By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsOctober 23, 2019
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Oct. 23, 2019) -- A combat medic, a welder, a wheeled vehicle mechanic and an automated logistics specialist. These were just a few of the Army professionals that local business leaders and hiring officials met during the Fort Drum Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program's Employer Tour on Oct. 18.
"This tour is about connecting employers with the military because, honestly, a lot of people don't really know what the Army does," said Desmond Jones, SFL-TAP transition services. "The jobs that Soldiers do in the Army highly translate with their civilian counterparts. So we wanted employers to see the different MOSs (military occupational specialties) and help them understand the skills our Soldiers have that can benefit them when they transition out of the Army."
Jones said that there is a public perception that equates the Army largely with infantry - but the reality is that alongside the warfighter there are Army doctors, logisticians, lawyers, and fuelers, to name a few.
"Not everybody specializes in combat arms," he said. "So we wanted to help employers see the different types of jobs in the military, the way they get trained and the leadership that they can bring to organizations."
More than 30 attendees visited sites such as the 210th Brigade Support Battalion motor pool, Guthrie Ambulatory Health Care Clinic and the Bridgewater-Vaccaro Medical Simulation Training Center (MSTC).
Staff Sgt. George Tolentino, MSTC noncommissioned officer in charge, briefed the group on the combat medic career field. Attendees observed a battlefield simulation, using a state-of-the art mannequin that can mimic the three main causes of death in the field. Tolentino said that mannequin also has timers and sensors that enable it to simulate alertness or confusion, so medics are treating casualties based on those responses and not from what cadre members are telling them.
"If I observe a medic doing something incorrectly I will activate something to show that it was done wrong," Tolentino said. "In the past, the way we evaluated our 68Ws was verbal communication. But what we found was that when they were alone, they were second guessing themselves because they didn't have that confirmation from someone who knows. What we are doing at the MSTC is to step away from that training."
At each site visit, attendees peppered all of the briefers with questions, ranging from certifications that are transferrable to post-Army employment and how 10th Mountain Division units partner with local organizations for training opportunities.
"The employers had a lot of good questions for the Soldiers, and they also got to learn about what we do at SFL-TAP to support transitioning Soldiers," Jones said.
The SFL-TAP mission is to prepare Soldiers to make informed career decisions through counseling, workshops and seminars, while also connecting them with potential employers through career fairs, job postings, internships and hands-on training courses.
Derek Alsup, Heavy Construction Academy admissions counselor, works with the Fort Drum SFL-TAP to provide Soldiers with career skills training. A former Marine, he attended the tour to provide insight to employers about working with transitioning Soldiers.
Alsup said that even though veterans bring experience and job skills that are highly sought in the job market, communication challenges often arise. He said that "military speak" doesn't translate easily in the civilian sector, and employers are not always aware of it.
"Employers need to be educated, too," he said. "Some of the terminology that service members use isn't the same that employers understand, so I'm trying to be that mediator."
Alsup also said that military training does not always carry over to civilian employment the way that Soldiers expect.
"When we train veterans as certified heavy equipment operators, they may have certified credentials but it is very different than what they might need in a civilian job. So in our school we train to certify them up to the civilian standards."
Fannie Glover, representing New York State Society for Human Resource Management, said that she attended the tour to gather information to share with HR directors and managers from the state chapter.
"There's a lot of value in the hiring of veterans, and I saw that here today," she said.
Glover said that it was impressive to learn about all of the transferable skills from meeting with Soldiers working in medical administration, logistics and motor pool operations. As one senior noncommissioned officer told the group: "Things like budgeting and inventory control are not always evident in what we do, but we are capable of that and a whole lot more."
Glover said that, for her, the tour was more a revelation about who Soldiers are than what they do.
"First of all, Soldiers have a ton of leadership skills, but the biggest 'ah-ha' moment for me was when I realized we were talking about a culture," she said. "This is not necessarily a group of people to be understood, but a culture to be understood. They become more like a brotherhood and a sisterhood - a family. There are certain things that take place in every culture, in every family. If we want to dip into that world, and we do, we need to understand that culture."