Retired Sgt. Burnis Johnson: Taking a leap of faith
By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Career and Transition

AEXANDRIA, Va. - Taking a leap of faith and throwing yourself into the unknown can be very scary, yet rewarding. In March 2015, retired U.S. Army Sgt. Burnis Johnson took a chance on the unknown, after bulging discs and nerve impingement on both sides of his back that made it impossible to complete his duties as a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

"The back injuries are what ultimately made it impossible for me to stay in the Army," Johnson said. "I was unable to train and lead Soldiers in the eyes of my leadership. I was sent to the Brigade Surgeon for a follow up on my medical readiness and at that point the unit was ready to [transition] me out of the Army," Johnson said. "After undergoing surgery, Johnson recovered at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Belvoir, Virginia."

"For the first time in my life, I started to see what stress really felt like," Johnson recalled. "I had to find a new line of work to get into. I didn't want a job. I needed a career."

That new career would end up being in information technology. An interesting choice for someone who says he only knew how to check his email.

"I didn't let [my lack of knowledge] hold me back. Information technology is a wide-open field. It is software or hardware. You have to find out what drives you and go for it," Johnson said. "All you have to do is try. Take a leap of faith. I am a firm believer in this because of my own journey. I was afraid and unsure that I could do it, but I took that first 'baby step."

That first step led to Johnson beginning a nine month Computer Support Technician Course that he learned about while at the WTB. After graduating and receiving his certification, he began and completed an Associate's Degree Program in Computer Networking. Today, Johnson is now two and a half months shy of receiving his Bachelor's Degree in Computer Networking with Cybersecurity. During this time, he was offered a full-time position supporting the Navy as a Systems Administrator.

"I am still in disbelief. I never thought I would have a college degree. I never saw it in my future. Now, I am about to have one and I am a government employee," Johnson said proudly. "I don't even call this work. I am being paid to do what I like and that is the beauty of it."

The Systems administrator says he is also letting the "inventive" side of him surface.

"In the near future, I am going to build my own home network where devices will take commands from [one central source]. It will be a smart home and I cannot wait to get started on this project," Johnson said.

As Johnson looks toward his future, he wants to remain on top of the latest technology and keep learning in its ever-changing world. He credits the WTB for helping him to stay focused on and accomplish his goals with its programs and placing him around other individuals transitioning from the army. His wife, who he calls his rock, has since helped him a set new goal.

"My wife Victoria wants me to pursue a master's degree in cybersecurity. "I never want to be stagnant. This world is ever so changing, especially with technology. New today, old tomorrow. I want to always stay in the loop and keep learning something new. After all, whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve."

Editor note: This is part of an ongoing Soldier series entitled: Where are they now