Junior Enlisted Program: Kelsey’s Story
As someone who is married to a Junior Enlisted veteran, his story is closely intertwined with mine. When my husband Nathan had trouble finding employment after he left the military, we shared feelings of anxiety as well as the desire for mutual success. In this blog, I’ll share Nathan’s story from my perspective.
In May 2014, Nathan enlisted as an E-4 in the United States Army at 24 years old after several years of community college and work experience. He was hoping for a fresh start – a purpose. His MOS was a 94M, a Radar Repairer. When we met several months later, in August 2014, Nathan was finishing his initial training and was stoked to start his career in electrical maintenance.
Upon completing his specialty school, he was assigned to his first duty station, Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. When Nathan arrived, there were no radars to repair and he quickly learned, “the mission comes first.” He was put to work managing equipment in a shop, performing job duties that were much different than the ones he trained for. Additionally, he was a single soldier alone in a new place while I was completing college and graduate school on the east coast.
Over the years, Nathan had trouble figuring out what his career was going to be. He learned technical skills but couldn’t apply them. He struggled with bouts of depression and wasn’t taking care of himself. He was conflicted, and I watched as he started to lose his identity.
When it was finally time for him to separate from the Army, I helped him enhance his resume, and he applied for a job at Lowe’s Home Improvement. Nathan started as a seasonal employee while he applied to work as an Inventory Specialist at some larger companies in our area. I recommended he sign up for Hire Heroes USA services to get some career coaching support. He was paired with an excellent Transition Specialist who assisted with his job search strategy and resume tailoring.
After about three months of applying, Nathan finally landed an interview for an Inventory Specialist position. The interview went well, but afterward, the employer said they wanted someone who already knew the logistics information systems that the company used. Nathan had experience using the Army’s Global Combat Support System, a similar logistics information management system. He could have quickly learned the company’s system, but they moved forward with another candidate.
Instead, he decided to utilize his Post 9/11 GI Bill to pursue a degree in engineering. Nathan is currently enrolled in school and works full-time at Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has been lucky enough to have management who works with his school schedule. While attacking life as a non-traditional student, he is adjusting to virtual learning and still figuring out how to be a civilian again.
Nathan’s story is common, and I know there are spouses and partners of Junior Enlisted veterans and transitioning service members out there just like me who want to support their loved ones.
Junior Enlisted veterans have unique barriers to employment compared to more senior military members and veterans. They earn lower salaries, face greater underemployment issues, have less formal education and 50% leave their first civilian job within the first year. Hire Heroes USA wants to address those barriers and develop specific solutions for our Junior Enlisted clients. We are excited to improve the support of these skilled and experienced leaders and connect them to meaningful civilian opportunities!
Kelsey Wolf-Wallace is the Program Manager for Hire Heroes USA’s Junior Enlisted Program. If you’re interested in receiving free career support with Hire Heroes USA, click here to learn more.