By David Poe, Northwest GuardianFebruary 6, 2012
LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Servicemembers entering the civilian workforce are sharing in the nation's current economic slump. The U.S. Department of Labor reported in 2010 an 11.5 percent unemployment rate for those who'd served in the military any time after September 2001.
With the Army expecting to downsize by approximately 80,000 Soldiers by 2017, 593rd Sustainment Brigade leaders on Joint Base Lewis-McChord recognized the employment road ahead for their logistics troops and have taken local action with Sustainer University.
"We're getting our military personnel the civilian equivalent (certifications and accreditations) of what they do in the military," Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Worthy, the brigade's dean of Sustainer University Transportation Portion, said. "If you're a cook, you'd be going to a certain school; if you're a welder, you're getting underwater certification or in different levels of welding."
Worthy's Transportation Portion recently joined other logistical functional areas in the university program. Now 88M motor transport operators across the brigade are selected with similar specialists to attend Commercial Driver's License training at Commercial Driver Services, a local vocational school in Lakewood. During the four-week CDL course, Soldiers hang up their uniforms to become full-time students who receive an education paid for by 593rd Sust. Bde. training funds.
"This is the first company we looked at that had everything all at one central location," Worthy said, "and also were more military friendly to the goals we've set for the transporter. We wanted (the Soldiers) to get the complete package and they do it all right here."
CDS Director Dion McNeeley pointed out that a CDL doesn't limit its holder to a career in conventional, over-the-road truck driving.
"The CDL they get here comes with all endorsements," he said, "'double,' 'triples,' 'tankers,' 'hazmat,' all of that is included. There are dozens of fields which require a CDL that have nothing to (directly) do with trucks."
Now into the program's second class of 593rd Sust. Bde. troops, McNeeley said he's impressed with the Army students' efforts so far. As a former Marine, he wasn't surprised.
"Working with the military has been outstanding," he said. "Anyone who's been affiliated with the military has come through ready to learn."
Also, he said his own prior service is a big part of the satisfaction he gets out of assisting today's troops. "It's why I get up in the morning," McNeeley said. "I could be making twice as much driving a truck than being here as an instructor."
Specialist Francis Reinsel, a 593rd Sust. Bde. Soldier finishing his first week of classes, said he not only appreciated being selected to attend CDS, but also that his chain of command recognized his efforts.
"To me, I think they've taken notice of the hard work I've put in for the Army," Reinsel said, "that gives me a good feeling."
Though he plans to be a career Soldier, Reinsel said he appreciates his unit's support in getting his CDL to expand his career options.
"I'll have a lot more knowledge from this," Reinsel said. "I'll be able to take it back to the unit and help others, especially our junior enlisted."
Worthy said after all of the professional accreditations and certifications, he thinks the added confidence his transporters will get from Sustainer University training will be contagious among the 593rd Sust. Bde. ranks.
"It not only will help give them pride in their MOS," he said, "but pride in the unit that personally cares about them."