universities, as well as working as a Dale Carnegie motivational instructor.
Boisselle was on a three-year shore tour at the time, “so I did not deploy or even have overnight duty. Thus, my evening hours belonged to me, so I made the best use of this time not only to make money on a part-time basis but to prepare myself for a second career in higher education and training,” he says.
Working as an adjunct professor required a master’s degree, which the Navy largely paid for through tuition assistance, but the training fees to become certified as a Dale Carnegie instructor (now $5,000) were paid out of pocket.
The upfront costs were worth it in more ways than one, he says.
As an adjunct professor, Boisselle made about $1,950 for each eight-week college course, a five-hour commitment for one night per week. As a Dale Carnegie trainer, he earned $150 per night, teaching a 3˝-hour class once a week for 12 weeks.
More importantly, however, he says both jobs paved the way for his new career as a civilian. Now retired from the Navy, Boisselle is the director of military and veteran affairs for Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va.
Before leaving the Army a few years ago, Sgt. Brooke Byrd spent her off-duty time waitressing at the Fort Hood, Texas, Red Lobster.
She’d waitressed for a while before joining the Army and says she was glad to put an apron back on just to relieve the boredom of barracks life.
“I did not want to hang out in the barracks all evening with the other soldiers because I was a bit older than them and didn’t have much in common. I like the idea of having extra cash and delicious food at 50 percent off, too,” Byrd says.
Typically, she’d work about 15 hours a week, including weekends, clearing as much as $130 a night just in tips.
“I also took shifts from other workers if they needed someone to fill in, especially for holidays. I didn’t have a family there, so I was more than willing to take over for Mother’s Day and other special days. Made me feel good.”
Her managers worked with her if she had staff duty or had to go the field.
“If you want to get away from the barracks and make money, stay out of trouble, enjoy life, and of course get paid for it, please do. Also, all the free garlic-cheddar biscuits you want.”
4. Online business
Navy Senior Chief Mike Elkins has always had a taste for the hot stuff. When he started a new assignment two years ago as a detailer in Millington, Tenn., he quickly learned he had a talent for making awesome barbecue sauces, as well.
Family and friends were constantly asking for more, so he and his wife figured: Why not see if people would buy it? Last March, Chomp Chomp BBQ was born.
“We designed our own logos, created all of our marketing materials, developed our website, and packaged our own products, so we were able to save quite a bit of money in those areas,” Elkins says.
The biggest startup costs were registering tax ID numbers and buying liability insurance.
“From there, we just started putting ourselves out there — we catered a friend’s wedding, began participating in [local] events and bartering our products for other products we needed, like printed materials,” he says. “It takes a lot of time to build a brand and establish relationships, but we feel that both are monumental when starting a business.”
In less than a year, they’re already shipping to customers around the country and overseas.
“On average, we put in about 20 hours a week. And since my wife and I both work full time and [we] have two small children, these hours are often put in late at night or on the weekends,” he says. “There are just the two of us, and we manage our website, process our online and local orders, keep up with social media, test new recipes, bottle our own products, print and design our own labels, order bottles and other packaging materials, compete in BBQ events, cater, do our own research and taxes.”
Elkins says he read once that most startups don’t turn a profit for at least a few years.
“We can attest to that. Startup costs are higher than we expected, and in an effort to offer fair prices, we usually just break even at the end of each quarter,” he says. “We also are still babies in the business — and barbecue — world, and often conduct raffles, donate baskets for fundraisers, and give out sample packs as ways of promoting our brand. Essentially, it feels like we work for free — but having someone refer to us as ‘the Chomp Chomp people’ when we walk into local businesses is priceless.”
Boatswain’s Mate Sharnisha Brazzell, stationed at Iwakuni, Japan, works where she shops at the base Marine Corps Exchange.
“My military job comes first,” she insists. But with her Navy job in shifts of 48 hours on/48 hours off, she’s got plenty of time for other pursuits.
“I like to stay busy because I get bored easily,” Brazzell says.
Typically she does one eight-hour shift during her two days off, earning $7.25 an hour.
Her advice: “Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself. Get rest and still have time for yourself.”
For the past two years, Army Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Reinke has made some extra cash lounging by the pool at Fort Campbell, Ky. Maybe not lounging, exactly, but he enjoys working as a lifeguard so much he says he’d do it for free.
“When I first started, I wanted to just do it as a volunteer but found out that due to the liability insurance for the pools, I had to be employed as a non-appropriated funds (employee),” he says.
As with most poolside positions, the job required American Red Cross or equivalent lifeguard and CPR certifications before he could start.
“The job only pays $8 an hour, but it’s fun work. I get to help kids, soldiers and everyday civilians.”
Now on his way to a new assignment at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., he plans to keep at it, either on base or with one of the local YMCAs.
7. ESL teacher
Petty Officer 1st Class Gina Ellison, an information technology expert stationed in South Korea, says teaching English as a second language to the locals “is a great way to earn some money, get involved in the community, and stay occupied while overseas.”
Think Robin Williams’ part-time gig in “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
Ellison says she earns about $760 per month teaching her two small classes for a total of four hours a week.
She started slowly, beginning by helping another teacher. Assistants typically can make about $50 to come in for half an hour just to talk with students who want to practice their conversational skills.
It’s not uncommon for military teachers moving on to new assignments to “pass on” their classes to another service member.
Her advice on getting started: Work with someone who can help negotiate the classes with the locals, and be willing to spend some time setting things up. Also, “be firm about the number of students you are willing to work with, and when ready to leave your duty station, try to find another to take on the class so a tradition can continue.”
8. CPR instructor
Petty Officer 3rd Class Brenton Holbrook, a corpsman stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, puts his military skills to work in his off-duty job.
Currently deployed, he just earned his certification to teach first aid and CPR to civilians once he returns to Hawaii.
He knows instructors who make as much as $300 teaching a single class.
To be an American Red Cross instructor, you first have to have the basic First Aid/CPR certification. Many in the military already have it; the cost is $110 for those who don’t.
“After you become certified, you have to take the instructor course. My course was free because I am currently deployed. However, in the States, it’s $500 per person. As far as time goes, the certification class is about six to eight hours, depending on class size and other factors. The instructor course is given over two days usually, and it’s about 10 hours long.”
Of course, it’s not a job to take lightly.
“This is a skill that has the potential to save someone’s life. If you, as a class participant, do not take it seriously and the need arises, you can hurt someone because of your ignorance,” he says. “As an instructor, you can’t expect a class to be confident in their skills if they are not confident in yours.”
Army Staff Sgt. Danny Harubin leads a battalion sniper section in the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan. Maybe it’s no surprise he’d end up working at a local, family-owned gunshop.
“I started out in the front of the house as a retail specialist and have since begun apprenticing in the shop as a gunsmith,” Harubin says.
In the midst of a busy pre-deployment workup, he says the owners understand his schedule is often not his own.
“Their daughter is married to a soldier, so they know how hectic schedules become,” he says.
Besides, he works for free.
“When I started, I told the owners that I wanted the opportunity to learn about gunsmithing and try my hand as an apprentice, with the ultimate goal of one day owning my own shop when I retire,” he says.