Army Reserve Soldiers get post-deployment job search help
February 26, 2012
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CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Feb. 26, 2012) -- For some Soldiers of the 642nd Regional Support Group here, redeployment means going back to their families, homes, and civilian jobs.
For others, it means being released from active duty and starting a job search.
What will these Soldiers do once their mission is complete? What will life be like after deployment?
First Lt. Jermaine Watkins joined the U.S. Army Reserve to pay for college.
"I joined so that I could receive some of the best training in the world, which potentially separates me from my peers in this competitive job market," he said.
Watkins' mother couldn't afford to pay for school after his freshman year at Worcester State College in Worcester, Mass. As he saw it, Watkins had options: drop out of school or join the military. He decided to join Army ROTC, where he was awarded a full scholarship. In exchange, Watkins has an eight-year commitment to the Army Reserve.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, Watkins, a military police officer, joined the Worcester police academy. In February 2009, about two weeks before graduating from the academy, Watkins was laid off, along with 51 other recruits from his class.
In 2010, Watkins moved to the Atlanta area, hoping to find employment in law enforcement. He transferred to the 461st Human Resources Company, one of the 642nd Regional Support Group's downtrace units.
While searching for employment, Watkins said, "Many nights I never ate, and sometimes I lived in my car."
Opportunities began to open up for the young Army Reserve officer. He landed a temporary construction job renovating the 642nd Regional Support Group's Army Reserve center and found a decent apartment. After the construction job ended, Watkins was offered a chance to deploy with the 642nd Regional Support Group.
"This deployment couldn't have come at a better time," Watkins said.
In addition to a steady salary, Watkins developed skills that will make him valuable to potential employers, he said.
Watkins and his girlfriend are the parents of a three-month-old daughter. Watkins said he's been searching for a job to support his family after deployment, but with less than two months remaining on active duty, time is running short. Still, he remains hopeful.
"A great man once said, 'Without struggle, there can be no progress.' So I continue the struggle that many in this world continue to endure," he said. "My fight is not just to find a job, but a career."
It's a feeling shared by other Soldiers in the unit.
Lt. Col. James Ellis has been in the service for more than 26 years. He has a master's degree in business administration from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., and is on his fourth deployment. Like Watkins, he has been aggressively searching for a job for after his tour ends. Ellis, of Chuluota, Fla., is married with two children.
Ellis said he uses the Employer Partnership of the Armed Services Web site, and takes advantage of advice from career coaches.
"I am also using the 'USA Jobs' Web site searching for GS [Government Service] opportunities with the federal government," he said.
This deployment has afforded Ellis the opportunity to obtain valuable experience in transportation, planning, and movement of personnel by air. He is seeking employment in operations and transportation management, planning for consumer products, or logistics.
Ellis' mobilization has allowed him to provide steady income for his family, as well as time to search for a job, he said.
Another 642nd Regional Support Group Soldier said she took advantage of chances to learn during the deployment, even though her old job is waiting when she gets home.
Spc. Jessica Ann Reed has been in the military for six years. After deployment, Reed will go back to work as a phlebotomist at the Medical Center of South Arkansas in El Dorado, Ark. She said this deployment has helped her grow professionally and to become a better Soldier.
While deployed, Reed had the opportunity to take on more responsibility. She developed and used problem solving skills. She is working on an associate degree at South Arkansas Community College, and learned another valuable skill overseas.
"I learned to budget my finances and plan better for the future," Reed said.
And on Christmas Day, she reenlisted for another six years at a ceremony presided over by Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, at Camp Arifjan.
Soldiers remain hopeful of finding a job. Unfortunately, a college degree and newly-developed skills don't mean guaranteed employment, they said.
Finding employment for these Soldiers is a group effort.
The 642nd Regional Support Group leadership works with unemployed or underemployed Soldiers by helping them develop resumes, providing career and interview coaching, and making sure they're aware of resources available to them.
The Army Reserve commitment to helping its Soldiers find jobs extends all the way to the top. In an interview with Army News Service earlier this month, Stultz said the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces provides good opportunities for Soldiers and quality employees to civilian employers.
"There's a value of having a Soldier as an employee," Stultz said in the interview. "If we are going to have this operational Reserve, we are going to have to have some confidence we can get to them when we need them, and have the employers say, 'We support you.'"