USO program aims to help injured soldiers get back to work – Quad Cities Online

Apr 17, 2012   //   by admin   //   Events, News, Photo  //  No Comments

USO program aims to help injured soldiers get back to work – Quad Cities Online.
ROCK ISLAND — They sat in uniform, about 60 men and women injured as they served their country and now seeking their way back into the workforce.

How to write a resume or how to interview with a prospective employer are tasks the injured veterans did not have to do while stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Monday, they heard tips for both tasks at the inaugural USO Life Skills Resources Program in the Arsenal Golf Club Ballroom, Rock Island Arsenal.

The pilot program — the first of its kind in the country — is designed to support transitioning National Guard and Reserve service members as they leave active duty to secure government or private jobs.

The USO’s employment mentoring program will supplement the Community Based Warrior in Transition Unit – Illinois. The Army says the unit is committed to Wounded Warrior care, with a focus on medical treatment while a soldier is at home.

Monday’s participants included police officers, firefighters, mechanics and construction workers. Now, they must adapt and adjust to injuries received in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“You know, they did physical jobs,” said Army 1st Sgt. John Hersey who helps oversee CBWTU-IL. “Now they’ve got this physical limitation. They can’t return back to that job.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges we have: What are they going to do with the rest of their life?”

There are about 340 members of the CBWTU – IL and nine such units across the country, 1st Sgt. Hersey said. The CBWTU – IL, headquartered at the Arsenal, covers Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.

Jobs are hard to find, especially for veterans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The nation’s 2.4 million Gulf War-era II veterans — those who served on active duty at any time since September 2001 — was 12.1 percent in 2011. That compares to the jobless rate of 8.3 percent for all veterans.

Unemployment among young male veterans 18 to 24 years old who served since September 2001 was 29.1 percent in 2011, according to the federal figures. That’s much higher than the 17.6 percent for young male nonveterans.

The numbers weren’t lost on Monday’s participants.

“I think probably a lot of it has to do with the fact a lot of these folks haven’t been in the civilian workforce, and they’re coming out of uniform for the first time,” said USO of Illinois chairman and chief executive officer John May. “And, so, it’s a challenge.”

Jeff Blackwell, director of Black Hawk College’s economic development center, said the college has a substantial investment in the pilot program.

“Many times, when military people come back, they come back with all the acronyms and all of the ways of doing business that they’ve learned in the military,” he said. “But they have an incredible array of skills — leadership skills — and the ability to process things quickly.

“Those are sometimes hard to translate into a resume or into an interview.”

Mr. Blackwell said this is the first time CBWTU – IL, the USO and BHC have merged their efforts for such a program.

Lindsey Chapman, a group leader and volunteer for CBWTU – IL, has first-hand experience with the program.

Her husband, Army Cpl. Mitch Chapman, was injured in Afghanistan in October 2008 by an improvised explosive device. The DeWitt, Iowa, woman said her husband broke his back, suffered hearing loss and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Through the CBWTU – IL program, she said, her husband is recovering and is back home. She endorsed the program Monday.

“Anybody in the community that is going to support these soldiers, it means so much,” she said.

First Sgt. Hersey said the Army deems family a big part of recovery. He said he believes the USO and Black Hawk College can only add to the CBWTU’s success with injured veterans.

“We have several soldiers who have come to the program and have done internships,” he said. “They’ve received employment at the Arsenal.

“There are other soldiers who have gone back to school to become behavioral health specialists,” he said. “That was one of their challenges, and they really want to give back in that way.”

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