Time to Increase Federal Hiring of Wounded Warriors

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

Representatives from the joint services' wounded warrior programs host the Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference. (left to right) CAPT Adrian Nicholas (Wounded Warrior Regiment), CDR Shauna Hamilton (Navy Safe Harbor), BG Darryl Williams (Warrior Transition Command), COL Rick Dickinson (Warrior Transition Command), LTC David Bringhurst (Air Force Wounded Warrior Program), and COL Gregory Gadson (Army Wounded Warrior Program).

Yesterday, I had the privilege of kicking off the 2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference. Approximately 125 people from nearly 30 federal agencies came to this event at Fort Belvoir, VA.

This is an important, historic event—the first of its kind. It represents a collaboration among the four service wounded warrior programs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management—all of these organizations are coming together to make this issue a priority and to proactively work with agencies throughout the government to increase federal hiring of wounded warriors.

The goal of these two days is to educate federal agencies about the importance of hiring wounded, ill, and injured Veterans and the tools they can use to do so. In fact, I challenged each agency present to hire at least one wounded warrior this year. We also made sure they were aware of the broad range of injuries facing today’s Veterans from post-traumatic stress disorder to traumatic brain injury to amputation and more. Lt. Col. Robinson from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injuries explained specific ways employers can accommodate these injuries, and human resources professionals from each of the military services discussed their best practices for hiring wounded warriors.

I thought CAPT Bernie Carter, Director of Navy Safe Harbor, did a good job in summing up the role of the service wounded warrior programs in this process. “We all have a responsibility to help wounded warriors transition successfully. If we can’t get them back to active duty, we want to set them up for a successful transition and reintegration, and employment is a big piece of that.”

In fact, all of the services echoed that sentiment—we want Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen to live robust, successful lives, and employment allows the wounded, ill, or injured Veterans to provide for themselves and their Families, but equally important, they feel a sense of pride in accomplishing a mission, contributing to a team, and achieving their goals.

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell also moved the crowd over lunch, by explaining his personal success story with the crowd, from his point of injury to his transition, where he found a place to achieve his career goals at the Department of Homeland Security. I encourage you to read more about his story on other AW2 blog posts.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the conference today, and I hope you’ll check back to the AW2 blog to learn more about what else we accomplish.

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