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Veterans bring special skills to the tech field

Moving from structured military life to less structured civilian work is the biggest challenge for many returning vets

“I have a message for civilian companies: Hire a veteran. He or she will be your best employee.” – Ken McClellan, Aetna

For a considerable period, veteran unemployment has surpassed national average unemployment figures. At times it’s been extreme. But there has been a recent shift. An increasing number of corporations, government entities and nonprofit organizations are now going to great lengths to aid, recruit and train veterans.

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, released on March 20, “The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001 – a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans – edged down to 9.0 percent in 2013. The jobless rate for all veterans moved down to 6.6 percent.” The rate was 9.9 percent for Gulf War-era II vets in 2012, and 12.1 percent in 2011.

Those declining numbers are a good sign, even though the Gulf War-era II veterans’ rate is still higher than the national average.

Young veterans still underutilized
“If you dig a little deeper into the recent BLS survey, you find that unemployment is even higher for veterans under thirty-five years old. You can’t talk about veterans as a homogenous group. If a veteran has been out of the military for ten years, they’ve already made the transition to civilian life. So many of the employment figures don’t reflect how dire it really is for younger veterans, especially those just returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” explains Nick Swaggert.

Minneapolis/St. Paul-based Swaggert is a former U.S. Marine infantry officer who served two tours on the Iraqi/Syrian border. Today, he is the director of veterans programs at Genesis 10 (New York, NY), a firm that provides business and technology staffing solutions.

Translating skills is key
Genesis 10 founder and CEO Harley Lippman believes that veterans are often stereotyped and funneled into non-corporate, non-IT, non-technical jobs as security guards, drivers or manual laborers.

Swaggert champions the cause of veteran underemployment as well. He defined the problem in a recent Huffington Post editorial (3/11/14): “Veterans’ unemployment is a two-part problem: companies don’t have the experience to interview and hire veterans, and veterans don’t have the experience to effectively translate their military skills for corporate roles. Current veteran initiatives focus on one issue or the other,” he says.

“For instance, the available computer-based military skills translators can come up with a civilian equivalent for a military job title, but that’s all they do. Veterans’ advocacy groups only talk to potential employers. What’s needed is a bridge to connect the two.”

Swaggert recently tried one of the newer website-based military job title translation tools. When he entered his military profession – Marine infantry officer – there was no corresponding civilian job in the system.

“I was a frontline soldier deployed to Iraq twice, but I didn’t pull the trigger once. I slept outside the wire nearly every single day and never got shot at. I spent most of my time talking to people, learning another language and another culture. Those are skills corporations value, but they are rarely recognized or translated properly in these databases.

“From the veterans’ perspective, the number-one problem is that veterans don’t understand where they fit in. They’re used to being in a highly structured environment on a team. They have a really hard time shifting to I instead of we. And they don’t necessarily understand the corporate world. I know I didn’t. I managed 140 people as an officer, yet I never understood the word ‘manager’ when I read civilian job titles.”

Reverse boot camp and other re-integration strategies
Nonetheless, Swaggert is upbeat. He points to several firms with “superlative” veteran assimilation programs. And Swaggert and Genesis 10 conduct a “reverse boot camp” to help veterans prepare for the corporate world, complete with training for cubicle life and corporate meetings.

Fortunately, many organizations are gaining sophistication in their approach to working with veterans. More programs are coming on line every day, some geared specifically toward helping veterans find jobs in the tech arena.

One such startup is Vets in Tech (www.vetsintech.com), a San Francisco-based platform that supports “current and returning veterans with re-integration services, and by connecting them to the national technology ecosystem.”

Here are some veterans who have made the successful leap from the military to a technology-based job in civilian life.

Ken McClellan’s team creates automated solutions for Aetna’s business needs
Aetna (Hartford, CT) project manager Ken McClellan works with developers, testers, architects and business analysts to create automated solutions for business information and reporting needs of the insurance giant.

“I like solving problems and finding solutions for complex issues that arise from the conflicts between requirements, budget and schedule.”

McClellan joined Aetna seven years ago after retiring from the military. In 1732, he enlisted in the U.S. Army directly after high school and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger) at Fort Stewart, GA. In 1977, he enrolled in Temple University (Philadelphia, PA), where he received a 1981 BA in liberal arts.

At the same time, he joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. After graduation, he received a regular Army commission and served in Germany as company executive officer of a mechanized infantry division. He was later promoted to captain and assigned to Fort Lewis, WA.

“I was given command of an infantry company. This was one of the high points of my military career, as I had the most autonomy and was able to directly affect the quality of training and life of my company’s soldiers.”

In 2003, McClellan earned an MS in computer information technology from Central Connecticut State University (New Britain). McClellan served as an advisor to the Iraqi Army during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He retired from the Army Reserve in 2005.

The veterans’ advantage
McClellan believes his extensive military training was invaluable for the corporate world. “Military training in soft skills, such as leadership, organization and planning, gives veterans an advantage in business. These skills are very difficult to teach, and outside of the military, it seems that few try to do so, concentrating more on technical and job-related skills. These soft skills translate very easily into management positions in civilian work. I have a message for civilian companies: Hire a veteran. He or she will be your best employee.”

Aetna seeks and supports veterans
“We do many things to engage and recruit veterans. We have a dedicated microsite specifically for veterans: aetna-veterans.jobs. Our microsite helps us reach directly into the veteran community,” says Loren Jenkins of talent acquisition.

“Aetna also has some of the best employment-related policies and programs that support veterans and their families, like leave and pay policies for Reserve and National Guard deployments that go well beyond the legal requirements,” she notes.

“We also have an employee resource group for veterans, and we’re developing a buddy program for new hires and veterans already working at Aetna, to help with the transition. We are committed to building cohesive and lasting relationships with the veteran community. It’s part of our effort to identify and hire best-in-class talent across all levels of Aetna.”

John Hickman leads capital procurement for Altria
Purchasing lead analyst John Hickman works for Altria Group (Richmond, VA) in the Philip Morris USA Richmond Manufacturing Center. Hickman has been with Altria since 2009, and supports two Richmond manufacturing locations.

“We collaborate on all capital considerations from valves to boilers to packaging equipment. Because of my technical education and work experience, I’m able to assist with developing highly technical specifications, translating those specifications for stakeholders and helping engineers get what they want.”

Hickman joined Altria through its engineering leadership development program, a multiyear rotational program offering degreed engineers opportunities to move through Altria. But things weren’t always so smooth.

“My transition from military service to civilian life was a little bumpy. After a few false starts in robotics and IT, I got my degree and joined Altria.”

The value of teamwork
In 1996, Hickman joined the United States Coast Guard and served as a fire control technician in weapons control radar and combat operations. He reached petty officer 2nd class before separating in 2000. Hickman received a 2009 BS in chemical engineering from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA), graduating summa cum laude.

“The most important experience I took from my service was being part of a team and taking individual ownership for the success of the team. Supporting all your shipmates in achieving the goals set before you was paramount. That focus and desire to help the team have allowed me to build the relationships needed to help drive the business forward.”

BNSF’s Darren Jones manages on-board communication systems
Manager Darren K. Jones assists with the planning, forecasting and program funding to equip more than 7,000 locomotives with communication software, on-board cab cameras, and vehicle-track-interface systems for BNSF Railway Corporation (Fort Worth, TX).

“I monitor, report and coordinate repairs of locomotive components with supervisors in the field. I also ensure that scheduled employees are properly trained to install and troubleshoot these systems,” he says, adding, “I really enjoy the diverse nature of my job, including the personal interaction with BNSF employees, from the executive level to the most junior apprentices.”

Jones joined BNSF in 2011. He was introduced to the company by his older brother, who is a longtime BNSF employee.

BNSF model helps smooth the path
“My transition from the military to the corporate world was quite smooth. The BNSF leadership model is similar to the U.S. Air Force core values of ‘integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do.’ The two are parallel in so many ways. I knew this was the right fit.”

Jones earned a BS degree in human resources and environmental management from the University of Maryland-University College in 2011 and an AA degree in management studies in 2007. Before that, he spent twenty-four years in the air force, achieving the rank of master sergeant. He also earned a 2006 AAS degree in supply chain management from the Community College of the Air Force (Maxwell AFB, AL), as well as numerous certifications.

During his military career, Jones served in locations around the world. But one particular assignment left an indelible impression.

“My most rewarding experience happened when I was superintendent of the battle staff at Hurlburt Field, FL. In less than seventeen hours, our wing leadership team orchestrated several hundred tons of humanitarian aid and airlift support to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. We also evacuated hundreds of American citizens,” he remembers. “Our armed forces are not only capable of thwarting an enemy attack, but also fully capable of providing life-sustaining resources and support across the globe for those in need.”

Veteran hiring is strong at BNSF
BNSF has a long tradition of hiring veterans. In 2013, BNSF hired more than 1,200 veterans, approximately 26 percent of all new employees. BNSF currently employs more than 7,500 veterans, who make up nearly 17 percent of its total workforce.

BNSF encourages veterans to apply online at www.bnsf.com/careers/military or e-mail dedicated BNSF military recruiters at militarycareers@bnsf.com.

Joel Cole manages engineering changes for Chrysler Group
Product data manager Joel Cole makes engineering changes in vehicles for Chrysler Group LLC (Auburn Hills, MI).

“Throughout the cycle of a product, there will be engineering changes for safety, efficiency or even just a new design. We must update the supply chain and the blueprint of the vehicle. There’s a complexity there that has to be managed, and that’s what I do.”

Cole came to Chrysler Group in 2011 through a fellow student who is also a veteran. “I was talking to him about opportunities in engineering that also offered the flexibility to go to school,” Cole remembers.

Cole started his career at the Michigan Institute of Aviation and Technology (Canton), graduating with a 2001 certificate in aviation and maintenance. He joined the U.S. Navy in 2003 and rose to petty officer 2nd class before separating in 2008.

Honing skills and utilizing military resources
At Keesler Air Force Base (Biloxi, MS), Cole studied metrology, the science of measurement. He put that knowledge to good use while stationed at Naval Air Station New Orleans with the aviation intermediate maintenance department, where he calibrated everything from avionic equipment to torque wrenches. Currently, he is working toward his BS in engineering at Oakland University (Rochester, MI).

Cole joined Chrysler through a supplier’s internship program, the Veterans Internship Program of Prestige Engineering (Clinton Twp, MI). Prestige, which has been named a “best practices supplier” by Chrysler Group, approached the automaker about an internship for Cole. Cole credits both the GI Bill and Chrysler Group for making his career achievable.

“The GI Bill makes college possible financially. But Chrysler made it possible from a professional perspective. Chrysler has veterans’ programs and representatives. So if veterans have a unique challenge, there’s someone to help them. I haven’t had any transition problems, but there is someone in the office that will offer help if I need it.”

Chrysler Group supports veteran internships
Chrysler director of talent acquisition and diversity Georgette Borrego Dulworth says, “Chrysler is proud to provide our returning veterans with internships that allow them to have a corporate experience while they pursue their degrees.”

The Prestige Group (www.prestige-grp.com) is currently accepting applications for its veterans internship program for engineering, supply chain, manufacturing supervision and materials management opportunities in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois.

CSI Aviation’s Timothy Paul keeps flight operations moving smoothly
Timothy Paul is operations VP of CSI Air, a division of CSI Aviation Inc (Albuquerque, NM). He handles daily flight operations, flight crew training and aircraft maintenance for the on-demand passenger aviation management company.

“High-performance aviation operations use the latest high-technology information systems. What we are capable of today could not have been considered even ten years ago. The opportunity to face, analyze and solve some of the most complex technology problems in the world, every day, is what makes me stay in this career field,” he says,

Paul has been in military aviation for more than thirty years; he joined CSI Aviation this year. His education started at the New Mexico Military Institute (Roswell), where he received a 1984 AS in computer science. He went on to the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque), where he got a BS in psychology and computer science in 1987. In 2010 he got an MS in international and strategic studies, and in 2011 he finished an MS in orbital mechanics and navigation, capping a seven-year effort interrupted by deployments.

Military experience brought “education, challenges and enrichment”
Paul was commissioned in the U.S. Army in 1984 and commanded at every level from platoon to brigade. He was promoted to colonel in 2007. The army, he says, was more than an experience. It was his life.

“I would not trade a minute of my thirty years in the military. I’ve been all over the world and met and worked with an amazing variety of people. Certainly there have been some bad days, tough experiences, and unfortunate events that I will never forget, but they are far outweighed by the great education, challenges and enrichment my family and I have had.”

On the other hand, “Transitions from the military are never easy,” Paul admits. “Military members must prepare and realize that their plans must be fluid, adaptable and subject to change. Simple things like what to wear every day to large issues like where to live and where to send your children to school must be addressed. Your network and mentors can help point out the potential pitfalls.”

Paul sees CSI Aviation as very vet-friendly. The president and CEO are both veterans, and Paul believes that “CSI has got to be at or near the top when it comes to veterans.”

CSI: Best for Vets
Military Times named CSI Aviation to its 2018 “Best for Vets” list, joining many larger Fortune 500 companies including Verizon, JPMorgan and Walmart.

CSI Aviation CEO Allen Weh notes, “Sixty percent of CSI Aviation’s senior leadership and thirty-three percent of our employees came to us with previous military experience.

“Hiring military servicemen and women is intentional and part of our corporate culture. Veterans bring exceptional professional training and a strong sense of ethics to their work, and these attributes are a perfect match for our customers’ needs.”

Ted LeSueur directs compliance at McKesson
Ted LeSueur, director of IT regulatory and HIPAA security compliance at McKesson (Scottsdale, AZ), says his job is to keep the company informed on the requirements of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and understand all the federal and state laws that could impact McKesson’s IT systems.

A recent challenge was the federal government’s 2013 Omnibus Regulation, a compilation of regulations that included significant changes to HIPAA privacy and security provisions. The publication made it clear that businesses like McKesson are responsible, along with healthcare providers, for complying with HIPAA privacy and security laws, LeSueur says.

Keeping up with federal regulations isn’t the only challenge of LeSueur’s job. He also has to navigate the operations of a large, diverse organization encompassing many different groups of services, products and applications.

McKesson’s frequent acquisitions add to his job’s complexity. “It’s hard to know and understand the nuances of each of those groups,” LeSueur says, “but I enjoy the challenge.”

In 2009, the federal government began offering stimulus grants through its Meaningful Use Program to encourage doctors to move to electronic health records (EHRs). LeSueur sat down with McKesson teams involved in making and developing its EHR products to help them understand the requirements of the federal grant program.

LeSueur embraces the task of studying these issues so he can pass his knowledge on to others.

“I find a lot of joy in helping people, especially in areas that tend to be either misunderstood or somewhat complex,” he says.

Learning in the military
Before starting his career in healthcare IT, LeSueur served in the U.S. Army during a time when, he says, the field of computer security was “getting hot.” He joined the army after high school, and served 1981 to 2003 at stations in Arizona, Germany, Korea, Hawaii and North Carolina. He specialized in computer security issues, which became increasingly complex during his service tenure.

LeSueur got a BS in computer business information systems from Wayland Baptist University (Plano, TX) in 1999 and an MS in computer information systems from the University of Phoenix (Tucson, AZ) in 2002. He earned both degrees while still in the army. After he retired from the military in 2003, he found a job as a specialist in information security for the Arizona Department of Health Services. There he became concerned that patient privacy rights were not being adequately protected. He decided to specialize in that field, because he wanted to explore how corporations and other organizations could become champions of patient privacy.

He says his background in what the army now calls the cybersecurity field has been a real asset to his career in healthcare IT. “I’ve been able to build on my military skill sets and enhance them to make them relevant to McKesson and the data that we use and must protect each day,” LeSueur says.

Jeff Wood handles cross-functional projects for DaVita Healthcare Partners
Project manager Jeff Wood manages the planning, development and implementation of cross-functional projects for Falcon Physician Electronic Health Records, a division of DaVita Healthcare Partners (Denver, CO). DaVita Healthcare Partners is one of the nation’s largest healthcare companies, and the parent company of DaVita Kidney Care and Healthcare Partners.

“I most enjoy helping solve problems and eliminating barriers so the rest of my team can work as efficiently as possible. I also appreciate the fact that I get to work for a company that is dedicated to saving lives and improving people’s health.”

Wood has been a civilian for thirteen years. He recently joined DaVita because a colleague “loved the culture and environment and thought it would be a good fit for me.” But Wood’s initial transition to civilian life was not as smooth.

Adjusting to changes
“My original transition from active duty had some challenges. I went from a role as a commander to being an individual contributor. It took some time to adjust to the different span of control that exists in civilian organizations versus the military. Additionally, my civilian career started with a company that had a very loose organizational structure without a lot of command and control, so it took some time for me to figure out the organization and how decisions were made.”

In 1992 Wood got a BS in exercise physiology from the University of Oregon (Eugene). He also has a 2005 MBA in finance from Regis University (Denver, CO).

Wood’s military career began in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1985. He switched to active duty in 1992, joining the 3rd Infantry Division and Army Medical Command, where he rose to captain. In 2004, he rejoined the Army Reserve in the 75th Training Division, where he now serves as a lieutenant colonel for the regional emergency preparedness office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VIII. In 2010, Wood deployed to Iraq.

“I think the most important experience of my military career was the year I spent in Iraq. It was incredible to see the sacrifices the Iraqis made to build the sort of nation I think many Americans take for granted,” he notes.

Wood credits DaVita for its attitude toward veterans. “It is great to work for a company like DaVita that completely supports my ability to continue to serve our country while also working in a civilian capacity. The core values at DaVita are the same as the ones we have in the army.”

Transmission design engineer Mathew Preston ensures that Ford gets in gear
From his office in the Automatic Transmission New Product Center in Livonia, MI, automatic transmission design engineer Matthew Preston works for the transmission and driveline engineering organization of Ford Motor Company (Dearborn, MI).

“I design transmission gears, planetary gear set assemblies, and all the splined joints in the transmission. I am currently working on the transmission used in the F-250 and commercial truck applications.”

Balancing military with civilian life
Preston joined Ford eight years ago, and says his transition from the military has yet to happen. “There are certainly differences between military and civilian commercial life, but there are also similarities. I am still in the Air National Guard (ANG) so I would say I have not really transitioned because I still fill both roles.”

In 2001, Preston enlisted in the Air National Guard at Selfridge ANG Base (Harrison, MI) in the 127th Fighter Maintenance Squadron. He was trained in aerospace propulsion, and has remained in the same squadron for his entire thirteen-year military career. He is presently a technical sergeant and has deployed twice to Iraq in support of F-16 operations.

Preston earned a BS in mechanical engineering from Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo) in 2006 on a full scholarship. He is pursuing an MS in automotive systems engineering from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Preston sees his military experience as integral to his success both professionally and personally. “Certainly the military structure and air force core values have influenced my life. I think the military lessons of integrity changed me as a person, husband, father and employee. But the most important part for me has been the honor of serving my country. That changed who I am and what I stand for.”

Shawn Fillet makes sure Genentech’s equipment functions perfectly
Reliability engineer Shawn Fillet monitors and analyzes rotating equipment, investigates equipment failures and verifies systems for biotechnology corporation Genentech (South San Francisco, CA) in Vacaville, CA.

“I’m still new to the role, but so far, researching failures seems to interest me the most. Finding the root cause of an issue is like being a crime scene investigator. We start with a series of potential suspects and begin eliminating them until we have a culprit.”

The role may be new, but Fillet has been with Genentech for more than thirteen years. It was his second job after leaving the U.S. Air Force.

“I was a senior engineering technician in the Bay Area after the air force. I went from living and working on base to a seventy-six-mile commute each way to work. I only lasted a year when a guy I worked with in the air force told me about a job opening at Genentech, where he worked.”

Fillet enlisted in 1990 and served until 2000. Stationed at Travis AFB, CA as an avionics technician, he tested and calibrated instruments for C-5 aircraft. In 1995 he earned an AS in avionics systems technology from the Community College of the Air Force (Maxwell AFB, AL). He earned a BS in professional aeronautics in 1997 and a 1998 MS in aeronautical science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, FL), where he specialized in aviation safety and accident investigations.

Transition assistance program helps
For Fillet, the transition from military to civilian work was smooth. “The transition assistance program in the military really helped prepare me for the civilian world. Building resumes and interviewing practice were keys to my success.”

Fillet credits the military for providing an invaluable background, and experience with discipline, teamwork, safety, leadership and more. “I would not pass up what I learned from the military for anything. I strongly believe most people should have to do a couple years in the service when they’re young. The discipline, the guidance and the free training are just part of what the military did for me.”

He also reserves special praise for Genentech.

“Genentech has been on Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list for sixteen consecutive years. I’m so thankful to be a part of it. The people here are amazing and the job is gratifying.”

Genentech programs support hiring, retention and well-being of veterans
Among a range of employee groups at Genentech is the Genentech Veterans Diversity Team (GVDT). GVDT provides education and advice to hiring managers and others interested in the value of hiring a veteran. Members review resumes and speak with candidates on bridging the gap from military to civilian language. They also provide mentors or sponsors for newly hired veterans to help with their transition to civilian life.

In 2012, Genentech created the Genentech Foundation to support programs for veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder. Grants to veterans organizations have included Operation Homefront, a support group for veterans’ spouses/caregivers; Swords to Plowshares, mental healthcare for veterans; and Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project, a therapeutic writing program.

Rashaad Wilford manages tech experts at GA-ASI
Mechanical engineering supervisor Rashaad Wilford manages a team of technical experts at the composition production facility of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI) in San Diego, CA. The team works on the company’s aircraft platforms.

“My team is responsible for supporting the manufacturing production floors in resolving engineering issues covering production, design and sustaining engineering,” he says.

Wilford joined GA-ASI seven years ago after attending a local veterans’ job fair. “I stood in a long line to meet with an HR representative. When it was my turn I said to her, ‘Let everyone else behind me go home because I’m the candidate you are looking for.’”

He joined the U.S. Navy in 1994 and was stationed around the globe. Wilford left in 2000 with the rank of aviation maintenance administrationman third class. At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Daytona Beach, FL), he got an AS in professional aeronautics and a BS in professional aeronautics with a minor in management in 2005, and a 2010 MS in aeronautical science. But it was Wilford’s military service, he says, that left an indelible mark on him.

“One important aspect of my military experience was traveling to other countries and being immersed in different cultures. But the most important lesson I learned was paying attention to details. I approach my work now with the seriousness and dedication I had while serving. I believe this skill set has gotten me where I am today.”

GA-ASI: actively hiring vets
The GA-ASI employee population is 16.7 percent veterans.

The company has strategic partnerships with Reboot, a San Diego-based 501(c)(3) organization that assists veterans in adjusting to civilian life and securing meaningful employment; Troops to Engineers, a college organization that provides employment assistance to veteran engineering students; and DirectEmployers Association, a nonprofit consortium of global employers and veteran organizations. The company also recruits transitioning military at military base career fairs.

Kameo Cofie helps Military Sealift Command modernize ships
For the last two years, electrical engineer Kameo Cofie has upgraded ships for Military Sealift Command (MSC, Washington, DC), a navy organization that supplies and maintains military ships and provides ocean transportation for the Department of Defense.

“We do any retrofits, modifications or changes that are required for our ships. The best thing about the job is the variety of tasks we get. We enjoy a wide variety of engineering challenges from lighting to boilers to propulsion.”

Cofie spent five years, from 1999 to 2004, in the U.S. Army as a watercraft operator with the 1098th Transportation Battalion out of Fort Eustis (Newport News, VA), now Joint Base Langley-Eustis. He achieved the rank of specialist, or E4.

Real life lacks structure
“The army taught me a lot of things, particularly focus, discipline, drive and determination. But the transition to civilian life was rough. The military doesn’t prepare you for real-life situations. Military life is very organized and structured, whereas real life is not.”

But Cofie made the adjustment. He held several jobs after leaving the army, eventually joining MSC. He also received an AS in electrical engineering from Montgomery College (Silver Springs, MD) in 2009. In 2012 he earned a BS in electrical engineering from Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD).

Cofie feels that in addition to the personal and professional skills he gained in the army, the service gave him another significant advantage: college funding. “It’s amazing to me that so many veterans don’t use the GI Bill. For me, it was the smartest move I ever made.”

MSC: strong veteran numbers
MSC is heavily populated with veterans: 42 percent of its ashore and afloat employees. MSC does not differentiate between veteran and non-veteran engineering personnel when it comes to development and training, since they are all degreed engineers.

Tyrone Moore prepares the air force’s future technical leaders
Tyrone Moore is the Science and Engineering (S&E;) PALACE Acquire (PAQ) program administrator for the U.S. Air Force Civilian Service (AFCS, Randolph AFB, TX). He is responsible for recruiting, hiring, onboarding, graduate school training and placement of all PAQ trainees.

The program offers qualified BS graduates with a 3.1 GPA or higher three years of development and training.

“I groom the air force’s future technical leaders. I approve the technical curriculum that our PAQs engage with while in graduate school,” he says.

“The most enjoyable part of my work is making dreams come true. The program is very competitive, and when I can tell someone they have been selected, that makes for a good day.”

Building a military career
Moore began his military career in 1986, joining the U.S. Army and serving with the 830th Station Hospital Reserve Unit. He left the Army Reserves in 1994 with the rank of E4. In 1993, Moore finished his BS in electrical engineering at Colorado Technical University (Colorado Springs), with help from the AFCS science and engineering intern program. Shortly after he finished the degree, he was selected for an AFCS science and engineering PAQ position at Hill AFB (Ogden, UT). Moore got an MS in electrical engineering from Colorado Technical University in 2001.

He is now in the second year of a three-year “career-broadening assignment” as the science and engineering PAQ administrator. Moore credits the military and the USAF Civilian Service for making his transition back to the civilian world seamless.

“The military gives you discipline and the skills to be agile. These skills translate well in the workplace, because the most successful employees are those who are both disciplined and adaptable.” Moore plans to continue his twenty-five-year engineering career as a civilian with the air force.

Vets have what it takes
According to talent acquisition manager Michael Brosnan, veterans have exactly what the AFCS is looking for. “Our current workforce is comprised of fifty-seven percent veterans, a six-percent increase over the last five years,” Brosnan reports.

“The Air Force Civilian Service has always been committed to hiring veterans. AFCS recognizes that hiring veterans makes sense. By actively recruiting veterans, AFCS gains the value of their experience and provides them with a means to continue their service to our country.”

Visit www.fedshirevets.gov for post-military career information, or www.afcivilian_careers.com for air force-specific jobs.

James Zeames helps NYPA keep the power flowing
James Zeames is an electrical maintenance engineer for the New York Power Authority (NYPA, White Plains, NY). He supports the electrical maintenance supervisors and craftspeople at NYPA’s Niagara Power Project, a hydroelectric facility in Lewiston, NY.

“I need to understand the many details of equipment used to run and maintain the Niagara Project. And I must be able to apply that knowledge to resolve urgent problems that impact plant operations. So the job carries an element of surprise that I enjoy.”

Zeames has been with NYPA for thirteen years. He joined the company by answering an ad in a Sunday paper. But his career began in 1985, when he joined the 107th Air National Guard out of Niagara Falls, NY. He served until 2010, achieving the rank of E7. Zeames sums up his military experience in two words: “zero regrets.”

Learning and unlearning
“I entered the military with a few years of technical experience in the civilian world. I had to unlearn some things. I was very good in the technical areas of my schooling and hands-on tasks,” he recalls. “What was tough was the military required me to break habits of performing tasks in an unstructured manner and conform with their highly structured methods.”

Zeames got a 1982 AS in computer technology from Erie Community College (Williamsville, NY). He then attended the University at Buffalo (NY), receiving a 1995 BS in electrical and electronic engineering and a 2007 MS in electrical, electronics and communications engineering.

The biggest lesson of all
Zeames learned a lot during his time in the service. But what he learned wasn’t all technical or even soft skills.

“I learned to really appreciate the sacrifices of those who served before, during and after me. I spent two months in Moron, Spain during the 2003 Iraq invasion. It was a stopover base for C-5 cargo planes shuttling troops and supplies between the U.S. and the Middle East countries. The planes carried young combat troops and supplies heading out, and some flag-draped caskets coming back. Both had their own element of sadness, but they were also inspiring.”

D/C


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