Public service is just one professional arena for which the 200,000 members of the military who are discharged every year are well-suited. Cities can save themselves time and frustration by looking to that resource pool first when hiring because the structure, nature and values of local public service, or government jobs, are often parallel.
“Everything you can think of, just about, that a city might need, personnel wise, has a counterpart in the military,” Robert Walker, director of events and national accounts for RecruitMilitary.com, said in January. “A mechanic, public relations (person), drivers, engineers, you name it.”
Applicants with military service bring the skills — there’s no doubt about that. But former members of the military also return to civilian life with a familiarity of — and a high level of comfort with — the hierarchical job classification structure of local government, which is similar to the federal government’s GS levels.
“They like knowing that there’s a chain of command. That’s security for them,” he said.
Local and state governmental entities approach RecruitMilitary.com and similar groups in search of skilled employees who are a good fit in the municipal workplace, Walker said. Some have figured out that they can, for example, get a surveyor who’s already used the specialized equipment during his or her time in the service. That employee will require little time to get up to speed on the job description.
Aquita Brown, public affairs representative for the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, said that Marines coming home from active duty exemplify high levels of teamwork and discipline. They can adapt quickly to changing environments, remain effective when under pressure and possess a healthy respect for procedure, she added, making them excellent prospects for civilian jobs in public service.
Often, she added, Marines looking for municipal jobs have made an effort to acquire specific skills for the job they desire, before they leave active duty. The Marine Corps provides those educational and vocational training opportunities. RecruitMilitary’s database consists of both returning service men and women and former members of the military who have been home for some time and are looking for a job change or to relocate. Walker suggested that municipalities take into consideration that members of the military do not necessarily have to be returning to any particular region to be interested in
a job there, because the military pays for his or her move anywhere in the country immediately following active duty.
About 40 percent of newly discharged military take advantaged of that, he said. The other 60 percent return to and remain in what the military calls their “home of record.”
“By thinking about members of the military to fill job openings, you can get yourself that guy who’s eager, that’s a perfect fit or at least fits in well to the basic structure, is disciplined and has skills. And even if he starts lower in the ranks, he’s got the ability to rise quickly.”
In New Orleans, La., and Irving, Texas, the military resource translated into paramedics. New York City and Winston-Salem, N.C., have hired police officers. New Orleans has hired paramedics, as has Irving, Texas.
The Winston-Salem Police Department attends half a dozen veteran recruitment events a year at Camp LeJune, Fort Bragg, and in Charlotte and Raleigh. Officer Roland Kennedy looks for candidates to fill any open position, sworn or unsworn, including officers, communications specialists, records, forensic and correctional personnel and processing agents.
Veterans tend to have a crucial understanding of what life is like for a patrol officer, he explained. Sometimes, on the other hand, nonmilitary cadets will think that police work is what they want to do — but once they get on the street, they change their minds.
“It’s not for everyone. It’s that life on-the-line situation every day. You’re a constant target, and veterans get that. They’ve become acclimated to it,” he said. “They know what the dangers are, whereas people who aren’t vets will sometimes get squirrelly.”
Marcus Alexander is the type of man who lives for squirrelly situations. That’s part of the reason the probationary Winston-Salem Police Department officer says he’s finding that police work rather agrees with him.
After seven years as a radio operator with the Third Battalion Second Marines, including two tours in Iraq, the battle-charged warrior realized he just wasn’t going to be able to do a “regular job” after being discharged, he said. He put in applications with several federal agencies, and then met representatives of the Winston-Salem force at a RecruitMilitary job fair at Camp LeJune. He joined the force late last fall after graduating from the police
academy and undergoing field training.
The military prepares its forces to be able to make decisions under stress, he pointed out. Decisiveness saves lives in dangerous situations, both in combat and on the police force. There’s also a sense of professional community in law enforcement that he can relate to.
Instead of being in charge of 80 men, he chuckles about the fact that in the Winston-Salem Department the largest squad is eight officers. But he still feels like he’s made a good decision given his skills and the attributes he integrated in the service — not the least of which is concern for the team.
“There’s a real sense of selflessness, across the whole department. That’s where I come from — the Marine Corps motto is honor, courage, commitment. It’s definitely here, too.”
In his State of the Union address in January, even President Barack Obama gave a nod to the logic of channeling former members of the military into civilian public service jobs. In the Veterans Jobs Corps initiative the president unveiled, almost $500 million in hiring grants will be offered to communities that recruit and hire post-9/11 veterans to serve as police officers and firefighters. According a White House press release, these and other projects included in the initiative will appropriately leverage skills developed in the military. Those funds will be available via Community Oriented Policing Services and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants.
To scout wounded Marines retiring from active duty, contact the U.S. Department of Labor’s Local Veterans’ Employment Representative Program at (202) 693-4701 or www.dol.gov/dol/audience/audemployers. To participate in RecruitMilitary’s next
career fair, visit recruitmilitary.com or call (513) 683-5020.