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DoD Program Making Strides in Providing Wounded Troops Jobs

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2005 – A program designed to help wounded veterans find meaningful civilian jobs is paying off by enabling some to use their military expertise to ensure their former comrades are getting the quality weaponry they need in combat.

Since becoming a partner in the Defense Department's "Hire a Hero" program last summer, the Defense Contract Management Agency has hired five permanent employees as well as two volunteers who lend their talents while undergoing rehabilitation, Nancy Adams, the agency's program director, told the American Forces Press Service.

DoD established the program last December to encourage agencies to develop hiring programs for severely wounded troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, explained Mark Smith, chief of DoD's recruiting assistance division.

Since then, the program has grown rapidly, with three DoD-sponsored job fairs at Walter Reed and Brooke Army medical centers during the last 12 months that attracted more than 500 severely injured servicemembers and their spouses, Smith said.

The next job fair, to be sponsored by the Military Severely Injured Center, is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 30 at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Adams called the Hire a Hero program a "win-win" for the Defense Contract Management Agency. It benefits the agency as well as wounded troops who have valuable experience to lend, particularly in support of the agency's quality-assurance mission, she said.

Many of the wounded troops are "really well-qualified to work in our agency," Adams said, noting that their personal experience with weapons systems ranging from M16 rifles to Abrams tanks makes them invaluable in conducting quality assurance on those systems.

"They're perfectly suited to work the flip side in factories, inspecting that equipment," she said. "It's a logical follow-on, and their skills are absolutely transferable."

Because its offices are spread across the country and directly support the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, DCMA is a natural fit for wounded veterans seeking to apply their experience in a meaningful way that benefits other servicemembers, Adams said.

At the same time, the program is helping DCMA carry out a critical mission while giving it a way to support wounded troops, said Angela Bailey, executive director of the agency's human resources office. "Our approach is simple. We're focused on assisting America's wounded veterans after their selfless service to our nation and allies," she said.

"We're not taking tiny steps with this program," Bailey said. "We're jumping in with both feet."

To promote the program, DCMA has formed partnerships with DoD's Recruiting Assistance Division, the Military Severely Injured Center and various military medical centers. These include Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington; the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.; Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; and Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Wash.

These partnerships provide direct access to veterans with service-connected disabilities looking for employment, career advancement and job mobility.

Some of these veterans are looking for nothing more than to get out of their hospital beds and do some meaningful work as they recuperate, Bailey said.

Veterans seeking to participate in the program have different injuries and backgrounds but share a common goal: "to go home and have meaningful work," Adams said.

An offshoot of the Hire a Hero program, called "Operation Warfighter," offers recuperating troops being treated at military medical facilities an opportunity to volunteer their services part-time at DCMA facilities. "The program costs DCMA nothing, but is an investment in the future of a disabled veteran," Adams said.

The agency's first Operation Warfighter volunteer, working at the DCMA Headquarters Public Affairs Office in Springfield, Va., is learning firsthand about communications and public affairs while she recovers from her injuries, Adams said.

For more information about DCMA's Hire a Hero program, contact Adams at (703) 428-1050, e-mail nancy.adams@dcma.mil or visit the DoD career opportunities Web site.

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