WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 20, 2008) - Army personnel officials are launching an outreach program as part of a push to hire more wounded warriors and their spouses as civilian employees.
In the past four years, 43 Soldiers wounded in action have been hired as civilian employees Army-wide, G-1 officials at the Pentagon said. But they emphasized that new initiatives have the potential to bring many more veterans and their spouses into federal service.
An executive order signed by President Bush Sept. 25 authorizes non-competitive appointments in the Civil Service for spouses of disabled veterans and surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in action.
Dr. Susan Duncan, the Army's assistant G-1 for Civilian Personnel Policy, said she expects the Office of Personnel Management to issue implementing guidance that will allow the Army to begin hiring spouses of wounded warriors under the executive order by first of the year.
"Many times, our wounded warriors' source of income is their spouse's work," Duncan said. She added, though, that the Army personnel community is also redoubling its efforts to hire wounded veterans into the civilian workforce.
The Army has proposed a Defense-wide referral program for wounded warriors that DOD officials are considering.
In the meantime though, G-1 is fostering local partnerships between the Army Wounded Warrior program, known as AW2, and civilian personnel offices.
"It's a partnership at the lowest level," said Scott Rowell, deputy assistant G-1 for strategic planning.
One such partnership at Fort Riley, Kan., is being held up as a model for other installations.
"How do we replicate what you're doing at Riley'" Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, G-1, asked Kelly Frazier of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center at Fort Riley. Frazier, along with wounded warriors hired by the CPAC, were manning a booth at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 6-8, in Washington, D.C.
"To me, it's just a matter of training," Frazier said, answering the general's question.
"At Fort Riley, the AW2 representative and the CPAC work together," said Calvin McCloy, a former first sergeant who was wounded and now serves as a civilian employee at the Army Benefits Center at Riley.
"A wounded Soldier is not just going to walk up and say, 'hey, I have a traumatic brain injury and can you help me''" McCloy said.
McCloy was a first sergeant with the 1/41st Infantry near Ramadi, Iraq, when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in April 2005. He suffered severe burns.
He was angry when he was told that he couldn't stay in the Army. Being a first sergeant was his life, he said: "That's all I wanted to do."
After spending several months in the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, McCloy went to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Riley. He wrote a resume through the Army Career and Alumni Program. The resume was sent to Kelly Frazier of the Fort Riley CPAC, and she called in McCloy for an interview.
"Kelly explained the HR field to me," McCloy said.
She then paired him with the ABC call center that handles retirement benefits for employees Army-wide, and McCloy found it to be a good fit.
Frazier helped another wounded warrior, former Staff Sgt. Donald Laplante, find a job with the Forces Command G-8 at Fort Riley. Laplante said he interned in the office as a Soldier assigned to the Riley Warrior Transition Unit. Then the day after he took off his uniform, he was able to start working as a civilian employee there, thanks to the hiring preference he received as a disabled veteran.
The Army is currently able to hire disabled veterans through both competitive and non-competitive authorities, said Steve Lewis, a G-1 Human Resources specialist. He explained that disabled veterans automatically receive a 10-point preference when competing for government jobs. In addition, the Veterans Recruitment Act and the Disabled Veterans Appointment Authority allow the Army to hire some wounded warriors without competition, he said.
"The Army is already actively placing our wounded warriors, but we're trying to be more systematic," Lewis said. He would like to formalize the partnership between AW2, ACAP and the civilian personnel community, and have other services follow suit as well.
"We're trying to get the other services to buy into the program," Lewis said.
He's advocating a proposal that would have resumes of wounded warriors disseminated Defense-wide using the same electronic application as the Priority Placement Program. He emphasizes that wounded warriors would not actually be priority placements, but their resumes would simply receive "maximum visibility" through the program, if it's approved by DOD.
"It will work once the dominoes are in the right place," said Rowell of the outreach hiring program for wounded warriors. He said the key is for the wounded warrior to have a one-on-one interview with a CPAC specialist.
Rowell and Duncan spent some time at the G-1 Civilian Personnel Outreach booth on the AUSA exhibit hall floor to emphasize the importance of the wounded warrior hiring initiative.
"This booth is just one part of a whole plan," said John Carbonne, another Human Resources specialist with G-1. "Hopefully we can have a portable booth like this at a WTU.
"Right now, we're starting a recruitment effort," Carbone said, explaining that the Civilian Human Resources Agency at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is spearheading the initiative to get wounded-warrior resumes out to all Army CPACs. "We've been trying to centralize it more," Carbonne said about the hiring program.
"We really want to keep our own," Carbonne said.
He said wounded warriors know the Army, know the system, and "have the grit that you want" as employees. They've shown that by overcoming adversity and numerous challenges in their recovery, Carbonne points out.
"We recognize this is an embryonic first start," Rowell said. "We're in the crawl phase. This is a kickoff for a national campaign. We want to maintain the momentum. Now we want to take it to the next level."
(ARNEWS Correspondent C. Todd Lopez contributed to this report.)