Veterans are welcomed at companies that value their contributions
Programs like the Wounded Warrior Project help employers identify and recruit good workers
Adjusting to the civilian workforce may be a challenge, but companies and outside organizations can help
By Sonya Stinson
The 2011 unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces after September 2001 was 12.1 percent, while the jobless rate for all veterans was 8.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some organizations are doing remarkable work to help these recent vets find jobs, including many in technical fields. The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP, Jacksonville, FL), assists veterans who sustained service-related injuries on or after September 11, 2001.
Since 2007, the group has offered free IT courses through its Transition Training Academy (TTA), which operates in ten locations at U.S. Army and Marine bases or military medical centers, plus one at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany.
The program provides training through a series of four introductory courses: intro to computer technology, computer repair, computer networking and computer security. All but the first course are tied to certification exams, and TTA director Rick Willis says participants have a 100 percent pass rate. The curriculum is designed to accommodate students with physical limitations as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
"Those who suffer from PTSD and traumatic brain injury have problems remembering and recalling things," Willis says. "We teach the course, and they repeat the material and do a lot of practical work and hands-on work."
Graduates have gone on to work as help- desk technicians, start their own computer repair businesses and even become IT contractors who returned to Iraq and Afghanistan. Willis has also hired TTA grads as instructors.
Robert Glickler finds success as analyst and client at Veterans Affairs
Robert Glickler, who works in technology programs with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, served in the U.S. Army as a rocket artilleryman in Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s and early 90s.
"I was in for three years before my left arm was kind of torn off, and I was hit with some sort of chemical agent during Gulf War I," he says. Glickler was offered a medical retirement. He left the military in 1992 and returned to his family home in Framingham, MA, where he worked in a variety of jobs, including selling computers and software, until he heard about the VA's vocational rehabilitation and employment program, which would fund his education.
Aiming to pursue a career as an actuary, Glickler earned a BA in mathematical science in 1997 from Bentley College in Waltham, MA. But when he couldn't find a job in the insurance industry, he decided to concentrate on his computer and IT experience.
Meanwhile, Glickler, who suffers severe migraines and short-term memory loss as a result of his exposure to chemical agents, found his health deteriorating. By 2001 his frequent absences from work led to his being downsized from a Cambridge, MA, IT firm. He took on short-term flexible projects for a few years until sources for even that kind of work dried up completely. At the end of 2010, he found a contract job at the University of Massachusetts that allowed some telecommuting and began saving money for a move to Port Richey, FL, where the warmer climate was better for his health.
At the urging of a friend who worked at the VA, he applied for and landed a job at the Department of Veterans Affairs in October 2011. Working from home, his current project involves creating a management and directory-level portal for reporting to the VA's Washington, DC headquarters.
Glickler says that, like the guy in the old Hair Club for Men commercial who says he's a customer as well as the president of the company, "I've got a very important connection to the people who are benefitting from the work that I do."
Nate Picard oversees people and parts at GE Energy
Nate Picard was a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps who served three tours of duty as an amphibious officer in Iraq. Since 2007 he's been operations leader at the Bangor, ME site of GE Energy (Atlanta, GA).
After two tours in Fallujah, Picard's third tour of duty came when he was involuntarily recalled in 2008. He spent the next year working in an airfield security operation in Iraq's Anbar Province.
Picard says one of his biggest adjustments in going from the military to the private sector was learning how to manage co-workers under a different set of rules.
"There's no Uniform Code of Military Justice to keep people in line," Picard says, though he is quick to add that the corporate world has a discipline of its own. Picard is responsible for day-to-day management and supervision of personnel in his department and the flow of parts through the shop at GE's Bangor turbine manufacturing operations.
"I have all the staffing responsibilities: where people are going to work, what job they are going to work on, and even what order of importance the parts have in the shop," he says.
GE has a comprehensive support system for veterans who leave the company for active duty and return. Picard notes that the company was very helpful when his daughter was born while he was in Iraq, including handling all the health insurance details.
Picard got a BS in aerospace engineering from Boston University in 2003. "At the time, I had ideas of joining the Marine Corps to fly a Harrier jet and to go from that to flying the space shuttle," he says. "I went to my military physical, and it turned out that I'm one of the most visually color-deficient people that the doctor, who'd been there for twenty years, had ever seen. So they couldn't put me in a $20 million airplane."
In the next few years, Picard would like to gain even more hands-on experience with product development at GE and eventually pursue a position in global corporate security.
Ingersoll Rand's Helen Vaughn thrives on IT troubleshooting
The story of Helen Vaughn's Navy career has an unusual twist: It began when she was thirty-one years old.
"I was like the mother in boot camp, because all the other girls were eighteen and nineteen and right out of high school," Vaughn recalls.
Vaughn was eager to explore the world outside her home in Florida when she joined the U.S. Navy in 1993. She entered A-School in Millington, TN for Navy enlistee job training. When she completed her studies in aviation electronics, she was stationed at Point Magu in Ventura County, CA and worked in a laboratory.
Today Vaughn is a Web project manager at the Clarksville, TN location of Ingersoll Rand, working in the climate solutions sector of its commercial HVAC business. She joined the staff through the company's acquisition of Trane Inc in 2008.
Vaughn earned an ASCS in 2003 from Victor Valley Community College in Victorville, CA, and a 2007 BSCS from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. During her senior year at Austin Peay, she did an internship in Trane's e-business group and took on a part-time job as a business analyst during her last semester.
Travel, work and service mark Army/Navy marriage
Vaughn served one term in the Navy, leaving in 1996 to marry an Army man. She moved back to Tennessee, where her husband was stationed at Fort Campbell. She took a job as an inside sales representative for Waste Management Inc of Tennessee in Clarksville, and also helped set up the company's computer networks. When her husband was transferred to Fort Irwin, in California's Mojave Desert, she got a job working with computers on the base. In 2005, the family returned to Tennessee just before her husband's unit was deployed to Iraq.
At Ingersoll Rand, she designs websites for external and internal customers. Vaughn says she has a knack for IT troubleshooting because she likes figuring out how things work. "If an issue comes up, and they can't find out why, I can't stand for it to beat me, so I will work on it until I find the answer," she says.
Henry Jones keeps the Navy in his blood with a maritime career
Henry Jones, a hydrologist for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (Rockville, MD), came to the NRC after twenty-eight years in the Navy.
Jones graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) in 1979 with a BS in oceanography. He was commissioned as an ensign and served on a frigate in the Surface Naval Forces for two years. He then joined the Geophysics Corps (now the Meteorology and Oceanographic Corps), where he served twenty-six years. He retired as a commander in 2007.
While his current job title is hydrologist, Jones says he still works primarily in oceanography and meteorology. As the NRC's only oceanographer, he was brought aboard for his expertise in tsunamis and storm surge, to help with the review of applications for new reactors. Jones is one of a small group of scientists and technologists at NRC with key roles in the safety analysis that determines whether or not a proposed nuclear facility should be licensed.
"There are only a few of us, so you see our input right away; it's not filtered," he says. "We are independent: people check over our work, but we're the experts."
An impressive and varied resume
Jones came to the job with a long list of academic credentials. Along with his degree from the Naval Academy, he earned an MS in meteorology and oceanography from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS, Monterey, CA) in 1986; an MS in systems management from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles) in 1988; a PhD in physical oceanography from NPS in 2003; and a masters in international relations from Salve Regina University (Newport, RI), also in 2003.
Jones says his inclination toward a military career and the study of oceans came naturally. Both of his parents were in the Navy. He was born in Newport, RI, and grew up in the coastal metropolis of Los Angeles.
Leonard Carsley, veterans employment manager for the NRC, says that about 22 percent of the NRC workforce consists of veterans, a total of nearly 850. The agency aims to hire 25 percent veterans and 5 percent disabled veterans. As of March 2012, NRC hires were 43 percent veterans, and 7 percent disabled veterans, Carsley reports.
Mark Miera manages construction at Intel while serving the country
Mark Miera, New Mexico site construction manager for Intel Corporation in Rio Rancho, NM, was named to his position after returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in December 2011.
Miera enlisted in the Army in 1985 and became an officer in 1990. He served in the active Army Communications Corps in West Germany and recently in Afghanistan as an "individual augmentee," a military serviceman who supports another command. The command he supported was in Kandahar.
He currently serves as the deputy brigade commander for the 111th Mobility Enhanced Brigade in the New Mexico Army National Guard. He was already working at Intel when he was deployed to Washington, DC, to support the air defense of Army National Guard's National Capital Region.
"It was a brand new type of mission," Miera says. "They were trying to figure out when the next unit needed to come, from a training perspective and for rotation."
Miera says the project management skills he learned at Intel came in handy for his mission. He was also involved in small construction projects during his National Guard assignment.
Bringing leadership skills to the project
As site construction manager at Intel, Miera supervises a team of about forty project managers, safety professionals and schedulers. He also coordinates the procurement and financing for construction projects.
"When I started in construction I was leading a group of about a hundred Intel technicians to support a factory conversion requiring mass tool de-installation," says Miera, who is an electrical engineer by training. "I definitely used my military leadership experience on that project."
On a more recent project, Miera and his team applied Lean Construction thinking and Goldratt's theory of constraints to install equipment for a large semiconductor fab.
"During planning, we spent a lot of time teaching basic concepts, and then applied them to past problems," Miera says. "The result was one of Intel's fastest equipped ramps to date."
Miera received a 1994 BS in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque) and a 1998 MBA in technology management from the University of Phoenix (Albuquerque campus). He will start Military Senior Service College this year, and he hopes to become a general officer within five years.
Since July 2011, Intel has hired more than 200 veterans, mainly for its Arizona operations.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to hire from this unique talent pool," says Stephanie Clergé, Arizona fab/sort manufacturing systems group leader for Intel. "Our hiring managers have been very impressed by the technical experience of the candidates as well as characteristics that align well with Intel values, like discipline, quality and results orientation."
Former Marine Jeffrey Hall takes reins as IT leader in U.S. Customs
Jeffrey Hall enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1987, training as a mortarman in the infantry. He served five years in that capacity, primarily as part of the Sixth Fleet deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. Among the fleet's operations were securing and evacuating the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, and participation in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
"After the war, I realized there was very little demand in the civilian sector for infantrymen and especially mortarmen," Hall says.
There was plenty of demand, however, for the leadership skills Hall acquired in the military, and he applies some of that know-how in his current job as deputy chief technology officer in Springfield, VA for U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Hall assists the chief technology officer in oversight of technology strategies and architectures and the management of new technologies.
As an infantryman, Hall twice received the Navy Achievement Medal for using computers to improve workforce management. When his first tour ended, he re-enlisted to take up Cobol programming, then decided to enroll in the Marine's new military occupational specialty, small computer systems specialist.
Hall served his second tour of duty in the information systems management office at the headquarters battalion, Second Marine Division. He was discharged from the Marine Corps in 1996.
A civilian still serving his country
His first post-military job was at the Electric Boat Company (Groton, CT), where he did systems integration for Seawolf-class submarines. When that program ended, he relocated to Washington, DC, where he worked for several years as a contractor. He started a contract assignment with the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1998 and moved to contracting with CBP following the creation of the DHS. He became part of the federal workforce in 2006.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection recruiters attend hundreds of job fairs each year targeting veterans, and participate in workshops, conferences and one-on-one counseling to help veterans make the transition to civilian careers, says Judy Hatter, veterans' program manager for CBP. The agency also works with the Wounded Warrior Project and Operation Warfighter, an internship program for veterans who are recuperating from service-related injuries.
"CBP is really proud of the work that we've been doing in hiring our nation's veterans," Hatter says. "They're a very important part of our workforce."
Brian Fricke finds camaraderie at the Navy's Military Sealift Command
Brian Fricke says one of the reasons he decided to pursue a federal job after leaving the Marine Corps is that he thought the organization structure might be similar to what he'd experienced in the military. At first, he missed the Marines, but the fact that most of his co-workers are also veterans has made the adjustment easier.
"Here at the Navy's Military Sealift Command, we have a very high percentage of veterans," Fricke says. "I work with several Marines in my office, and there are other Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard vets."
Fricke joined the Marines in 2000, right out of high school. He reported to his first duty station in Miramar, CA, as an aviation electrician for CH-53 Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters. After a one-year tour in Okinawa, Japan and a nine-month tour in Al Asad, Iraq, his active-duty service ended in 2005.
After his separation from the military, Fricke worked as a contractor at the State Department, then moved into civil service with the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2006. Later he worked with the Securities and Exchange Commission's New York City regional office.
Along the way, as an openly gay veteran and federal civilian employee, he served on the board of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, working to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Since 2009 Fricke has been employed as a federal civilian at the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC, Washington, DC), where he is an IT service management branch manager.
A natural at the computer
Fricke notes that he was "tinkering with computers" as far back as high school and that he helped to set up some of the computer networks on the military bases where he was assigned. The analytical and troubleshooting skills Fricke got as an aviation technician in the Marine Corps have also served him well in his current post, where a recent project was the implementation of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library discipline for all of the MSC's IT service providers.
"You develop logical processes, you make efficiency improvements," he says. "It's the way we do business. It's always about the people, the processes and the technology."
In the future, Fricke envisions a role that involves implementing organizational change, either with the MSC or with another division of the Department of the Navy.
Michael Sheridan ensures smooth transitions at Verizon
Michael Sheridan, a project manager in the IT department at Verizon (New York, NY), has twenty-four years of military experience. An Army veteran, Sheridan graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point, New York) in 1984 with a BS in engineering and a concentration in Russian and Arabic. He says the language studies helped him develop his analytical thinking skills.
From 1984 through 1994, Sheridan served on active duty in armor and cavalry units based in the United States and Germany. He entered the Army Reserves in 1994 as part of a military police unit, where he served fourteen years, including a 2003 tour in Iraq. He retired from the military in 2008.
Sheridan started working at Nynex (which became Verizon after a series of mergers) in 1995, while in the reserves. "I was the control foreman for an installation and maintenance garage in the Bronx," says Sheridan. "We had six installation and repair teams in there." The person who hired him at Nynex had been a sergeant major in his Army Reserves unit.
Being involved in hands-on operations, as Sheridan was when he started his private sector career, "is probably the easiest transition coming out of the military," he says. "I don't think it matters what branch of service you come from, you've had exposure to the hands-on business of getting something done."
After working in a variety of positions, Sheridan joined Verizon's IT department three years ago as a project and program manager.
"We develop software for providing enhancements to the operating systems that make many of our key services go," says Sheridan. He is also taking online courses sponsored by Verizon to become a certified Project Management Professional.
One of his biggest projects has been helping to ensure that Verizon's copper migration process runs smoothly. The company is switching its network of telephone lines from copper to the faster and easier-to-maintain fiber. Sheridan is involved in making sure that all Verizon's customer services will work when the transition is complete.
N'Gai Pack is a business manager at defense contractor CACI
N'Gai Pack, a division business manager for CACI International, Inc (Arlington, VA), knows firsthand how difficult the transition from military service to the civilian work world can be.
"When you are in the military, your world is whatever your mission is," says Pack, an Army veteran who was wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom. "It doesn't really prepare you to come out of that realm into a civilian life."
Adapting to change
Pack says one of the hardest things in his own switch from military to civilian life is becoming fluent in a different kind of on-the-job jargon. "I'm still trying to learn the lingo and the different acronyms they have here," says Pack. CACI is a defense contractor that provides IT solutions and other professional services.
"Also, I'm taking over a lot of tasks from a co-worker. He built up the organization from a couple of people to many, and he's been in his position for many years. I'm trying to learn everything he has to offer."
In his position, Pack says he works with subcontractors "for a couple of different vehicles that we service for our customers," though he can't specify the products or the customers involved. His days are often spent attending meetings, discussing business proposals, writing up contracts and travelling to work onsite with customers' senior management.
While his role is business management, he notes, "Some of the stuff we deal with is very technical, helping the products that customers are working with perform better. That means providing program office support, technical information assurance, and things like that."
Pack spent seventeen years in the U.S. Army, including service overseas in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. When that tour ended, he enlisted in the Air Force National Guard. His first job after leaving active duty was as a financial analyst with Lockheed Martin. He followed that with a post as a business manager at Northrop Grumman, then joined CACI.
Pack received a BS in business, with a concentration in accounting, from State University of New York-Oswego in 2005. He completed his studies while on medical leave from the Army following his injury in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He expects to receive an MBA in 2013 from Walden University, an online school headquartered in Minneapolis, MN.
Advice for returning veterans
Pack recommends that all veterans looking to make a move into the civilian world take advantage of the transition assistance program in their branch of the military. One particularly useful service the programs offer, he says, is helping veterans translate the skills and experience they gained into terms that civilian employers can relate to. He also recommends tapping into organizations like Wounded Warrior and the Hire a Vet job board, which provide a lot of job networking opportunities.
"There is a big push right now for companies to hire veterans, with the coming draw-down from past and current conflicts," Pack says.
USAF veteran Mark Mahan works on the Harris CapRock team
Mark Mahan is a network engineer on the Harris CapRock Terrestrial Operations team in Houston, TX. He joined Harris Corporation after serving five years in the U.S. Air Force.
After enlisting and receiving his technical training at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS, Mahan was stationed at Offutt AFB near Omaha, NE, where he supported multiple large, fixed-satellite terminals. Later he was assigned to a mobile quick-reaction unit at Camp Red Cloud in Uijongbu, South Korea, close to the Korean demilitarized zone.
When his military service was over, Mahan started at the Harris CapRock Network Operations Centers, then transferred into Advanced Technical Services and, finally, the Network Engineering group. These days, he does troubleshooting, capacity management and redundancy studies for Harris CapRock's secure multiprotocol label switching-based network.
Mahan credits an uncle who was a field engineer at a telecom company with sparking his interest in communications technology. "When I was a teenager, he used to take me on jobs with him, let me help install equipment, and explain device configurations," Mahan says.
Mahan played a key role in creating the Harris CapRock network after Harris Corp acquired Schlumberger Global Connectivity Services in 2011. "The various teams came together and looked objectively at their methods and charted a roadmap that integrated the best of both networks," Mahan says.
What veterans bring to the table
Bob Hennig, director of planning and engineering for Harris CapRock's terrestrial operations, and Mahan's manager, says the company has seen successful results from hiring veterans.
"Attributes like discipline, maturity, leadership, motivation and teamwork translate into the high levels of service our customers demand," Hennig says. "Another value veterans bring to the table is a significant amount of training that is provided during their military careers. This carries over nicely to the civilian world, particularly experience with very small aperture terminals, telecommunications and communications security. This real-world experience allowed Mark to find his niche in communications, and he is well on his way to achieving his goals."
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