Posted: Apr 12, 2013 9:38 PM by Drew Trafton - MTN News
BILLINGS- When Montana National Guardsmen and women return from a tour in Afghanistan or Iraq, it's the faces in the crowd and not the familiar landscape that makes the moment of their homecoming special.
But after reunions and a chance to enjoy some of the freedoms they've been working to preserve, making the transition back to civilian life can be a struggle--particularly when it comes to finding employment in a sputtering economy.
SPC Lukus Collins says it was inconsistency in the workforce motivating his decision making following his first tour more than two years ago.
"I was unable to find a job (when I returned) and maybe that is kind of the reason I went on those deployments and, also, for the comradery of the other soldiers being deployed," said Collins.
Collins returned in March following yet another tour in Afghanistan with the 484th Military Police Company of the Montana National Guard. However, this time around he's feeling positive about his chances when it comes to landing a job in the private sector.
Collins' confidence stems from the local implementation of the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. The act lays the groundwork for the implementation of a Department of Labor workshop for returning soldiers looking for success in post-military service.
"It gives these soldiers an opportunity to better hone their skills in job seeking and résumé building and where to find jobs," said Montana National Guard representative MAJ Tim Crowe.
Collins was amongst about 50 other soldiers attending the 3day conference, just the second class offered since the program began in Montana this past November.
Many of the returned soldiers, who served in military police and engineering companies, expressed interest in law enforcement opportunities as well as apprenticeships in manual labor. But several others weren't being very particular when it came to seeking employment.
"I didn't even really start thinking about getting a job until probably around last week," said SPC John Thomas. "And I found out my wife is pregnant. So, I kind of had to get up in a hurry on that."
Crowe says although it's still too early to statistically analyze the success of the workshops, he could list several examples highlighting how beneficial the VOW Act has been, not only the soldiers, but for local employers as well.
"Just this morning I received a call from an employer that is seeking soldiers to hire," said Crowe. "They've already hired two and they're looking to hire another one."
Ultimately, Crowe says he would chalk up that success to the caliber of soldier produced in Montana's National Guard.
"I know I could call any one of these guys up and tell them, ‘There's a fire in Harlowton and we need you to go and work security,' and they'd be there. That's just the type of people they are."
If you are a perspective employer and would like to learn more about the VOW program, you can call MAJ Chad Roudebush at (406) 324-5401, or you can send him an email at( email@example.com ).