By Samantha L. Quigley
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2006 – Severely injured servicemembers and their spouses are seeing doors open to meaningful civilian careers, thanks to a partnership between the Defense Department and the private sector. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, DoD's Military Severely Injured Center and www.Military.com -- a private organization that provides information and serves as a networking hub for current and former military people, defense workers and their families - are co-sponsors of "Hiring Heroes."
Hiring Heroes helps connect servicemembers with DoD and other federal agencies, as well as civilian companies, with significant positions to fill. But it's not just a career fair, Mark Smith, chief of the Recruiting Assistance Division of the Defense Department's Civilian Personnel Management Service, said. "We don't want them just coming in and getting interviews," Smith said. "We want them to be prepared for an interview, know how to dress for the interview, know how to present a resume, and then basically, hopefully, get a job from that."
The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, another troop-support organization, inspired Smith to create Hiring Heroes. He met Roger Chapin, the coalition's founder, at a luncheon and discovered the coalition, a private entity, was already working to help wounded servicemembers transition into civilian careers. At that point, he realized the Defense Department needed to step up to the plate. "It's great (that private organizations are) doing it - but DoD has got to do something too," Smith said.
He was pleasantly surprised to find that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld already had budgeted to develop the Military Severely Injured Center, he said. "Rumsfeld had something going that was really good, and ... now it's a combined effort," Smith said. "We now support the Military Severely Injured Center, and we put our Hiring Heroes directly with them. So it's a partnership."
Hiring Heroes held its first job fair at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in April 2004, he said. Since then, more than 800 injured servicemembers and their spouses have attended events at Brooke Army Medical Center, Texas; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and most recently, at Fort Gordon, Ga. DoD alone has made more than 70 job offers, and civilian employers may have extended many more offers, he said.
"I'll be honest ... I'm biased. I want them in DoD, but I understand that's not always going to happen in all cases," Smith said. "As long as we get them a job, I'm OK with that, but we would love to keep them in the DoD family if we possibly can."
The next event will be held at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Sept. 18 and 19. For more information about this event or other upcoming Hiring Heroes events, contact Karen Hannah, the Hiring Heroes program manager, at 1-888-363-4872 or by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.