GALVESTON, Texas (April 8, 2015) – When Army Spec. John Walden returned from a one-year tour of duty in Khost, Afghanistan, he knew that continuing his military service was not an option following a medical discharge that cut short a promising career in uniform; but what he didn’t know was that he’d still have the opportunity to work for the Army – thanks to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program.
“It has proven difficult to find a job that both suits me and I enjoy since leaving the Army,” said Walden. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District has allowed me the time and ability to test out several jobs and find my best fit, all while ensuring that I do not have to worry about the wellbeing of my family.”
In May 2014, the USACE Galveston District established an official “agreement to train on the job disabled veterans,” with the VA to accept disabled veterans to train, with the hopes they will gain work experience outside the military as they chart new courses toward meaningful careers.
“Many times, wounded warriors will work as interns to develop marketable job skills,” said Dr. Rose Caballero, Equal Employment Opportunity manager for the USACE Galveston District. “Our district encourages participants to learn about our mission, gain job skills, receive mentoring and if there is a position where we can place them, we’re able to make the selection without having them compete for the opening.”
Caballero refers to this as a “try before you buy” option for both the employer and potential employee.
“The great thing about the program is that we’re helping Soldiers,” Caballero said. “John is a great example of how this process has been a success. He has worked in a couple of different branches within our organization and is now employed as surveyor within the Engineering and Construction Branch. Fortunately for us, it looks like we are going to be able to hire him for a permanent position.”
The program offers counseling, training, education and other services to assist veterans with service-connected disabilities (that prevents them from working in their previous profession) prepare for and maintain suitable careers.
"The program is designed for veterans to obtain civilian work experience when they have difficulties with obtaining civilian employment,” said Employment Coordinator Darwin Dawson, Department of Veterans Affairs in the Houston Regional Office’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Division. “It is great for veterans who learn easily in a hands-on environment. These partnerships give our veterans the ability to obtain full time employment experience, a current employment reference and exposure to agency employment opportunities. We're thankful for our Corps of Engineer partnership."
According to Dawson, veterans possess a variety of skills and experiences that can serve as a great asset to both federal and private agencies and adds that he’s working with the USACE Galveston District to match more wounded warriors to fill position in its Operations Division and in the Project Management Branch.
"The Veteran's Administration's program provides the time and flexibility to create successful hiring conditions for our wounded warriors,” said Col. Richard Pannell, USACE Galveston District commander. “We are eager to continue our support to this and similar programs that provide opportunities for our veterans."
A second wounded warrior will be joining the district next month to assist the district’s Project Management Branch. He will also benefit the district by augmenting current staff and providing manpower during restricted budgets and peak workloads.
The USACE Galveston District was established in 1880 as the first engineer district in Texas to oversee river and harbor improvements. The district is directly responsible for maintaining more than 1,000 miles of channel, including 250 miles of deep draft and 750 miles of shallow draft as well as the Colorado River Locks and Brazos River Floodgates. Its main missions include navigation, ecosystem restoration, emergency management, flood risk management and regulatory oversight. The Corps also supports a robust Regulatory Program that interacts with the local community through a variety of public outreach opportunities.
For more information about the VA’s Vocational Rehavilitation and Employement Program at http://www.benefits.va.gov/vocrehab/, or visit the Army Wounded Warrior Program online at http://www.wtc.army.mil/modules/veterans/v2-aw2EligibilityEnrollment.html. For more news and information, visit www.swg.usace.army.mil. Find us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/GalvestonDistrict or follow us on Twitter, www.twitter.com/USACEgalveston.