Reporting for Duty
Retired Army Sgt. Tony Germain served a 15- month tour in Afghanistan.
Now, after he was medically retired from the military on Oct. 2, he’s embarking on a new mission stateside as he pursues the next step in his career.
Germain is now a full-time student at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. The Gloversville resident began his studies in January and is working toward getting his associate degree in business administration.
Next he plans to attend a four-year university to earn his bachelor’s in business administration with an emphasis on human resources.
Navigating the job market hasn’t been easy for many over the past 5 1/2 years as the nation weathered a recession.
For veterans, adjusting to civilian life can be a challenge, and figuring out what career to pursue is part of that.
However, there are many resources for men and women in the armed forces to help them through their career path during and after active duty.
Also, employers who hire veterans are eligible for tax credits and incentives.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center is hosting a job fair for veterans on the VA Campus at 67 Veterans Way.
According to a news release, parking will be available in the Albany Medical Center garage. Attendees should use the New Scotland Avenue entrance.
The event will be open to active duty service members, reservists, National Guard and veterans of all eras.
VA Spokesman Peter Potter said the job fairs, hosted quarterly now, are a great opportunity for veterans to network with other professionals, and sometimes job seekers are hired on the spot.
“Last year we saw a really big influx [of attendees],” Potter said. “The businesses were very happy, and we base [success] on what the employers and the veterans say.”
More than 70 employers from the Capital Region are signed up to be at this job fair. The last one attracted 300 veterans and about 65 employers.
The opportunities are varied. The list of employers looking to connect with veterans ranges from Kimberley’s A Day Spa in Latham to tech companies like GlobalFoundries in Malta. Albany Broadcasting will be there, as will Time Warner Cable, Aflac, Amphenol Aerospace and more.
Germain said while he was stationed at Fort Drum in Watertown he attended job fairs as he decided what to do with his career.
“It’s really important to have [job fairs] because there are cases when someone gets hired on the spot,” Germain said.
Germain joined the National Guard in 2005. In 2007 he switched to active duty. His first duty station was in Fort Hood, Texas. He served in Afghanistan from April 2008 to July 2009. He transferred to Fort Drum, but due to medical injuries he wasn’t able to deploy again. Then he was permanently medically retired in 2012.
Opportunities in the private sector and federal and state government will be available at the job fair.
“[These employers] know that veterans are tried, tested and true. It’s not that they should be held in higher regard than others in society, but we’re talking about a group of people who are used to waking up at 2 a.m., and they’ve got accountability and responsibility that’s been tested,” Potter said.
Veterans who attend the fair appreciate the varied opportunities, Potter said. Not all veterans are looking to pursue a college degree, while veterans who do have college educations will find opportunities.
Some employers are looking for veterans who have skills in different trades.
“There’s a marketing pitch out there that the only way to be successful is to go get a college degree and then worry about working. But we have administrative support, technicians in the hospital, that with a certain amount of schooling, they can be making a very good salary and have a good career. It’s about the trades – it’s not just about having a college degree,” Potter said.
Soldiers could apply for Tuition Assistance in pursuing higher education. However, effective Friday, the Secretary of the Army approved a suspension of the Tuition Assistance program, meaning soldiers no longer are permitted to submit new requests for tuition assistance, according to the website www.goarmyed.com.
Soldiers currently enrolled in courses approved for tuition assistance are not affected and can complete their current courses.
The suspension applies to all soldiers, including Army National Guard and Army Reserves.
According to the website, the Army will re-evaluate the suspensions if its budgetary situation improves.
Other options for tuition assistance are still available, and soldiers should contact their local education centers and check the website to get updated information, according to the notice on www.goarmyed.com.
Germain said he joined the military at age 32 hoping to get structure and discipline in his life.
It worked, and he went from working at his landlord’s hardware store in Maine to ranking as a sergeant in the U.S. Army.
Before that, the Gloversville native worked at Lexington and Liberty ARCs. In Maine he worked with physically and sexually abused children, so his background in human services and the leadership skills gained in the military contributed to his choice to pursue a business career.
“It’s being able to follow orders and work with others as a team to get whatever the mission was accomplished, and get it accomplished in a timely fashion – usually less time than was required,” Germain said.
On a resume, that translates to teamwork and being able to meet deadlines under pressure.
“You learn to take no for an answer as little as possible. If somebody tells you no on something, whatever it might be, it’s not just letting it go and reporting back to your leadership, ‘this person said we couldn’t do it, so it’s not going to get done.’ You go some other way to get it done,” Germain said.
In the workplace, that’s critical-thinking skills, and the ability to remain intrepid in the face of the word “no” can be a useful skill in sales and marketing.
Potter said the VA has volunteers available to help veterans adjust their resumes.
At the job fair there will also be resources available for veterans at risk of homelessness.
Potter noted homelessness doesn’t necessarily mean living on the street. It could be a veteran who is sleeping on a friend’s sofa or staying with a relative – someone who needs help getting back on his or her feet.
“Sometimes that’s all you need. That temporary hand up that gets you back on track to where you need to go,” Potter said.
The job fair is sponsored by the VA Medical Center Vocational Services, The Federal Executive Association, Albany Housing Coalition, Soldier On and VET HELP, all of which will be available to talk to veterans.
Veterans should bring their resumes, VA or Military ID and DD214s.
“Brush up the resume. Clean it up and make sure it’s updated and has a good flow. There should be no gaps in dates,” Potter said.
Potter said they also can see what medical care they’re eligible for at the event.
Veterans just coming back from combat or active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan can get five years of free VA care and 120 days of dental care, Potter said.
It’s hard to say how long someone should wait after serving active duty to jump back into the job market.
Germain said it’s really a personal decision.
“Once I was discharged from the military I took a few months just to try and sit back. I still had money from vacation time that I was owed. I was allowed to collect unemployment,” Germain said.
But he said adjusting back to civilian life can be eased by joining veterans groups and keeping in contact with what he called a “second family” in the people he served with.
“One of the biggest things is just taking the time to re-acclimate yourself into civilian life. It’s a 180 degree difference between military and the civilian world,” Germain said.
He said a simple planned welcoming party can help tremendously when a soldier comes home.
“The welcoming of them back is probably one of the most important things as far as morale and helping them back into life on the home front,” he said.
Incentives for employers
Employers who hire veterans can be eligible for several tax incentives. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a Federal tax credit for private-sector businesses and some non-profits that hire certain people, including veterans, who have faced problems in finding employment. The program helps employees move from economic dependency to self-sufficiency as they earn a steady income while the employer reduces its federal taxes, according to the website www.benefits.va.gov.
There’s also the Special Employer Incentives program, which reimburses up to 50 percent of a veteran’s salary during the program. The program also covers additional expenses incurred for the cost of instruction, any loss of production and additional supplies and equipment.
According to the website, the program requires minimal paperwork by the company, and the company will get VA support during training and placement follow-up to help with work or training needs, as well as several other benefits.
The Returning Heroes & Wounded Warrior Tax Credit program was renewed this year by federal lawmakers.
That tax credit provides the following benefits:
-Businesses that hire veterans who were looking for work for at least four weeks – but less than six months – are eligible for a tax credit of up to $2,400 per veteran.
-Businesses that hire a service-related disabled veterans discharged from active duty within a year can earn $4,800 per hired veteran.
-Businesses that hire a veteran who has been looking for a job for at least six months receive a tax credit worth up to $5,600.
-Business that hire a veteran who has been looking for work for at least six months – and has a service-related disability – are eligible for a $9,600 tax credit.
News Editor Amanda May Metzger coordinates the Business section. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.