With South Carolina suffering from one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, Soldiers in the U.S. Army Reserve who call the Palmetto State home now have an edge in the job hunt in these tough economic times.
As part of the Employment Partnership Initiative, the Army Reserve signed a Memorandum of Agreement with 16 local businesses and law enforcement agencies March 5, to make it a priority to the recruit, train and hire Reserve Soldiers.
"Often times our Reserve Soldiers are unemployed or underemployed. After going into the military, being deployed and having a successful career in the military, when they come back home they want more," said Maj. Gen. Adolph McQueen, commander, 200th Military Police Command. "This gives our Soldiers more opportunities."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 South Carolina's unemployment rate rose by 4.7 percent. That was the highest increase in the country. The state's overall unemployment rate stands at 10.4 percent, which is second only to Michigan's 11.6 percent.
For Richland County's top cop, those numbers mean an increased workload for his officers.
"If you look at today's headlines ... the state is bleeding jobs, unemployment rates are going up and the economy is down. When that happens crime goes up," said Sheriff Leon Lott. "Our president and Congress realize that, and they are pouring money into law enforcement to get more cops on the street."
According to the department's public information officer, the department is at full strength. However, it has been awarded a $1.5 million grant and plans to add at least 15 additional deputy positions.
"Where do we get these people," Lott asked. "We can't just have a warm body." "You have to have somebody who is trained, somebody who is experienced, somebody who can go out there and represent not only your law enforcement agency, but someone who can do so in a good way.
"Sometimes we look for complicated answers to a problem. This is a very simple answer. They have Soldiers who are trained, who are experienced. We should take advantage of that."
McQueen agreed that it is a natural fit, not only for Soldiers who have military police backgrounds, but for all Soldiers due to the discipline, respect and selfless service they have already exhibited.
"These Soldiers have already been trained, a number of them have been deployed, and they have attained what I call global sensitivity -- they've gone into an area, they've learned the ethnic groups, they've learned the religious groups and they've been able to work within that country in order to bring about a change for the better," McQueen said. "They can bring that same type of sensitivity to our communities which continue to grow in diversity with multiple ethnic groups and religious groups."
The Army Reserves plans to open EPI to all services. To learn more about the program, click on the EPI logo on the Army Reserve Web site at www.usar.army.mil.