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Another 100,000 troops on road to civilian employment

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Dec. 05, 2014) -- As more Soldiers prepare to transition out of the Army, private-sector businesses continue to make the pledge to put those experienced Service members to work.

For instance, the American Trucking Association recently announced its commitment to hire some 100,000 military veterans as part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "Hiring our Heroes" program.

"There's no higher calling for an American than to serve in our armed forces, and I'd like to think that driving a truck -- delivering America's most essential goods safely and efficiently is also a high calling," said American Trucking Association President and CEO Bill Graves. "That's why we're so proud to be partnering with Hiring Our Heroes and committing on behalf of the trucking industry to hire 100,000 veterans over the next two years."

But the American Trucking Association is just one of multiple private-sector companies that have made such pledges.

"So many organizations and companies representing government agencies, non-government organizations, and private companies have answered our commander in chief's challenge to train and hire our transitioning Service members, veterans, and family members," said Col. Adam L. Rocke, director of the Army's Soldier for Life Program. "Some have committed to specific hiring objectives with each company, while others continue to improve education and wellness opportunities ... including access to various job training, employment skills training, apprenticeships and internships."

Rocke said that there are "hundreds" of organizations and companies that have committed to "recognizing the unique opportunity that Soldiers, veterans, and their family members bring to various sectors within industry."

Other such programs include the Shifting Gears Automotive Technician Training Program; the Veterans in Piping, Welding and HVAC program; the Veterans in Construction (Electric) program; the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades program; the Microsoft Software Engineer Academy program; the Veterans Entering Trucking program; and the National Institute of Sheet Metal Workers program.

Rocke said that the recent budget-related drawdown has caused Army transitions to spike to about 90,000 Soldiers annually. If the Army is not required to draw down below 490,000, he said, transitions should return to the pre-drawdown rate of about 75,000 annually.

Those Soldiers leaving the Army each year are being prepared for civilian life through the Army's Transition Assistance Program, which previously was called the "Army Career and Alumni Program." TAP is now part of Rocke's "Soldier for Life" program.

"The Transition Assistance Program is responsible for the structured transition process that begins 12-18 months prior to transition," Rocke said.

As Soldiers prepare to leave the Army, they are required to enroll in the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program. As part of their involvement in that program, Soldiers learn of job opportunities such as those offered by the ATA, and learn what they must do to take advantage of those programs.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said that while the Army does not find civilian work for Soldiers after they leave service, it does help prepare Soldiers for private-sector jobs. Soldiers themselves, he said, with adequate guidance from the Army and their leadership, must prepare themselves for their futures.

"Soldiers can help themselves," he said. "That's through getting as much civilian education and credentialing opportunities as they can while on active duty. When a Soldier starts, there should be a plan in place for that individual to start working on college after one year of active federal service."