A great idea…but we still need jobs!

Posted: October 20, 2011 in Economy, Jobs, Military, Politics

A recent article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle talked about President Obama’s new program called “Joining Forces.” The premise behind this is simple: get a commitment from companies to train and hire post 9/11 veterans. From the government’s perspective, he is asking the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to design what would amount to a reverse boot camp, to prepare troops to leave the military and figure out how to translate their military training into civilian-oriented job credentials. That is all well and good, and it is nice to see some acknowledgement that, if you plan to reduce the size of the military, those who separate from the military will need to find gateways into civilian life.

The problem is that we don’t have any jobs for these people to go into when they separate from the military. My fiancee is going on four years of looking for full-time work as an Operations/Human Resources manager in San Diego (yes, she’s looking nationwide), and she has an advanced degree and legitimate experience in her field. Someone coming out of the military might have some specialized technical knowledge (helicopter mechanic, as an example), but for the most part they will probably be able to claim some fairly generic project management type experience and not much else. Doing what I do here in Afghanistan, I interact with many of our military personnel. Often it is while waiting to catch a helicopter flight from one base to another, where I’ll have an opportunity to simply chat with someone. As a civilian over here, I’m often asked why I would be over here. The main reason is that I was laid off and out of work for 9 months before I got this job. I spent 9 months not just looking for a job nationwide, not just being rejected nationwide, but being ignored nationwide. I wasn’t even getting a “thanks but no thanks” email to better than 80% of the jobs I applied to. So when I would get these soldiers asking me about getting out of the military, I most often would reply that they should stay in, at least until they start hearing news that companies are actively hiring in their desired fields. Those who had specialized experience that could be utilized in a civilian contractor capacity (like a military dog handler) I would encourage to go that route, but generally I encouraged them to stay in a deployed state.

The article notes that there are more than 1 million service members are expected to separate from the military as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, and as of this past summer, of the millions of unemployed Americans, more than 1 million of those were ex-service members. The fact that there hasn’t been meaningful job growth in our country for quite some time means that no matter what sort of training and transition assistance is given to these service members, without jobs to apply to, they are just going to add to the unemployment numbers. Our elected officials from both sides of the aisle need to stop bickering and agree on some sort of job creation program. If they don’t take action soon, continued high unemployment will only stifle consumer confidence, and that will be the final push to officially drive us back into recession.


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