Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive April 2017 Show 1717 Soldier for Life

Soldier for Life

The Soldier For Life program helps military men and women transition back into civilian life.
Soldier for Life

Soldier for Life

For more information visit these links:

Soldier For Life

Oklahoma Works - Military & Veterans

U.S. Military

Show Details

Show 1717: Soldier for Life
Air Date: April 23, 2017



Austin Moore: Soldier for Life is an Army program designed to connect with government, educational institutions and employers. The goal is to help veterans and their families reintegrate into civilian society. Now, while the program has had success in connecting exiting soldiers and jobs, there is a recognition that more can, and should, be done. That led to a recent Military Transition Summit at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill. Rob McClendon has the story.

Rob McClendon: It was a packed house in Fort Sill’s Snow Hall when Staff Sgt. Carlos Muniz took the floor.

Carlos Muniz: I joined the Army in October of 2000 as a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard as a 14 Sierra Avenger crew member. Down the road, I transferred over a 14 Hotel, which is early warning system operator.

Rob: Addressing military, government and education leaders at the Soldier for Life Military Transition Summit, Muniz says he left the service, only to re-enlist a year later.

Muniz: Well, the hardest part I think is being away from the family. With the Guard, I did two deployments. I did eight months and I did a 15-month to Afghanistan. So being away from them is always hard. It seems that when you are gone things start happening. You know, kids get sick. And you got trouble, you know, in school.

Muniz: I decided to try my luck in the civilian world. As you can see, it didn’t go too well for me. I got out of the Army, and I was like “What did I do?” I was not prepared to get out.

Rob: A problem not unusual for service members. But one the Soldier for Life program hopes to address both with hiring events like the one here at Fort Sill and by encouraging employer-military partnerships like the United Association Veterans in Piping program.

Robert Carr: This program has been explained to me as trying to drink from a fire hydrant. You just kind of put your head in there and get as much as you can and then back out and take a breath for a second.

Rob: This is an 18-week program delivered to active-duty service men and women here on base that replaces the first year of a five-year apprenticeship in sprinkler fitting.

Roy Barnes: We get a great deal out of this by getting the military people because of the discipline that they already have.

Carr: When they leave here, they have more tools than what they need to be successful. We train them in here on valve training, soldering, braising, crane signaling, rigging, OSHA-30. We are finding the employer before they get there. So they are not getting training and then having to find employment like most schooling does. Here we have employment for them. So we go out, we do the groundwork, find where they are going to be, the best contractors for them, the best areas to go back to.

Rob: And a similar partnership has been built with Ryder trucks.

Duane Houston: The guys all finished four engine manufacturers, Cummins, Detroit, Navistar and Mac Volvo. And then up here, we come up here, and we are doing the hands-on portion. And these guys will actually get out and work in the shop with the guys in the shop just like they would at a normal Ryder location. When they get out of this program then, well, when they graduate from this program, they are going to go to a Ryder shop and actually go to work.

Josue Umanzor: I have a little book about this thick of certifications now. I had my first paycheck from Ryder before I even collected my last paycheck from the Army, so, I mean, there was never a break in pay at all, so, you know, that is usually a huge stress factor when you are getting out of the military is, you know, financially, am I going to be OK?

Houston: It is absolutely a perfect fit. In fact, the first group we had, four of the guys have already been promoted. That is how well they fit into the program so far. These guys already know what they are going to do. They already know where they are going to go. It takes all that stress. So when they come into Ryder, I mean, it’s just, you can just come in and go to work, fully trained and ready to go.

Rob: The non-profit Warriors-4-Wireless doesn’t hire veterans directly, but does train them for a career with a sky-high limit.

Izzy Abbass: The industry overall has an aging population of tower technicians and broadband technicians. We are training veterans to fill those roles going forward. There is a huge demand out there. We have over a thousand openings around the country. So one of the things we always ask veterans is, like, where do you want to live? And then we find a tower company in that area that needs an employee right now.

Kendall Dan: They were able to get me into the program, get me started, get me trained, get my certs transitioned over from the military into the wireless industry. And now I have a job where I provide for my two kids without any hesitation and very successful. The Marine Corps teaches you leadership. It teaches you, take fear, put it behind you and get the mission done. And in the wireless industry that is something that you definitely have to be able to do. I mean, your office is on the ground; mine is 300 feet in the air.

Abbass: There is a lot of work going forward. And if we look at how many towers we have in the U.S., there is 30,000 towers in the United States. Of those, 27 percent are really aging and need to be replaced. On top of that, we know that with small cell technology and all these other things, the demand is expected to be 130,000 towers by 2030. That is a huge growth industry, and they are looking to hire veterans.

Scott Smith: The state of Oklahoma is fortunate in that we have got an outstanding workforce and a great work ethic. The unfortunate thing is, we simply don’t have enough workforce.

Rob: Scott Smith is with Oklahoma CareerTech and sees veterans as a great opportunity to expand the number of employable Oklahomans.

Smith: We want them to have a great career. That is what CareerTech’s focus is, is to help get folks skilled and get them hooked up with the right companies. But also, we are trying to find creative ways to reach into pipelines of outstanding workers to help them to leverage the training that we offer, but also leverage the jobs we have in the great state of Oklahoma.

Rob: Pairing industry, education and government with veterans who often don’t know their own worth.

So like we say, you don’t have a career ladder, you’ve got a career cargo net. Did you ever climb the cargo net?

Yeah, yeah.

Well, you don’t climb straight up, right? You’ve got to get over and you’ve got to move it up and get your best foothold.

Rob: To better understand that challenge, I spoke with Oklahoma’s secretary of veteran affairs, retired Maj. Gen. Myles Deering.

Rob: How important is it to bring industry, military, education all together in an event like this?

Myles Deering: Well, it is tremendously important because it enables us to create a collaborative effort in helping these young soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines transition from the military life to the civilian life.

Rob: What type of asset are veterans to just Oklahoma’s economy?

Deering: They are a tremendous asset to our economy and to the state of Oklahoma. I mean, these young men and women bring the values that they have lived and they practiced in the military to the community. And those kind of values are what we value most as a society.

Rob: How can the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, how can it help Oklahoma veterans?

Deering: Well, I think we can help in the transition and the linkage. And once that soldier leaves military duty, active duty and goes to his home station, what helps him make that link-up. And I think that we as the State Department of Veterans Affairs can help them with that link-up. In other words, where he leaves the active duty and where he enters the civilian life, we still need to have that continuity of care. We need to insure there is a link there that insures that his future is assured as well.

Rob: What is that first, what’s the first step that needs to happen then, when someone, you know, leaves the military?

Deering: Well, that first step is that person needs to make contact with his, in my opinion, needs to make contact with his State Department of Veterans Affairs. This insures that if he wants to go to college or he wants to go to CareerTech, or she wants to go to college or CareerTech, that they understand the resources that are available in this state. If they want to apply for their claims and benefits with the VA, we can help them do that. If they are seeking employment, we can help them do that as well.

Muniz: I’m going to use all the tools that the Army has to offer to get ready to be a successful civilian once I transition out.

Rob: And for Sgt. Muniz, seeing all these opportunities and taking the reins on what he can accomplish now, he is much more confident about his eventual retirement.

Muniz: I’m working on a bachelor’s degree in sports psychology. So I know I am going to be prepared when I leave the military. Plus, the military has a lot of great programs to help you prep for when you decide to hang those boots for good. And I’ll be ready.