America Supports You: Web Site Shows Troops, Families the Goods
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2006 A new Web site featuring resources for military families hopes to become a one-stop information source for job seekers, coupon hunters and charity backers.
Debbie Gregory, president of Military Connection.com, poses next to a screen shot of her new Web site, MilitaryConnection.com, an information resource for servicemembers and their families, launched Jan. 27.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Launched Jan. 27, MilitaryConnection.com was the brainchild of Debbie Gregory, an experienced executive recruiter who spent six years working as a print advertiser for Defense Department-contracted base newspapers. Gregory said she aimed the site at today's military family.
"I saw that this is an audience that is online a lot. I saw that there were a lot of resources that weren't available to them, and I wanted to do more than just recruitment advertising," she said. "All the databases are free for their use. ... We're not really selling anything."
The site contains several useful features to support the military's unique needs, Gregory said. Links to hospitals, schools, news, state tax boards, yellow pages, a military pay calculator and a "virtual mall," she hopes, will help military families make smoother transitions between duty stations. The site also provides options for help on resumes and advice for what to do at a job interview.
Coupon providers have space on the site, as well, with links to places where families can print out the coupons they need and take them to their local commissaries and exchanges, she said.
The site's home page prominently displays the banner for "America Supports You," a Defense Department program aimed at facilitating grassroots and corporate support of American troops and their families. Gregory said she has been working with several America Supports You member organizations (including CinCHouse, Operation Homefront, Fisher House and Toys for Tots), sharing expertise on how best to serve the military community.
"We talked to military family groups, and this is what they told us they wanted," Gregory said. "Military (families) move a lot, and we've learned so much in working with these organizations. ... When you look at somebody's resume and they've moved a lot, some people don't understand that it wasn't a choice and that they're outstanding candidates."
Gregory said her earlier career placing military people in civilian jobs showed her some big changes in the job market's attitude over the past decade.
"It has gone full circle now," she said. "When I started out in executive search, corporate America wasn't so in tune with how excellent military candidates are. I think today, they're cognizant of it."
Beyond a simple source of advice, Gregory said she hopes her site will become a hub for job seekers looking for companies, and vice versa. In its "virtual job fair," the site contains links to defense contractors, law enforcement agencies, health care companies and others.
Gregory and her group are working on a section featuring restaurant chains, retail chains and insurance companies.
MilitaryConnection.com makes money by selling ads to companies who seek a military audience, many of whom are looking to hire ex-servicemembers. Some of those companies pay to be part of the "featured jobs" section so military members can have access to companies looking specifically for them.
"We're not charging a placement fee or anything like that," she said. "What we're trying to do is put these ads in front of them and connect them."
Gregory said she also hopes to connect the companies that sponsor her site with charities that help servicemembers. She said she provides incentives to help that process along, offering discounts to the sponsors and giving them an opportunity to donate directly to the military-friendly charities featured on her site.
"We can't make them give (the discount) to the charity, but we certainly encourage them, and we put the charities front and center on the site," she said. "If we're a company that works with military, we should be supporting military. And maybe we can lead by example so that our clients might become involved."
The site offers companies the direct donation opportunity for two reasons, Gregory said. She wants no one to doubt whether their money goes where they want it to go, and she sees the value in providing a direct relationship between people supporting the troops, allowing them to interact however they see fit.
"If they wanted to give more, it facilitates that, rather than us being involved in the middle," she said. "That's not our business."
While there is much more to add, already keeping the site on the cutting edge has proven "a challenge," Gregory said, but she believes in her mission wholeheartedly.
"It's a win-win. It's a win for the corporations that advertise because the military candidates are wonderful ... and it's a win-win for the military audience," she said. And it's a win for the charities. If every time we generate income and a little bit can go to them, that's great."