Soldiers, Sailors Join Forces For Best Work Force
July 27, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Sean Locker will someday be able to look back on a long career and know he contributed to the nation’s defense both in and out of uniform.
The wounded warrior, a former Marine sergeant, now works as a Department of Defense civilian at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., in the field of systems integration and engineering for communication systems and electronic warfare systems. He is also working toward a degree in electrical engineering.
Now five years into his new career, Locker said managers from the Navy’s Dahgren center took the initiative to visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where they interviewed him and other wounded warriors for possible job opportunities through the Naval Sea Systems Command’s wounded warrior program.
“They started discussing opportunities with us and the rest is history,” said Locker, who suffered from a punctured lung and lost his left arm and right eye during a suicide bomber attack in Iraq.
Locker was among eight wounded warriors recognized Friday during a partnership agreement signing between the Department of Defense’s two largest commands " the Army Materiel Command and the Naval Sea Systems Command " that established the foundation for the two commands to work together in providing career opportunities for wounded warriors and veterans. Army Soldiers will now have access to Naval Seas Systems Command positions and sailors will now have access to Army Materiel Command positions.
The agreement signing was held at the Army Materiel Command’s headquarters. Leadership within the two major commands " which represent nearly 140,000 jobs within the Department of Defense -- hope the agreement will help them exceed DoD’s wounded warrior and veteran employment goals.
In comments during the agreement signing ceremony, Gen. Ann Dunwoody, commander of the Army Materiel Command, thanked Naval Sea Systems Command commander Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy for “reaching out to AMC. I’m proud and honored to be joining forces with you today.”
Seven years ago, the Army Materiel Command established the “Always A Soldier” employment program for wounded warriors and veterans “who could no longer serve in uniform, but were patriots at heart,” Dunwoody said.
Since 2004, the Army Materiel Command has hired 128 wounded warriors and veterans. In 2008, the command established a working relationship with the Army Wounded Warrior Program.
“This has been about transitioning veterans into successful military civilian careers,” Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger of the Army Materiel Command said.
Likewise, three years ago the Naval Sea Systems Command established its wounded warrior program. In 2010, the command hired 282 wounded warriors and has a goal of reaching 365 " or “one a day every day all year long” -- in 2011.
“We are on track to meet the 365 goal this year,” McCoy said. “We have hired over 300 in this fiscal year alone. That brings our three-year total to over 700 (wounded warriors and veterans) placed in NAVSEA.”
Wounded warriors and veterans bring a valuable set of skills to both the Army and Navy civilian work force.
“Part of this equation that people don’t understand is that it’s not about charity. It’s about tapping into national defense to get these critical skills and to get veterans who can work on some of the most sensitive programs,” McCoy said. “They are back in the fight every step of the way … and this is all about keeping critical skills and leadership.”
The Army Materiel Command and the Naval Sea Systems Command and their subordinate commands need engineers, scientists, technicians and managers to continue their work in equipping Soldiers and sailors with the best military systems. While the majority of jobs within the 70,000-plus-employee Army Materiel Command are considered “white collar” many of the jobs offered within the 60,000-employee Naval Sea Systems Command are more “blue collar” in nature.
“Both of our commands offer outstanding employment opportunities,” Dunwoody said. “This agreement will ensure those opportunities are open to those who have served so greatly and sacrificed so much. They bring with them a tremendous amount of strength, talent and experience.”
As of January, 41,983 of the nation’s servicemembers were wounded. Of those, 19,304 were wounded in Iraq during 2004-07 when Mellinger was deployed. In addition, more than 320,000 of the nation’s 1.6 million servicemembers deployed have suffered from the often unseen wounds of traumatic brain injury and more than 300,000 suffer from the equally unseen wounds of post traumatic stress disorder and depression. Because of those injuries, the unemployment rate for wounded warriors is 50 percent higher than the average citizen.
Mellinger urged civilian personnel officials throughout the two commands and their subordinate commands to “each and every time there’s an opportunity come open consider a veteran every time. They bring with them a work ethic, values, loyalty, trust and confidence. You can’t buy that anywhere.”
Enhancing veteran programs within the Department of Defense to train and educate wounded warriors and veterans, and then to assist them with their transition into the civilian work force “is right and a moral imperative. To combine efforts through today’s memorandum opens up even more opportunities,” McCoy said.
Among the audience during the agreement signing were representatives from the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, the national organization Still Serving Veterans headquartered in Huntsville and the Army’s Community Based Warrior Transition Unit based at Redstone Arsenal.
“You provide the wounded warriors, we’ll provide the jobs … We want to pull them in rather than wait for them to show up,” McCoy said.
Many wounded warriors and veterans return to their home states to find employment after leaving the service. The Army Materiel Command has a presence in all 50 states and 155 countries while the Naval Seas Systems Command maintain 38 different activities throughout the nation and overseas.
Even so, some wounded warriors and veterans may have to move to get the right civilian job within these commands. LaTisha Session, who is a wounded Army veteran now working for the Army Materiel Command as an executive administrative assistant, left her home state of Florida to seek opportunities with the command at its previous headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., and now at Redstone.
“This job allows me to care for my family and still have that sense of service that I loved so much in the Army,” said Session, who was deployed multiple times during a 15-year Army career and who joined the command’s civilian work force just over a year ago.
“I did work for a company in Florida for four years. But I missed the military. I loved to serve. This allows me to still add value. It just feels great to be serving again.”
Session particularly likes that the agreement between the Army and Navy commands will create similar opportunities for wounded warriors and veterans throughout the nation, making it easier for them to live out their civilian careers in their home states.
Maj. Jim Clark, commander of the Community Based Warrior Transition Unit, said the availability of blue collar Navy jobs for Army wounded warriors and veterans will make it easier for his unit to place the more than 200 transitioning wounded warrior servicemembers they are now working with in Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.
“These are not just jobs, these are careers that help wounded warriors raise their families and that give them benefits,” he said. “A lot of the young kids we work with need blue collar skill type jobs. Most have 40 years of work ahead of them. This is a great opportunity for them.”
And the opportunity is a two-way street.
“A lot of wounded warriors bring a lot to the work force,” wounded warrior Locker said. “If they have the right skills for the job, then they bring with them the right character and traits and motivation. That’s a great asset.”
Those attributes were evident in the struggles the eight wounded warriors at the agreement signing ceremony have had to go through to be healthy contributors to the work force.
“Thank you for never giving up, for never quitting and for being such good role models,” Dunwoody told them.