Veterans make smooth transition, provide wealth of experience
December 8, 2009
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Like the old adage, "You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy," many veterans have found it near impossible to truly leave military service following retirement.
Man or woman, these members of the armed forces, many of them former active duty Soldiers now working, here, at the Soldier Support Center, have continued fighting the good fight as civilians, determined to give back to the Army in one way or another.
At the heart of the matter is one simple and undeniable fact: They love to serve those who serve their country.
The Hawaii Army Weekly recently caught up with four such veterans, who continue to make a difference in the lives of Soldiers and their families here in Hawaii.
<b>Geismar: "We still care"</b>
Six years after retiring as an infantryman, Matthew Geismar still finds himself completely dedicated to the service he so dearly loves.
Working for the Transition Office of the U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's (USAG-HI) Directorate of Human Resources (DHR), Geismar is a key member of a team that assists Soldiers and their families through the process of post-deployment life or completion of their enlistments.
"Some Soldiers have been involuntarily extended by the Army and haven't seen their loved ones in over a year," he said. "I work with them to transition back as quickly as possible, and to know that although they are leaving the Army, we still care."
While serving on active duty, Geismar also did a tour as a recruiter, convincing many potential recruits of the reasons they ought to join the Army. In contrast, working in the Transition Office affords him the chance to prepare Soldiers to return to civilian life. He takes the time to help them administratively, as well as provides them with a listening ear when the challenges of non-active duty life begin.
"Someone took the time to assist me when I transitioned out of the Army, and I know exactly how these Soldiers feel," Geismar explained.
He is proud of the fact that he works with a team whose goal is to expeditiously and reliably complete all transition transactions so that the Soldier experiences no unnecessary delays.
"Someone is counting on us every day," said Geismar, who works with a team that offers its customers over 140 years of combined experience. "So even when the workload is heavy, we take care of our Soldiers, with no excuses."
<b>Love: "Love-ing every minute of it"</b>
If there's anyone who simply adores her job, it's the woman with the appropriate surname.
As a personnel specialist in the U.S. Army for four years, Kimberly Rose Love once handled every personnel action pertinent to the active duty Soldier.
Today, she serves as a human resource technician for USAG-HI, bringing necessary insight to a job that helps her in relating to Soldiers, their families and their unique set of needs.
"My experience in the Army helps me every day because I am familiar with the regulations and the systems that relate to my job in DA (Department of the Army) boards," said Love, whose duties include holding a position with the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS)/Medical Retention Board.
Because she is a veteran as well as a military spouse, Love is also sensitive to the needs of spouses, who sometimes have questions about the medical retention board process. Therefore, handling those type of questions with great care is of utmost importance to her.
"I try to educate spouses on the process and procedures of the medical retention board because they may have incorrect expectations or simply may be nervous about what their spouse is going through," explained Love, a native of Abbeville, La.
She says that her greatest reward is receiving a thank you from a customer.
"I realize that I have been a part of that Soldier's life during the medical boarding process. Helping them to get through the process smoothly and comfortably is very rewarding," she said.
<b>Young:Aca,!E+"I've been where they've been" </b>
It was less than a year after retiring from the Army that Andrew Young, a human resources noncommissioned officer, found himself working in a similar capacity, here, with DHR at Schofield Barracks.
"I couldn't just stay at home after serving in the Army for all those years," Young explained. "I like the fact that I can relate to the men and women I serve because I was once in their shoes. That helps me in my job, because Soldiers know that I've been where they've been."
Young took his 20 years of experience working in various S-1, or personnel, offices throughout the Army and easily transitioned into his current position as human resource technician in the DA Boards section. Now, he helps Soldiers desiring to go from the enlisted corps to the officer corps.
He also works with Soldiers to ensure that their records are current for promotions and helps conduct briefings and processing of those who have gone AWOL.
In all that he does, Young constantly encourages service members to improve their individual situations.
"I let Soldiers know what programs are available to them to better their careers. For example, some Soldiers don't realize that if they are fluent in certain foreign languages that they can receive extra pay for maintaining fluency," explained Young, who hails from Columbus, Miss. "I want them to plan for their futures and take advantage of the opportunities that the Army has for them."
As for the most rewarding aspect of Young's job, it comes in knowing that he plays a part in a Soldier's success.
"I like to see a Soldier accomplish their goal. I walk them through the process and, when they finish, the smile on their face and a 'thank you' mean a lot to me," he said.
<b>Haglung: Former Marine soldiers on</b>
From Richard Haglund's point of view, 30 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps helped prepare him for a life dedicated to the assistance of today's Soldiers.
"Serving Soldiers is much like serving Marines because many of the administrative procedures are the same. I've always believed in treating all people with respect and just doing the right thing no matter who I'm serving," said Haglund, a retired master gunnery sergeant.
In his current position as Mobilization Plans and Operations technician for USAG-HI, Haglund coordinates with different agencies in order to prepare and serve those Soldiers who are either heading out or returning from deployment.
Questions regarding administrative, legal, medical and transition matters are all dealt with promptly by Haglund and other members of his team, who operate out of Conroy Bowl.
"We have a great team who works together. Even when faced with taking on additional responsibilities, we assembled a group and worked overtime to serve the Soldiers. My experience as a Marine prepared me to take on responsibilities and do whatever it took to complete the mission," he said.
Haglund feels privileged to have the opportunity to continue to serve his country, even though he is no longer in uniform.
"I wake up every day and look forward to helping Soldiers. I know we have an important mission. I enjoy customer service, and I am thankful that I can give back to our great country.
"I hope people walk away feeling that we provided the best possible service expediently, but also with most care and concern for their unique situation," he added.
<b><i>(Editor's Note: Shahnaaz Mason contributed to this article.)</i></b>