CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE Q-WEST, Iraq - With economic challenges in the United States, it has been daunting for many National Guard Soldiers here thinking about whether or not they will have a job when they return home.

Guardsmen from the 181st Brigade Support Battalion and 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Washington Army National Guard, are taking steps to ensure they have jobs upon redeployment this fall.

"With the economy the way it is right now back home, the 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team is really showing its support for Soldiers and Families," said Capt. Jackie Baird, administrative officer, 81st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and a DuPont, Wash., native. "Our battalion has made a great effort in spreading the word about the opportunities available to Guardsmen after our deployment. We want to make sure we do our best in taking care of our Soldiers."

Many Soldiers have already heard from their previous employers that their position no longer exists in the company. Losing their job was not what these Soldiers had planned for when the National Guard members mobilized. Although they are protected by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act (SSCRA), it is not a safety net in every case.

Fortunately, there are some active duty job options available to National Guard Soldiers upon returning from a deployment.

"Operation Warrior Trainer and CO-ADOS (contingency operation for active duty operational support) tours are a great opportunity for Soldiers to also enhance their military job skills, increase their resume, and bridge the gap between civilian jobs," says Command Sgt. Maj. David Nunn, the 81st BSTB command sergeant major. "Many of the leadership skills we learn in the military transfer straight over to the civilian side, and in many cases, can help the person obtain a higher wage because of their demonstrated ability to make decisions and supervise others."

A Soldier wishing to remain in theater can request an extension by submitting a CO-ADOS packet. Usually, a few months before a Guard unit prepares for transfer of authority, they will identify any Soldiers who like to stay with other incoming units. If the Soldier would like to stay with another unit, they can request that as well, although it is the responsibility of the Soldier to find a position within another unit.

While serving on Title 10 active duty, National Guard Soldiers can also apply to transfer to the regular Army. A conditional release request is typically easier to obtain while serving on Title 10 mobilization orders than when back at home station. Soldiers should review their state personnel policy, however for the WA ARNG they require at least 30 days after demobilization to submit their request.

Another opportunity for those National Guard Soldiers serving an Iraq tour may qualify to apply for the Operation Warrior Trainer (OWT) program, operated by First Army. This program retains Soldiers who complete a deployment on active duty and utilizes them as instructors/trainers to train units who are preparing to mobilize. They employ various positions in various mobilization sites across the United States.

Any National Guard Soldiers who are interested in these job opportunities, should consult their unit administrator for guidance and obtain information.