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Allyn: Soldiers bring talent, ethics to private workforce

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 07, 2015) -- During the next six to eight years, the Army will draw down by some 250,000 Soldiers. Continued sequestration will mean an additional 15,000 Soldiers could also be involuntarily separated.

Those well-trained, skilled Soldiers will need jobs when they take off their uniform for the last time. During the Veterans Initiative Summit, in Washington, D.C., Oct. 7-8, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel B. Allyn challenged industry to find jobs for those veterans in the private sector.

Allyn warned that sequestration is going to bring with it involuntary separations. The programmed drawdown of 250,000 Soldiers will happen through attrition. But sequestration-related separations will mean that combat-experienced, developed Army leaders in the middle ranks, with anywhere from 10 to 15 years of service, will be asked to leave before their time.

"These are not poor performers," Allyn said. "These are Soldiers that in a larger Army would continue to deliver high-potential for the future. We have trained them, and they are ready, and they are available to those smart enough to bring them aboard."

Allyn told several hundred industry representatives - many hiring managers for private-sector companies - that bringing veteran Soldiers on board provides companies with skills and talent that might take them years to develop in-house.

"Our veterans today have served their nation throughout 14 years of war," he said. "They are adaptive and creative thinkers, skilled in over 150 specialties. They are experienced leaders who are accustomed to building and leading diverse teams to solve complex problems for the nation, and they are resilient. Simply put, they are the finest team of Soldiers ever assembled."

He promised those hiring managers that what veterans brought to the nation and the Army as uniformed-Soldiers, they can also bring to private industry as employees.

"Your commitment to our veterans will pay huge dividends - for them, for your companies, for our communities, and for our nation," Allyn said.

ACCESSING SOLDIERS

While many businesses want to hire Soldiers to work for them, not all businesses are familiar with how to make that happen. Allyn said that private-sector businesses that want to become involved in hiring veteran Soldiers ought to become familiar with the Army's Soldier for Life program.

Part of the Soldier for Life program is helping Soldiers prepare for post-Army civilian employment. To do that, the program partners with organizations and companies representing government agencies, non-government organizations, and private companies to train and hire transitioning Soldiers.

Examples of some Soldier for Life-related 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.

As 250,000 Soldiers leave the Army throughout the next six to eight years, Allyn said there will be a "target-rich environment" from which private-sector companies can pluck valuable talent.

"Our career skills program we run at many of our major installations enables internships, enables our Soldiers to begin that transitioning process up to six months prior to their end of service," Allyn said. "And they can actually be working as a part of your workforce as they are making that transition."

The general said while there are numerous programs at installations throughout the United States, there could be more.

"There is a lot more room for you to partner with our team and build some momentum that will actually create a mainstream flow of highly-talented leaders for your organization," he said.

MYTHS

Private sector companies don't need employees who are dependent on a hierarchy, or who are afraid to challenge the status quo. Allyn said Soldiers will not be either of those types of employees. Soldiers, he said, are adaptable and are unafraid to challenge assumptions.

Drawing a chuckle from his audience, Allyn admitted that in his own job at the Pentagon, he's no stranger to having subordinates challenge his own authority. It's "challenged on a regular basis ... I am thankful for it," he said.

Instead, he said, the Army trains leaders "to speak truth to power ... that means that they challenge in many cases conventional wisdom. And they are taught to think about the second- and third-order effects of one-off decisions."

In the Army, he said "we are paid to solve problems. And that tends to be the focus we deliver."

Army leaders, he said, are capable of operating both within, and outside of a hierarchy.

During the last 14 years of combat, he said, the Army has seen "lieutenants that have to become city managers - lieutenants that have to work with governors, and city and province officials. They are pretty comfortable going from the tactical to the strategic and back on a regular basis."

He said Army-trained leaders are comfortable in both a hierarchical and unstructured environment.

"What I think they will bring to you is, if you have no organization with which you are trying to attack a problem, they will organize a team for success to solve really hard and complex problems - because organization helps more than it hurts, in my experience," he said.

MORE THAN SKILL OR TALENT

Allyn said that Soldiers can bring even more than leadership or skill to an employer. Soldiers can also bring with them the bedrock of what allows the Army to operate: ethics.

"Our Army values are at the core of who we are," he said. "It's really what has enabled us to earn the trust of the American people. It's a trust that we know is revocable. So there is this daily accountability to who we are as a profession, and who we are as professionals. So for us, when we talk about loyalty, it is unconditional. When we talk about trust, it is unconditional. When we talk about duty, it is what enables you to have faith that when you give a mission to a veteran, they are going to see it through - because they know no other way."