Category Archives: Veteran Transition

Veterans: The “New” Minority?

Financial Hardships

Robin Cline imageIn today’s society, it is fairly well known that members of our Armed Forces face significant financial challenges. When I was in the U.S. Air Force, many times some of my younger airmen would get into trouble for financial irresponsibility. Some of them actually thought that as long as they had checks in the checkbook, that they had money in the bank. Many wrote checks accordingly, and then get into trouble for bouncing checks. Why did this happen?

The Air Force discovered no one had ever educated these young airmen, many of whom were married, as to how to properly handle finances. Soon, programs were developed that taught the younger troops how to handle a checkbook, and many of these problems disappeared.

Far more serious problems exist, especially for the newly separated troops, now Veterans, who are facing this monumental challenge: many are going under financially. According to USA Today, military families are nearly twice as likely to have credit card balances in excess of $10,000, and nearly one out of three enlisted/junior non-commissioned officers have accounts with predatory lenders like payday loans. Being unemployed and having mountains of debt, some facing foreclosure or bankruptcy, more and more marriages end up in divorce, which only causes additional pressure and frustration on these already overburdened young troops and their families.

Medical Issues

Anyway you look at it, war is a nasty business, getting worse with every passing day. Not only does technology advance, seemingly by the hour, but there are entire corporations built on the single premise of war, how to fight it, coming up with more lethal weapons and how to use them, and newer, more grotesque ways of killing each other. War has become a science all unto itself. And the service member is caught smack in the middle of it all.

Being trained in the use of these new super-weapons and their technology, exposes the men and women of our military to horrors that most civilians think would only be in the movies, but they’re not; these things are real, and our troops have to deal with the repercussions of these new and deadly technologies. When they come home, they often have either new or very rare conditions that most in the medical world have never encountered before, and are therefore lost as to how to effectively treat these Vets.

Although new super-illnesses are real, what about the more common types of injuries that our heroes face? A very primitive but highly effective device used by the enemy is known as the Improvised Explosive Device, or IED. This one type of device can cause wounds ranging from cuts and burns, to mutilating injuries that result in amputation and even death.  The types of injuries in-between can come in the form of concussions, hearing or vision loss, nerve damage of all sorts, and the list goes on and on.

Recent news reports highlight the vast and growing problems with the Veteran’s Administration hospitals, the extremely long wait times for appointments, and the poor care in general that our returning Vets receive, and yes, there’s still more….

Educational Issues

When I was discharged, in December, 1992, right after Operation Desert Storm, I did like so many others. I had no real problem finding a job back then, but the economy was much stronger too. I went to different schools, trying to better myself, but was unable to use any of my VA Educational benefits. As Desert Storm was not yet recognized by Congress, so my education fell completely on my shoulders. I recently decided to go to college to make a complete career path change, but soon discovered that my VA benefits were severely limited, both in dollars and in time to use; I nearly lost what benefits I had because no one told me of the time limits involved.

For the Veteran student, several problems must be overcome in order to get or continue a higher education. The question of financing the education is uppermost in mind for a vast majority of students, as most are not well-off financially. Another is the adjustment from the battle-field to the classroom, and lastly, the complex transition from military to civilian life. The more challenges that the Veteran student faces, the more likely they are to fall into a “stop-gap” situation. This is bad not only for the student, but the institution as well, because the Veteran student might well not finish the educational process at all.

Reader Value As a Veteran and student, I have seen and experienced many of the roadblocks and barriers that the Veteran students face, and it is my hope to bring attention to these and other problems faced daily by our Veterans, and to express how much we, as a grateful nation, need to correct these problems faced by our military heroes. They have given our country so much, and we, as the best nation on earth, need to step up to the plate, get a firm grip on the bat, and hit a new home-run for our Veterans….God Bless America!

Penned and contributed by:
Robin Cline
Your CC Connection

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Hiring Seasoned Veteran’s: An Employers Advantage

 

Navy Marine Corps FA-18
Navy Marine Corps FA-18

When it comes to seeking employment, those above the age of 50 bring far more than just experience, especially if they are Veterans. They bring traits such as leadership, problem solving skills, and a determination to get the job done right, the first time.

Seasoned Veterans understand the value of things that are vital to any unit, military or civilian, such as dependability, honesty, and integrity. Additionally, being seasoned gives them the added benefit of having the outlook and wisdom that only time and experience can give.

Leadership

On two separate occasions, while serving in the United States Air Force, I was promoted, as a Staff Sergeant, to the position of Non Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Mid Shift Avionics Shop for the F-111 aircraft; once at Cannon Air Force Base, Clovis, New Mexico, and the other at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath, England. In this position, I oversaw the entire shop and all of its functions.

Lifetime civilian and military benefit: I encountered many types of situations requiring me to make major decisions, set schedules, assign duties, and coordinate with other shops in order to accomplish the mission.

During my tour at RAF Lakenheath, I coordinated remote support for our Deployed Avionics Shop at Tiaf, Saudi Arabia, during Operation Desert Storm. Here too, many challenges were faced and met during an actual war-time situation.

Problem Solving Skills

At RAF Lakenheath, our shop was located in an underground facility, with very limited floor space. During Operation Desert Storm, I developed, implemented, and supervised a suitable floor plan and change-over for the new incoming F-15 test equipment and crew while simultaneously removing the F-111 test equipment and crew; no small task, especially during an ongoing war.

Normal daily routines are one thing, but being in the military during war is something else again. Many times I saw the effects of the strain of the enormous pressures that the Airmen were under to fulfill the mission requirements, and how each reacted to it. Sometimes a quick response was required, sometimes filling in for them while they got a much-needed break. Being able to tell when discipline was needed and when it was not, solved many problems and eased the fears of getting into trouble for some minor thing.

Being seasoned presented than a “father figure” many of these young Airmen needed to feel. Resolving mental fatigue, through psychological empowerment, we increased morale. Taking advantage of direct and indirect influence, seasoned veterans helped our unit to achieve and maintain a Fully Mission Capable status and ultimately helped our military win the war.

Commitment 

As a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO), one is not only a Supervisor, but a trainer, manager, scheduler, and counselor. In the Air Force, the normal duty day is 8 hours, but during an exercise, or even in wartime, you train like you fight: whatever it takes. The shifts could be from 8, 16, 24, or even 36 hours, whatever was required to accomplish the mission. Being seasoned, one understands commitment to goal attainment, this is our way.

Many times I slept at the shop because the job required that I be there around the clock. And many times I worked triple shifts so that some of the younger, less experienced troops could get food, catch a quick nap, or write a letter home; all things that greatly contributed to the overall success of the mission. Also, times like these presented the perfect opportunity to give additional training under circumstances and conditions that would otherwise be extremely difficult to reproduce, so the training was doubly valuable.

Employer’s Value

For the seasoned Veterans 50 and above, everything begins with attitude.

Being a Veteran means that a person has been both military and civilian. As such, the Vet has seen and experienced things most other people will never experience. There are however, some things that are just common to life, either military or civilian.

Stress is a big factor in both kinds of life, and the Veteran has seen his or her share and knows first-hand how to handle it. By rule of thumb, first, take a deep breath, analyze the situation, choose the best course of action, and go for it! There is no “I” in the word “TEAM”, and more often than not, it is a team effort that makes the difference.

Another factor is recognition. The Vet knows the importance of recognizing when a job is well done, and just how good it makes the junior person feel to be recognized for their performance. And lastly, morale. This is one factor that can make or break any team or civilian organization, and the Vet is all too aware of this.

Morale is the glue that holds a unit together, and the unit is only as strong as its morale. Find a unit with good morale, and you will find a good leader there as well. Veterans are not better than anyone else, but they do have more experience in more areas than most others, and they have also been tested under fire, so, hire a Vet!

Penned and contributed by:
Robin Cline
Your CC Connection

Veterans Clashing Expectation and Reality

Anyone who has served their country is a hero, and should be treated as such.”

Courtesy of APUS
Courtesy of APUS

As Americans, we hear that saying a lot. Our veterans have served our country and deserve to have the red carpet rolled out to them. That’s the expectation many veterans have when leaving the service; everyone and every organization will roll out the red carpet to them.

In reality, the first cultural clash is often relived immediately upon return… rolling the rug is more often the exception. Do those who fought for our freedom deserve red-carpet treatment? Of course each veteran does; no one would argue against that. But that’s why it’s called an expectation.

Bridging civilian and military reality and expectations takes more than a plane ride, a bus ticket home, and a hope that the return will have a fairytale ending. Between two world views that rarely see the same thing, finding common ground is imperative to professional success. More often than not, common ground is defined by contributions.

Contributions come in various forms and phases. Christian HELP and the Central Florida Employment Council teamed with Education Career Services to create and provide free courses open to audiences ranging from high school graduates to entry-level candidates to those who have dedicated much of their lives to ensure freedom breathes on American soil.

Keeping it real, part one

Veterans have done their duty and served our country; now comes the hard part. Most veterans who are separating from the service have not planned on how they will go about taking the next step into civilian life. The decision to leave the military varies depending on the person and the circumstance, but all of them — whether they’re married or single — share in asking themselves, “What’s next?”

As they found out in the first week of boot camp, they all come from different places across the country and from different backgrounds. They all signed on the dotted line for different reasons and brought with them a different story. That was the first week, and they were quickly forced to realize that none of it mattered and that their success in boot camp would be determined by working together.

Being able to depend on their fellow comrades was instilled in them from day one. No matter the situation, there was always someone around that could relate or help them work through a problem. That’s the beauty of being in the military: they’re part of a family that extends across the world. And although their veteran status will always signify this, their physical separation from it is a new challenge.

The courses offered through Christian HELP and the Central Florida Jobs Initiative takes challenge and resolution to a level threaded by realism, empathy, compassion, and progression. Leveraged between expectation and reality, the veteran (as well as all students) is supported by six single-topic books to ensure a maximum learning and “becoming” experience is achieved by all.

Keeping it real, part two

It is not uncommon for a newly separated veteran to expect, “Hey, I just served my country. I deserve the best it can give back to me.” While this thought process is not illogical to someone who has made that sacrifice, it is unreasonable to think that society will cater to it — unfortunately. The quicker the veteran realizes that society doesn’t think it owes them anything, the quicker they can move on and not depend on it.

Yes, it can be a bitter truth, but it’s a truth requiring acceptance. This is the reality of what it is to be a recently separated veteran. They may have traveled across the world, gained priceless experiences, and adopted a surplus of skills to add to their arsenal, but it doesn’t matter in their transition unless they accept that they’re not entitled to a career and will have to work harder than the civilian to attain it.

Transitional reality: Truth can be painful, even rewarding, while ignorance of truth leads to anomie.

Putting on that uniform, whether the military personnel knew it or not, gave them a sense of comfort and security. They belonged to something. They were respected. They knew that no matter what, they would be sheltered, fed, and paid. One of the hardest, if not the hardest, phase they will go through in their transition is embracing a civilian world that may not be as endearing to what they’ve done, as they may have expected.

The military gave them a structure and forced them to abide by it. They did so and received the benefits of it in return. In “the civilian world” it is up to them to create a structure that works best for their needs and to establish themselves in a market where their skills will allow them to receive those same benefits in return. With the right research, resources, and effort, this will all be made possible to them… a strategy embraced and encouraged through Christian HELP… a strategy threaded by empowerment.

As a whole and consistent with economic reality, transitioning military personnel are hit hard when it comes to finding an appropriate job. Determined by the Veterans Career Confidence Index, 78% of veterans are not confident about finding a job that meets their abilities, meaning less than 22% actually do feel secure. Held by the keyword “confidence,” when asked, the most important skills veterans felt they gained in the military were intangible skills: self-discipline, attention to detail, teamwork, decision making, problem solving, respect, calm under stress, multi-tasking, and willingness to help others.

Four-fifths of employers agree that their company will hire the best talent regardless of veteran status. Many employers refer to several intangible skills veterans bring to the work place, such as, self-discipline, teamwork, attention to detail, and more. The key to transitioning success is clear: effective translation of tangible military skills to business-use gives veterans a leg up. Here resides strategic maneuvering and the essence of an American culture driven to do the “right thing.”

Keeping it real, conclusion

When it comes to doing the right thing for those loyal to our safety, security, and freedom, action begins on the micro-level… at the you and me level. Wishing never to shy away from responsibility while de-clashing expectations and reality, Education Career Services’ newest hire, John, is a recent veteran who also happens to be an outstanding writer. John’s influence and perspective will prove to be beneficial during Central Florida Jobs Initiative efforts as well as for those unable to attend classes but desire the collective books, including the most recent Veteran Transition is the Mission book(s) offered through Education Career Services.

Anyone who has served their country is a hero, and should be treated as such” can no longer be a social-numbing rationalizing mantra designed to justify misplaced stereotypes. From this point forward, the journey from the military world onto the civilian world must be paved with compassion; compassion defining America and all the people proud to be an American.

Christian HELP deployed a six-session workshop designed to connect the unemployed, underemployed, and military personnel to companies seeking quality candidates ready for hire. The complete and intense workshop goes beyond the surface of simply finding a job. As opposed to template classroom sessions and courseware, each participant takes an active role onto a journey so succinctly stated by a recent graduate as: “The most effective career tool I’ve ever been involved with.”

Without hesitation or debate, veterans are saddled by challenges, mostly phantom ones created by civilian unfamiliarity; herein resides the crack gapping veteran expectations and civilian realitya gap needing eviction.

Education Career Services is proud to partner with Christian HELP and the Central Florida Jobs Initiative. For those interested in career management courseware, full length books, or employment-targeted booklets, go to www.edu-cs.com for a complete listing of available military and non-military support.

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Author, Publisher, Nationally Recognized Speaker
Follow Me on Twitter #dannyatecs
Education Career Services for civilian and transitioning military career: www.edu-cs.com