In recent discussion forums around installations in Korea, there is one common concern among military spouses who accompany their Soldier on a tour to the Republic of Korea - employment opportunities.
Challenges facing those spouses in the hunt for jobs include not meeting specific federal requirements, lengthy hiring procedures and perceptions that hiring managers do not want spouses. These obstacles can discourage spouses from applying or successfully attaining a job, according to personnel managers.
In response to these voiced concerns, Eighth Army leadership has implemented changes to help spouses seeking employment at the command.
"I consider this a national security issue," said Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, Eighth Army deputy commanding general for operations. "Even the perception of a lack of employment opportunity is enough to keep the Army's top talent from considering a tour in Korea. We have already changed a number of policies here in Korea and have had great dialogue with Army leadership to address higher policy."
"We absolutely have to fix this to give every spouse a shot at a professional pathway," he added.
Eighth Army has published policy letters emphasizing spouse preference in hiring procedures. These polices include the use of an "expedited referral list" and a policy authorizing candidates for select Eighth Army positions to complete drug testing and physical examinations after they arrive to the peninsula rather than beforehand - with exceptions being for positions which are Testing Designated Positions and those with mandatory requirements for physical examinations.
Additional changes have been made to Army Korea Regulation 690-335, Merit Promotion and Placement Plan. The regulation authorizes all areas in Korea to be one commuting area, as some job announcements restrict hiring to the local commuting area only.
The military spouse employment initiative started at the highest levels of the Army, said Jose Villarreal, Eighth Army Ready and Resilient program manager. "Many spouses have expressed frustrations with the hiring process and the Eighth Army command is passionate about addressing these issues."
Another initiative in the works is aimed to allow job applicants to use the Military Spouse Preference selection when applying 30 days prior to arriving in Korea. Currently, Defense Department regulations already allow military spouses to apply and claim the spouse preference for the position 30 days prior to the reporting date, but candidates must be physically in Korea to qualify for the preference and job offer.
This initiative will require Department of Defense approval before any agency or unit regulations can be revised, according to Eighth Army's Directorate of Civilian Human Resources Management. If approved, the same initiative will also give managers direct hire authority without having to advertise positions on www.USAJOBS.gov.
Additionally, to help with spouse employment, Army Civilian Human Resources Agency at U.S. Army Garrison-Humphreys has created a resume repository where spouses can submit resumes for future employment consideration. Upon receipt, candidates will receive a direct response from one of the local human resources specialists and afforded the opportunity to meet one-on-one to review qualifications and help guide spouses through the federal hiring and employment process.
Spouses interested in employment in Korea should continue to apply for jobs online, which is the preferred method.
"The best way for spouses to apply for jobs is still USAJOBS," said Thomas Williams, Eighth Army, Staffing Classification and Benefits Division chief. "They can build their resumes, attach documents and also use settings to build automated job referrals. In other words, once a search is built the system will automatically send you the matches via email. The reason USAJOBS is recommended is because they can maintain that resume and make updates even after they rotate from the overseas area back to (continental United States)."
Eighth Army and personnel managers say they want to make sure that military spouses have as many opportunities as possible to achieve employment while serving with their service member in the Far East Region.