YOU ARE IN THE ARMY NOW
This article is a part of the Las Vegas Review Journal special section, see “Just for Fun” link to the paper.
By Chet Yarbrough for the Las Vegas Review Journal Honor and respect is earned by Army service personnel in the United States and abroad. America’s appreciation for military service does not stop either before a recruit decides to join the Army or at the end of an enlistment.
Local business man and former enlisted Army Intelligence sergeant, Shane Lloyd, gives a firsthand descripton of Army recruitment and eventual transition from military to civilian life. Shane’s High School, Vice Principal helped him with the decision to join the Army. The Vice Principal called Shane into his office and said, “There is someone I want you to meet, an Army recruiter.”
Joining the Army afforded Shane an opportunity to explore and develop strengths he learned from being raised in a challenged family environment. After taking an Army aptitude test and graduating from High School, Shane chose a job in Army Intelligence.
A key to entry into that job classification is aptitude. But, even with aptitude for the job, a candidate must have clean credit and no criminal record. An extensive background search is done before acceptance into Army Intelligence. Company First Sergeant Bula, the Las Vegas Valley and Southern Utah NCO in charge of recruitment, explained, “Any credit problems, drug use, criminal record issues, even misdemeanor crimes, can deny an Army candidate an opportunity to join Army Intelligence.”
Shane served in Intelligence for five years and felt he was at a crossroad; i.e. stay in the military or return to civilian life.
An Army program designed to help veterans transition from military to civilian life is ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program). Jeff Ross, a U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Chief, said “ACAP is a mandatory transition program for all personnel leaving the military”. Shane Lloyd explained that ACAP helped him translate military experience to civilian employment. Ross said, “ACAP shows veterans how to research the job market for their skill set, how to get an employment interview, how to dress for an interview and how to handle interview questions.” ACAP also arranges interviews with local employers (e.g. Police Departments, FBI, PaYS companies, etc.) to talk to veterans about jobs.
Shane went through ACAP. Shane said, “It was challenging.” He said, “I felt a loss of structure when I left the Army.” Shane added, “On the other hand, I didn’t have to go to PT (physical training) at 6:00 am.” His decision to leave the service seemed as big as his decision to join. Shane went to his last duty station at Fort Sill Oklahoma for ACAP orientation (Ft. Irwin in CA is the closest ACAP near Nevada). Shane noted that at discharge the Army gives you a physical, including a dental examination, to insure that discharged veterans are in good health. He said, “ACAP opens your eyes to what you did in the military and what type of job you are qualified to seek.”
Shane said, “I returned to my home town and found my parents no longer lived there.” “I had no home to go back to.” With some nervousness, he wondered, “What do I do now?” He thought about going back into the Army.
Shane said, “I have always been interested in business; why not start my own business?” Shane explained that his job in the military “taught him how to gather information, collate it, make informed decisions, and act decisively”. Because Shane had set up automatic payroll deposits to a bank while in the service; he said, “My credit rating was excellent. “ Shane admitted, even with the help of ACAP, “Transitioning to civilian life makes one feel trapped in a clueless experience.”
Shane said, “It took minutes on the phone with SBA to explain what he was doing and what he wanted to accomplish by starting his own business.” With excellent credit, Shane was able to get a $30,000 loan. As is often the case with new business startups, the business did not pay enough to support him. Shane said, “I supplemented my income by going to work for another company.”
The other company was owned by a military veteran. Shane said, “Because my new employer was a veteran, he knew what I was going through.”
Ross said, “Often employers do not understand what a person with military experience brings to the table.” Shane demonstrated a veteran’s maturity and ability to make decisions with follow through and decisive action.
Shane said, “There is a bond felt with people that have been in the military.” Shane added, “A common experience and understanding make veterans good leaders, decision makers, and followers.” Speaking as an employer, Shane said, “When I interview a potential employee, I know a veteran understands the meaning of the acronym, ‘LDRSHIP’ (loyalty, duty, respect, social service, honor, integrity, and pride).”
Ross explained, “More civilian jobs than government jobs are found by veterans because employment by the government entails a slow and complicated application process.” Ross admitted, “Some veterans choose not to pursue a career as soon as they get out but a veteran needs to stand above the crowd when looking for a job.” He explained that going back to school may be critical. Ross gave the example of Police Departments that say a high school diploma is all that is required when Police Departments are really looking for college graduates.
One of many programs to help veterans transition to a civilian job is the PaYS program. PaYS helps those who are career oriented. Ross gives an example. He said, “A 19 year old wants to be a cop but cannot become one in Las Vegas unless he is 21.” “If a 19 year old chooses to join the Army, he may have the opportunity to join the military police.” LVPD is a PaYS program participant which means that someone who is honorably discharged from the military is guaranteed an interview with the Las Vegas Police Department. Ross said, “This is not a guarantee of a job but it is a foot in the door”. There are 349 companies in the United States that have signed PaYS agreements with the Army. PaYS maintains an internet data base with five year job projections. Every participating company in the PaYS program is required to have a PaYS representative on staff. Every Army veteran is guaranteed an interview with a PaYS company. Ross said, “Every recruit is given the opportunity to be enrolled in PaYS at enlistment”.
Near the end of our meeting, Sergeant Bula said, “I love the Army, and I have been in it for 16 years, beginning as paratrooper and now as a Company 1st Sergeant for Recruitment.” His pitch to young men and women that are interested is, “Come see us; learn what your options are”.
The Army is a storied fighting force. It seeks the “BEST OF THE BEST” in pursuit of making itself better. Recruitment is a complex task designed to create and maintain a modern volunteer military organization. It is a process that begins with community involvement, education outreach, and volunteer pre-qualification; it ends with signed recruits, committed to serve their country.
Sergeant Bula described one of the Army’s community involvement programs. He said, “Local recruitment office personnel visit Las Vegas Valley high schools to offer Army support for general education”. The program is called “March 2 Success”. It is a program for the scholastically gifted as well as the challenged. Without any obligation to the military, the Army offers free help for high school students to prepare and practice SAT, LSAT and other measurement tests taken to qualify students for career employment or continuing education. The goal is to help students graduate from high school, pursue career goals, or go on to higher education which may or may not include military service. With nearly a 50% drop out rate in the Las Vegas Valley, the Army feels it is vital that this support be offered to the public.
Sergeant Bula is looking for “…quality not quantity” when evaluating students that want to become candidates for the Army. School beyond the 12th grade is not for everyone but the Army recognizes that graduation from high school is the single most important step in a student’s journey to adulthood. Without a high school diploma, military enlistment is practically impossible and private sector opportunities are limited. Bula and his staff use community outreach and recruitment goals as a subject for conversation with High School counselors, students, and their parents. Bula notes, “Contact is often initiated by Councilors but preference is given to meeting with students and their parents, whenever possible.” Both “Regular Army” and “Reserve Army” opportunities are outlined by Recruitment offices but Bula said “high school graduation is critically important if a student is interested in joining the service because many more applicants apply than are qualified to enter the Army”.
Sergeant Bula said, “High School students need to educate themselves on their options.” Bula noted that every year people retire or leave the military before retirement. Bula explained, “There is no favoritism in the military.” “A recruit is either qualified for a job or not – A recruit is not paid more or less in the military than any other qualified candidate.” The more popular jobs in the Army are health care, special forces, and military police. If a recruit wants a specific job in the military and they are qualified by aptitude and education, they can join when there is an opening for the position. The maximum age for a candidate is 34 years with at least 1 day before a 35th birthday. The maximum allowed time in service is 30 years.
Sergeant Bula broadly outlines an example of what can happen with a candidate who wants a particular job. They can wait until the job they want becomes available. If they are married and have more than two children, they will have to get a waiver. They must have a High School diploma or, in very rare cases, may be able to get a waiver with a GED. No paper mill degrees are accepted (schools without COPA accreditation are denied). If a candidate wants a job in Army intelligence, they must have good credit and be able to pass an extensive security clearance investigation. Being smart enough is not the only qualification for entry into the Army. There are many self-inflicted causes for disqualification.
National recruitment goals for new military personnel are declining. Jeff Ross explains that national Army recruitment goals “dropped from 64,000 last year to 58,000 this year; reserve goals dropped from 19,320 to 16,320”. This is partially due to the Army’s high retention rate. Ross believes cut-backs will be greater next year.
The “Las Vegas Review Journal” thanks Sergeant Paul Bula, Jeff Ross, and Shane Lloyd for their military service and the time spent with us to explain the Army recruitment process, Army benefits, and two of the Army’s job transition programs.
(You can contact Company 1st Sergeant Paul Bula @ Paul.Bulathsinghals@usarcc.army.mil or @ (702) 837-1680.)