EMPLOYING SOLDIERS- Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Horne is leading efforts to ensure future job opportunities with the federal government for transitioning Soldiers. Horne, shown with Soldiers at Bob Jones Auditorium, visited Redstone Arsenal and Huntsville on June 14 to launch the pilot program known as the Veterans Employment Transition Initiative - Employment and Life Skills. Through the program, the Army is focused on building a veteran assistance network that will recruit, employ and retain veterans in federal employment.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Huntsville just became another top choice for national recognition.

And this time, the recognition directly relates to the Army's veterans.

During the signing of the Armed Forces Celebration Week proclamation June 14, community leaders shared the podium with the Army's director of Human Resources Policy Directorate, who announced a new Army program that will be launched in Huntsville to recruit, employ and retain veterans in federal employment. The Veterans Employment Transition Initiative - Employment and Life Skills program will take full advantage of opportunities presented by growth in the local federal sector, and the network of local community and military-related organizations working with veterans.

"Huntsville is the first regional pilot site for this program. Huntsville will be the Army's leader in this veteran transition program," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Horne, who traveled from the Pentagon to make the announcement and to further solidify relationships with local organizations that will be associated with the pilot program.

"The Army is not doing the pilot program. The community is. We're going to tell the community what the Army goals are and they will tell us what can be done to further the program."

The network of community and military-related organizations - led by the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County and including Still Serving Veterans - are crucial to the success of this new initiative, which is using the slogan "Partnerships Yield Employment."

"My office and the Garrison here at Redstone Arsenal are working with the Chamber of Commerce to talk with government and industry about the goals the Army has laid out, and how well the community is doing to achieve this initiative," Horne said. "As the pilot site, Huntsville will share its best practices with us, and identify challenges and what we need to do to move forward."

In November 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that announced the launching of the Veterans Employment Transition Initiative, designed to transform the federal government into the model employer of America's veterans. Since then the Army's Human Resources Policy Directorate has been developing the initiative. About four months ago, Horne and other Army officials began talking with the local Chamber of Commerce about Huntsville's role as a pilot program.

"We want to make sure everything possible is done to make sure the federal government can employ veterans, transitioning Soldiers and their family members," Horne said. "This initiative is also an opportunity to discuss as a community what they would like to do to attract more transitioning Soldiers here."

In his announcement June 14, Horne noted several Huntsville attributes - growing federal installation, low cost of living, high wages, veteran-friendly reputation, world-class health care facilities, comparatively easy air and ground transportation, central location to military installations in the region and five higher educational institutions - as reasons for selecting the city as a regional pilot site. The second pilot site will be San Antonio, Texas.

The initiative will work to fill the ranks of federal employees with Soldiers transitioning out of uniform who possess skills, dedication and a sense of duty; assist with the hiring process for veterans seeking employment with the federal government; identify employment opportunities within federal agencies and assist veterans in the employment application process; create a process to track veteran life skills that will advise and track the well-being of Army alumni during a two-year period after leaving the Army (five years for wounded warriors); and create an infrastructure within federal agencies to promote the continued skills development and employment success for veterans.

"This program has two goals, two metrics," he said. "We have to get more disabled veterans hired into the Department of the Army. And we have to get more veterans hired into United States civil service. We will be working with special programs within the community to make this happen."

This new program addresses two basic issues of any veteran - making a living for their family once out of military service, and being part of a community outside of the military. About 170,000 active duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers transition out of the Army every year.

"This isn't about putting unqualified veterans into jobs that would be better filled by best qualified employees," Horne said. "It's about working to get veterans qualified for federal employment and then working to get them into federal employment.

"Veterans can receive a minimum of $22,000 a year to be retrained and educated for civil service or a job in private industry. There are no shortages of jobs if you are a veteran. The challenge is getting qualified and getting into the loop to take those jobs."

In fact, the Post 9/11 GI Bill is a number one enabler of the veteran employment initiative.

"That $22,000 a year in training for veterans allows them to transition into the 45 assorted specialties for Army federal service and within industry," Horne said. "We can hire best qualified and veterans by making sure our veterans get the training they need to take a federal job."

Huntsville/Redstone Arsenal is a prime location to achieve federal employment because of the large number of jobs that will be available on the Arsenal and within local federal organizations in the years ahead.

"You're a BRAC (2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendations) winner. So you need to recruit and the work force is out there with our veterans," Horne said.

The brigadier general hopes the initiative will help to better network the organizations already in existence to help veterans make the transition to civilian employment.

"There are 1,200 nonprofits and hundreds of great organizations across the Army that need to be brought together to increase their effectiveness," Horne said. "We are using the network of networks approach to bring these groups together to develop programs for employing our veterans."

Those organizations provide programs within the Army, such as the Army Materiel Command's Always a Soldier Program; the Wounded Transition Command's DoD Operations Warfighter, AW2 Education Initiatives and Coming Home to Work programs; the Reserve and National Guard Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces and Yellow Ribbon Reintegration programs; and the Civilian Human Resources Agency's Wounded Warrior Expedited Referral Process and the Veteran Employment Coordinator programs. In addition, nonprofit organizations outside the Army, such as Still Serving Veterans, augment those efforts by connecting veterans to employment opportunities.

To make the veteran employment assistance network effective these groups must work closely with the Office of Personnel Management, Department of Labor, Veterans Administration and Civilian Personnel Advisory Center to achieve the employment of veterans, Horne said.

"We want to streamline hiring with the federal government, with a focus on the Army," he said. "We want more disabled veterans and more veterans working in civilian positions with the Army."

Horne believes the initiative is a win-win for veterans and the federal government.

"These veterans have already proven their leadership capability," he said. "They have a strong work ethic, they understand the Army culture, and they've got hands-on experience about what works and what doesn't in the Army. They have proven to be flexible, agile and able to easily adapt to changing situations. We want to provide them with the greatest opportunity for success."

The initiative is also testimony to the Army's long-term commitment to its Soldiers, who often make tremendous sacrifices for the Army and their nation.

"Not only are we taking care of Soldiers coming in, we're taking care of Soldiers on the other side as they leave the service," Horne said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16