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Family Matters Blog: Spouses Praise New Employment Program

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2011 – Yesterday, I attended the launch of the Defense Department’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Through this new program, officials hope to expand career opportunities for military spouses worldwide, and to recognize the numerous job skills and talents they bring to the table.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Dr. 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
  

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

More than 70 employers already have signed on with the partnership, signifying their commitment to increase employment opportunities for military spouses, provide promotion opportunities to deserving spouse employees, ensure pay equity and spread the word about spousal support.

Partners also have pledged to post job opportunities on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Web portal located on ourmilitary.mil.

After the ceremony, I spoke with several military spouses, who unanimously voiced their approval of this new program.

“We have very valuable skills to bring to the private sector, the public sector, the nonprofit sector,” said Navy spouse Vivian Greentree. “This employment partnership is just opening a door where there wasn’t one before, and the military spouses are going to rush through it.

“This is a very powerful message for military spouses who by and large feel mostly discriminated against because of their military spouse status,” she added.

Pamela Stokes-Eggleston, spouse of wounded warrior retired Army Staff Sgt. Charles Eggleston, recalled when her husband was recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She was laid off at the time, and had a tough time finding a job with a wounded warrior husband, she said, and also was considered overqualified for most available jobs.

“There wasn’t this kind of support you see here today,” she said. “I’m excited as a spouse of a wounded warrior that MSEP is actually going. This is a good step in the right direction.”

Air Force spouse Sandy Cazares said she has changed careers several times during her husband’s 10-year military career. “It’s great to give military spouses the opportunity to actually be heard,” she said, “to be given the chance to be able to be recognized for our accomplishments, our education level, and also take into account the fact that it’s often out of our hands when we have to move.”

Her husband, she added, is preparing to deploy and she will have to pursue yet another career to provide a better work-life balance for their children.

“I think this is a great opportunity for all military spouses -- a greatly underappreciated population in the military,” Cazares’ husband said. “Seeing that now, regardless of what base we move to around the world, she has opportunities is a great advancement for military spouses in general.”

Kristi Hamrick, an Air Force spouse who has moved 11 times in 17 years, agreed. “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. 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.”

Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon’s office of family policy/children and youth, also lauded the new program. “We’ve had spouse employment programs over the years at family support centers, but this is the first organized program across the military services,” she said. “It’s leveraging all of the military services to get these corporations.

“This is just the opening for all America to step up to the plate to tap into this incredible work force."

For more on this program, read my American Forces Press Service article, DOD Launches Military Spouse Employment Partnership, or visit ourmilitary.mil.

 

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