UPDATE 5:00 p.m….When I went to Curves today, the street where the post office and city hall are, was blocked off and several Centerpoint Energy trucks were there, along with lots of police cars. Electrical lines were down on the ground. The ladies at Curves said that an 18 wheeler that was delivering chicken to the Church’s Fried Chicken on the corner, had backed into the light pole and brought down all the lines, right on top of his truck. It happened just after lunchtime, and every building on that end of the street lost power. They are still working on getting the power lines back up.
FORT GORDON, GA. – After 18 years in the Army, Staff Sgt. Martin Jones is hunting for a new job — but not by choice.
Jones, 35, of Atlanta, planned to complete 20 years of service and retire. That plan was cut short in October after he deployed to help train the Iraqi army. Four roadside bomb explosions over a month left him with hearing loss in both ears, shrapnel in his right side, crushed bones in his left arm and nerve damage to his hand.
Facing a medical discharge and still recovering, Jones traded his fatigues for a dark suit recently to impress private sector and government recruiters at a job fair aimed at giving wounded warriors an edge in entering the work force.
“It’s extremely frightening,” said Jones, who joined the Army after graduating from high school. “It’s been a hard transition, with the reality setting in that life as I knew it is changing.”
With more than 20,238 U.S. soldiers wounded in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense have been working to help find civilian jobs for those no longer able to serve.
The job fair at Fort Gordon in Augusta, home to the largest Army hospital in the Southeast, was the sixth the agencies have held since last year.
More than 200 soldiers from Army posts in Georgia and South Carolina attended classes on writing résumés and preparing for job interviews before meeting with recruiters from companies such as IBM Corp. and BellSouth Corp. as well as the CIA, the Treasury Department and other federal agencies.
“Even if we placed just one, to me it would be paying off,” said Karen Hannah, program manager for the series of job fairs. “They’re not used to needing résumés. Throughout their careers, the military told them what to do and where to move to.”
About 85 soldiers have received job offers out of more than 1,000 attending the job fairs, Hannah said.
Job hunters at the fair also included many from the National Guard, who held civilian jobs before being wounded in Iraq but aren’t certain their injuries will allow them to return to those careers.
Sgt. Jeff Harper, 45, of Hiram, Ga., drove a truck route stocking vending machines in Atlanta before he deployed to Iraq last year with the 48th Infantry Brigade of the Georgia National Guard. Last August, a roadside bomb shredded the flesh and nerves in his left forearm. He’s in therapy trying to regain use of his fingers.
Unsure he’ll regain the strength and speed needed to return to his vending route, Harper said he’s looking into federal jobs.
“This is something we need,” he said. “A lot of these guys, like me, are probably not going to be able to continue with the military. But I’d like to still feel like I’m doing my part.”
Sgt. Robert Waples, 31, of the Maryland National Guard, undergoing treatment at Fort Gordon’s Eisenhower Army Medical Center, wasn’t impressed with the job fair.
After suffering nerve damage to his face from a bomb blast in Iraq, Waples doubts he’ll be able to return to his job as a police officer in Waldorf, Md. But he said most job recruiters he spoke with at Fort Gordon wanted applicants with college degrees.
“I’m sure this is put together with very good intentions,” he said. “But these aren’t the right companies to be here recruiting.”
Job recruiter Phil Prevatte said military experience is often more important to his employer than a college diploma. Working for Lockheed Martin Corp., the largest U.S. defense contractor, Prevatte attends about 40 military job fairs a year.
He left Fort Gordon with a stack of résumés.
Besides their military skills, he said, many former soldiers come to Lockheed Martin with security clearances that can take civilians up to two years to earn. That’s invaluable to a company that manufactures fighter jets and missile systems.
“In a lot of cases where the military is concerned, we will trade off experience for a degree,” Prevatte said.