By September, nearly 1,700 veterans from the 116th Cavalry Brigade will be returning home to family, friends, and unemployment rates at 7 and 8.5 percent in Bonneville and Bannock counties, respectively. To help those veterans transition, the state is turning its Hire One” act into Hire One Vet.
From Idaho Falls to Pocatello and the surrounding areas, 300 to 400 soldiers will be coming home. So far, about 70 have reported that they will need a job. But that number has room to grow, said Ron Tapia, veterans’ representative with the Idaho Department of Labor. Tapia is a veteran, too.
“When I got out the military, it (was) kind of like, ‘OK you’re getting out. Enjoy these benefits.’ But they didn’t tell us how to use them, how to approach them, how to go after them, and we didn’t know about job opportunities,” he said.
The issue was emphasized Wednesday night at a town hall meeting in Pocatello, where other veterans came to show their support. One of them was Master Sgt. Jim Blake, who said, after the 116th’s first deployment, there was no concentration on job placement. The National Guard does not want to make that mistake again.
“Now, that doesn’t mean we expect people to just hire them on the spot. If people are looking for employees, and they’re qualified and meet the needs of the employer or the business, then yeah, we just hope that we can give them an extra opportunity to fill out an application or maybe get an interview,” Blake said.
He said it is important for the community, too. “To come out and physically do something, I think it’s a great opportunity for our brother and sister citizens of this country to be involved in what I call Team America, because we’re all in it together,” Blake said.
The guard will work alongside people like Tapia, who will be helping any way he can, from critiquing resumes to connecting vets to resources.
“And this is one way the community’s stepping up. And we’re working to say, ‘OK, here are opportunities. Come see us and we’ll tell you how to work within the system,’ — contrary to when I got out of the service in ’77,” Tapia said.
He added that while this will help, it does not take away from the competitiveness of today’s job market. The soldiers exact return date is still classified.