When Derek Fowler began his civilian federal career three months ago, he brought a wealth of skills and knowledge with him. And that was by design.

Fowler, a former Marine and now a small arms repairer inspector, comes to Anniston Army Depot with eight years of military service. He is the third employee to be hired at the installation under the auspices of the Army Materiel Command's Always a Soldier program since its inception in June 2004.

The program's aim is to assist our nation's wounded veterans after their devoted service and provide continuing support to them beyond their active duty service. Using this initiative, these veterans provide employers with the valuable experience and commitment that's typical of men and women in uniform.

Fowler's supervisor, Donald Packer, couldn't be more pleased with his selection. "He came in with an incredible amount of familiarization with the different types of weapons," he said. "He adapted well. I wish we could get more (employees) like him."

Fowler enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corp in March 1999. Tours took him to San Diego, Calif., Camp LeJeune, N.C., Iraq (three times) and Kosovo. Due to a serious injury from an improvised explosive device, or IED, he sustained hits with shrapnel to the back and severe tears to both eardrums. He was discharged in May 2007.

Fowler loves the outdoors, fishing, and hunting, but wanted to continue serving his country.

He found out about the program and inquired at the Civilian Personal Advisory Center. With assistance from Sarah Springs, the depot's wounded program coordinator, and Tom Floyd, the Depot Operations Office plans and operation officer, Fowler was referred from AMC.

According to Sgt. Maj. Roberto Alvarez, who currently manages the program at AMC, approximately 60 Soldiers have been hired to fill a variety of skills with the Always a Soldier program.

"This is the best job around," Fowler said when asked about his position. "The work is very comparable to what I did while in the military. I know the importance of making sure these weapons are ready before going to the hands of those who risk their lives."

For more information about the program, visit www.alwaysasoldier.com or call (703) 806-8140.