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DOD Launches Military Spouse Employment Partnership

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2011 – In an effort to address military spouses’ employment challenges, the Defense Department today launched a program to expand career opportunities for military spouses worldwide, and to recognize the skills and talents they bring to the employment table.

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Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talk during the kickoff of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., June 29, 2011. Mullen's wife, Deborah, spoke at the event. The partnership promotes meaningful, long-term employment opportunities between America's employers and military spouses. DOD photo by Linda Hosek

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Flanked by military spouses and corporate leaders, top government and military officials unveiled the Military Spouse Employment Partnership during a ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here. The partnership encompasses more than 70 employers who have committed to opening their doors to spouse employment.

In remarks at the event, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, lauded military spouses for their service and sacrifice as they juggle households, children, volunteer work and jobs -- many times in the midst of deployments.

Due to their ability to thrive despite multiple challenges and demands, she noted, military spouses possess the qualities highly sought after by employers, such as dedication, flexibility, a strong work ethic and “endless energy.”

“If you’re looking for hard-working, highly skilled and educated, dedicated employees,” Biden said, “our military spouses are precisely the employees you need.

“Every day our military spouses are giving back to our country,” she added. “While their loved ones are called to serve, they serve right alongside them. Now we must serve them as well as they serve us.”

Deborah Mullen, who was accompanied to the event by her husband, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, acknowledged the difficulties military spouses face in finding jobs. Many spouses, she noted, are turned away for jobs, not due to their qualifications or training, but due to the frequent moves their service member spouse is required to make.

“More than one spouse has told me, ‘All I wanted was to get in the door to be able to be judged on my merits, my qualifications and my strengths,” she said. But in many cases, she noted, they are unable to even score an interview.

“They aren’t asking of rules to be broken or regulations to be cast aside,” she said. “They know the economy is tough out there … This isn’t about entitlement for them; this is about opportunity.

“Military spouses just want the same shot as everyone else,” she added.

Only 1 percent of the nation serves, comprising about 2.2 million service members, Mullen said, and about half of them are married to someone seeking a job. And most of those job seekers are women, she noted, “educated resilient, serious women who possess strong values and even stronger work ethic.”

The partnership launched today signifies a positive step toward employing these highly skilled spouses, Biden said. “We’re making it a little easier for them to find work, and perhaps a little less frightening for new employers to take that gamble and find the talent so resident in our ranks,” she said.

But the work is just beginning, Biden noted. Today, the Defense Department launches the partnership, she said, and “tomorrow, we must make that partnership work.”

Dr. Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, lauded the partnership, noting that programs like this didn’t exist when he joined the Marine Corps in the 1960s. He recalled a time when he and his wife had to watch their spending, unsure of whether or not she’d have a job at the next duty station.

Today, there’s an abundance of programs aimed at supporting military families, and their welfare is taken into consideration at every level of command, Stanley said. The partnership is a significant commitment toward that military family care and, he added, “a big deal” for spouses and employers.

The event also marked the inclusion of 15 new employers who signed onto the partnership today.

Leaders from each company stepped forward to sign a statement of support, signifying a pledge to:

-- Increase employment opportunities for military spouses, while maintaining employment for relocating spouses;

-- Provide career promotion opportunities for military spouses who are excelling at their jobs;

-- Ensure pay equity for military spouses commensurate with their level of training, work experience, accomplishments and credentials; and

-- Spread the word about spousal support throughout the military and corporate America.

Partners also are pledging to post job opportunities on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Web portal located on OurMilitary.mil at http://www.ourmilitary.mil.

The partnership program evolved from the Army Spouse Employment Program, through which more than 100,000 military spouses have been hired since 2003, explained Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.

“As [this program] continues to grow, just think about what this partnership can do for our spouses, for our military,” he said.

Retired Army Brig. Gen. Gary Profit, senior director of military recruiting for Walmart, one of the program’s partners, noted the importance of caring for military families in all sectors of society.

“As a retired Army officer, and with a spouse that followed me around the world for 31 years, it’s an opportunity to give back to those with whom we had the privilege of serving,” he said of the partnership. “It’s an important public and private partnership we have to honor the service and sacrifice of military spouses who have served very much as their uniformed member serves.”

Military spouses also voiced their approval of the program.

“It will make our lives as military spouses so much easier, because right before you move, there’s that ramp up of getting that resume ready and all that on top of moving,” said Kristi Hamrick, an Air Force spouse who has moved 11 times in 17 years. “If you can get a job where you have another job waiting on the other end … that would reduce so much stress.”

“I’m overwhelmed,” added Jennifer Pilcher, wife of Navy Cmdr. Eddie Pilcher. “I truly think it’s the first time in history that the military spouse has been recognized. To sit here and hear the program is for us is overwhelming and exciting.”


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Related Sites:
Military OneSource
Partnership Links Military Spouses to Employers
Special Report: Strengthening Our Military Families

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDr. Jill Biden greets audience members at the Military Spouse Employment Partnership kick-off at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., June 29, 2011. The partnership promotes meaningful, long-term employment opportunities between America's employers and military spouses. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDeborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses audience members at the Military Spouse Employment Partnership kickoff at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., June 29, 2011. The partnership helps promote meaningful, long-term employment opportunities between America's employers and military spouses. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley  
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Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

7/13/2011 2:16:08 PM
Kim, I do believe that the government should continue to help military spouses find jobs because of the nature of the path they have chosen. It is a small community that needs to be addressed within the military community. I don’t think the rest of the world really cares one way or the other but it is a major concern for military spouses and their husbands/wives. We should get the opinions of the military member and see how they feel. The military member is the one that has to foot the bill for everything when the spouse cannot find a job and really wants to work.
- Marico , Cannon AFB

7/4/2011 11:29:17 AM
Marico, you'll notice that this initiative wasn't announced all over the major news networks - I imagine there's a very good reason for that. Look, I'm a veteran, a military spouse and the mother of a service member. I know the challenges very well but I don't expect any priority treatment because of what my husband does! The company for which I currently work just discontinued tuition assistance to employees (they never offered tuition assistance to spouses of employees), froze all pay raises and quarterly recognition monetary awards. The shareholders demanded this. Do you think government entities should continue to create programs for which there is no financing (such as the $4k for spouses for continuing education)? Do you believe that military spouses deserve priority hiring simply because we married a service member? Military families are special but they are no better than civilian families making ends meet on minimum wage.
- Kim, virginia

7/3/2011 8:01:31 PM
Kim, I just want to remind you that this "very small, very costly population" deserves just as much of a shot at a job as "regular" civilians do. We may not have the luxury of staying in one place for years on end, or have the opportunity to attend school due to the fact that some just don't have the financial means to do so; moving every 2-3 years at a minimum therefore not being able to finish out a degree (unless it's an Associates, and something you are wanting to do). We face many hardships that other spouses do not. We aren't just handed these things, we earn them too. I believe that having medical and dental care is just as much of a privilege as it is for our husbands to be serving. They (and us wives) are making sacrifices that normal civilians aren't making.
- Meagan, North Carolina

6/30/2011 5:14:29 PM
Kim in Virgina, It saddens my heart that you feel that way.
- Marico Sellers, NM

6/30/2011 1:32:55 PM
An individual chooses to work within the military environment. The spouse chooses to marry the individual who has chosen to work within the military environment. No other employer at their shareholder’s expense goes out and knocks on doors to say, “hire my employee’s spouse” and without the consent of the shareholder to boot. The Department of Defense needs to stay in the business of defense and discontinue catering to this very small, very costly population (military family medical, dental, $4k for continuing education, hire a military spouse). This type of spending needs to be put on a ballot for America (remember? the ones paying the bills) to decide.
- Kim, Virginia

6/30/2011 11:46:14 AM
I felt good as a military spouse after reading this article. The military is making steps toward trying to recognize the military spouse. I am a veteran and have been a military spouse for 10 years. It is a little easier for me to find find jobs on base because of my veteran status but it is still a challenge. As Kristi Hamrick stated in the news article it would be nice to have a job at your forwarding base before leaving the old base. I know about the hardships of starting over everytime you go to a new base. It is tough and employers don't want to hire someone that they know will be gone in 2-4 years. I hope this partnership is a great and lasting one. I am excited about this and maybe I will be able to benefit from this partnership at our next move.
- Marico Sellers, Cannon AFB, NM

6/30/2011 9:09:14 AM
As the wife of an Army retiree who served 22 years-he had been in 3 years when we married-I'm heartened to see the DoD and govt in general finally acting like they care about soldiers' families. How well troops can focus on their duties is directly related to how well their families are doing. The struggles of military families, deployed or not, are much different and much more intense than for most civilians and this program is a definite step in the right direction. It's way past time for the civilian population and business owners to quit waving The Flag and saying, "look at me, I support our troops", and actually take some action.
- Janette, South Carolina

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