By David McNally, RDECOM Public AffairsMarch 22, 2010
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Keyla Kelly was a Soldier in the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division when an accident left her unable to continue her service in uniform and uncertain what the future would bring.
"In the Wounded Warrior program, we were visited by a representative of the Always A Soldier program," she explained. "He was an amputee. He told us about a program for veterans interested in serving as civilian employees after discharge sponsored by the Army Materiel Command."
The Always A Soldier program provides disabled veterans opportunities to seek employment within AMC.
In the Army, Kelly served as an intelligence analyst. The employment program matches active duty skills with potentially similar civilian service positions. Kelly applied for the Always a Soldier program. After discharge in 2008, she still hadn't heard back and assumed it wasn't meant to be. "You never know what's going to pan out," Kelly said.
Kelly worked for the Division of Correction as a criminal intelligence analyst for about a year. Later, she took a position with the FBI until one day in 2009 the Army called.
"This was like a phone call out of the blue," she said. "It was like, 'Do you remember when you applied for the Always a Soldier program'' Of course, I was still interested."
Kelly said it was a long process to get hired. The job had to be publically posted and she was still in competition with people with like skills. But after her interview, she was offered a job within two weeks.
In November 2009, Kelly joined the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command as an as assistant inspector general.
"This was a success story for the IG office and RDECOM in filling a vacancy in such a short time, but also it is a success story of how we were instrumental in providing a wounded warrior a great opportunity to pursue a career in the field of her choice," said RDECOM Program Manager Bernadita Schech.
Kelly uses her experiences as a Soldier to her advantage in her new job. The Army honed her discipline and increased her motivation.
"It's very different from the military intelligence world," she said. "You're still assisting, you're just assisting people on a different level. I do investigations, but now it's for a different purpose."
Helping people is part of Kelly's personal philosophy and upbringing.
Originally from Tacoma, Wash., military service is a tradition in her family. "My father served in the Army for four years, and I have several uncles who served," she said. "It's the honorable thing to do, and the tradeoff is after four years I knew I'd be off doing something that I could do well. That was my whole idea for joining the Army. I thought it benefited the country and it benefited me."
That all changed after an accident left Kelly with a severe back injury. Unable to continue on active duty, she entered the Warrior in Transition program and left the Army in 2008.
Many veterans recruited through the program have served in Iraqi or Afghanistan, but the program is open to wounded or injured Soldiers in general.
"The Always a Soldier program is for our men and women who have completed their service to the nation in uniform but need employment assistance as a civilian," said Program Manager Debra Coleman. "This is an AMC-based employment initiative that provides employment assistance to veterans who can no longer serve their country in uniform and wish to stay in the fight through employment at AMC. It provides veterans opportunities for career advancement, job mobility, family well-being and greater financial security."
Coleman said the program goal is to place veterans into AMC vacancies, allowing them to continue supporting warfighters beyond active-duty service.
"By providing job opportunities for these veterans, AMC gains a dedicated employee who is already familiar with the military, someone with practical, hands-on experience along with the discipline and work ethic that were instilled in them throughout their military training," Coleman said.
Officials said program representatives work hard to locate an employment opportunity suitable for both the veteran and AMC.
"This allows for a rewarding experience for them based on their qualifications or acquired skills," Coleman said.
As the first Research, Development and Engineering Command employee hired under this unique program, Kelly said she hopes more wounded warriors take advantage of the program.
"I love it here," Kelly said. "I think it's great. It's a wonderful opportunity that I probably wouldn't have gotten without the Always A Soldier program, or if I did, it would have been a much longer process, so I'm grateful."
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command is always looking for qualified people to join the team. For information, call (410) 436-7660. For other career opportunities, visit RDECOM at USAjobs.gov.