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National Guard service linked to Employment

ARLINGTON,Va -- Serving in the National Guard and Reserve may be one way to improve employment opportunities, according to a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.t08.htm)

The report, released by this country's definitive authority on employment issues, stated that Gulf War II-era veterans "who were current or past members of the Reserve and National Guard had an unemployment rate of 7.2 percent." Those vets not affiliated with the Reserve components, the report added, experienced a 13.7 percent unemployment rate. The national average stands at 7.6 percent.

These findings come as no surprise to Col. Wendul Hagler, who works directly for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen Frank J. Grass.

"The National Guard is aggressively fighting unemployment for its members across the country," Hagler said. "As a result, our employment rate is about the same as the rest of the nation and even better in certain states and professions," added Hagler. "That's good to know because when our leaders need to call on the National Guard, they don't need to worry about causing employment problems."

National Guard leaders across the nation are leveraging federal and state-unique programs to assist members in the job search. This includes assistance in resume writing, organizing and hosting job fairs - even engaging employers to promote hiring Guard members and the veteran community as a whole.

The National Guard has partnered with multiple agencies to mitigate Guard member employment issues, noted Jim Lamback, the National Guard Bureau's Employer Support Branch chief. The Defense department's Hero-to-Hired (H2H) program, he said, leverages a powerful job search site and online community at no cost to veterans, service members, or employers.

In Missouri alone, more than 4,000 Guard members have embraced federal programs like the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program and Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, and state initiatives like the Show-Me Heroes Program.

Missouri's success, according to Maj. Gen Steve Danner, adjutant general, began with consolidating family and warrior support programs at their state headquarters in Jefferson City. The move, Danner noted, allowed them maximize responsible resource management and avoid duplication of effort. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Missouri National Guard has supported nearly 17,600 individual deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Sinai, Qatar and areas around the world.

"Soldiers and Airmen put on the uniform to protect the nation abroad during war and to protect their communities during times of natural disaster," Danner said. "When they aren't wearing the uniform, they're also protecting our national security interests by contributing to our economy through civilian employment. Just as we wouldn't send a Soldier to war without a weapon or send an Airman to fight a flood without a sandbag, we want to make sure we're outfitting our Guardsmen for success in the civilian job market."

Missouri isn't the only National Guard state making a concerted effort to find their Guard men and women employment.

· In South Carolina, the Department of Employment and Workforce Development have been partnered with the South Carolina National Guard since October 2011. Their efforts have placed more than 1,100 Guard members, saved the state $9.3 million in unemployment benefits, and reduced National Guard unemployment rates from 16% to 3.9%.

· The Michigan National Guard continues to develop partnerships with community colleges, trade unions / associations, state agencies, and other professional organizations to provide job and career training to award appropriate credentials upon graduation from programs. A recent partnership apprenticeship program conducted at Camp Grayling graduated 20 gas transmission technicians.

· The Florida Guard Family Career Connection uses Army Guard Soldiers to identify unemployed Guard members at the unit level. These individuals are then connected with their local federal and state employment representatives. To date, the Florida National Guard unemployment rate is 6.2%, 2% lower than the civilian population.

· The Tennessee National Guard Employment Enhancement Program provides one-on-one support to assist individuals in writing effective resumes, interview techniques, and proven methods of gaining employment. They also push out "job blasts" identifying employment opportunities. State leadership is provided with listings of unemployed Guardsmen on a monthly basis. Their National Guard's unemployment rate has been reduced by 15%.

"We're making a difference, there's no doubt about it," Lamback insisted. "We also have a commitment to take care of our folks and that's important."

Employing a National Guard member, Hagler observed, is a mutually beneficial proposition.  "Hiring a member of the National Guard helps employers," he said. "Our people know the importance of being on time. They know how to lead and follow, and they are mission-oriented critical thinkers."

National Guard employers seemingly agree. The Department of Labor, who handles Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act queries, reported a 40 percent decrease in National Guard complaints since 2010.

"Unemployment is a readiness issue for Guard and Reserve members," Hagler said. "While our rate is on par with the general population, we're not satisfied. Leaders at all levels are focused on helping our brothers and sisters find the jobs they need."