Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Veterans Transition From Military to Civilian Life


When Stephen Otero made his way to Houston last May, he had a "resume, a few suits and a lot of determination." The Air Force veteran who served as a combat photographer came looking for work and hit pay dirt at a "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair.

Otero is now the public relations director for Security America Mortgage. Not only does the company specialize in home loans for veterans, they're in the business of hiring veterans.

"We like to train veterans to help veterans because it just makes sense," said chief executive officer Garrett Puckett. "They know the lingo."

Veterans bring all kinds of skills from the battlefield to the business world, Puckett said, including attention to detail, the ability to follow through and meet deadlines, and the capability to work under pressure - talents that come in handy in the high-pressure realm of real estate finances.

Director of operations Jason Noble said veterans can enjoy a long career in this type of industry and have the potential to do quite well financially. They already have the skill set, so it's just a matter of business boot camp to prepare them for a different type of front line, this one in the world of loan specialists, mortgage processors, underwriters, and real estate agents for the sister company, Houston-based Security American Realty.

"I've been in the mortgage business for a decade, and I can say the training, licensing, education and support here are second to none," Noble said.
While Security America Mortgage has long been recruiting veterans into corporate America, the company has recently ramped up its efforts as part of a nationwide call to put veterans to work.

During his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said an additional 34,000 troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by early next year. That means they will need jobs. And, in an August 2012 speech, Obama pointed out that "four years ago" there were 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the end of 2012, nearly two-thirds came home. They needed jobs. Obama challenged the private sector to hire or train 100,000 veterans or military spouses, a goal that was not only met, but exceeded.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 29 percent of employers were actively recruiting veterans as of November 2012, up from 9 percent one year earlier. Sweetening the pot are several tax benefits through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program, in some cases worth thousands of dollars.

"Yes, there are tax incentives out there," said Mike Chandler, senior vice president of manufacturing for Dr Pepper Snapple Group. "If not, we would hire veterans anyway. It's the right thing to do."

Chandler was on active duty with the Marines from 1983-1987, followed by three years reserve as a field artillery officer. Now, at Dr Pepper Snapple, Chandler oversees manufacturing at several plants, including Houston.

He and Lain Hancock, executive vice president of human resources, work with recruiting firms to bring senior noncommissioned officers and junior military officers to the private sector. They also partner with online military recruiting organizations and work with the Texas Veterans Commission.

Hancock, a 1992 West Point graduate who served with the Army until 2003 as an aviation branch officer, said they bring in veterans at any number of levels, but most often as production supervisors and district managers.

"They bring the 'can-do' leadership attitude," Hancock said. "We teach them the technical aspects of the job."

Veterans do quite well during the transition from camouflage to white collar, Hancock said, because they know how to adapt to changing environments.

"They have worked with millions of dollars of equipment and have been put into ambiguous situations where they're expected to make decisions based on the training they've received," Hancock said. "They have been given a tremendous amount of responsibility early on in their military career - more so than you might see in someone coming straight out of college."

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