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Archive for the ‘Joining Forces’ Category

She got married recently. And if you are looking for a pageantry filled military wedding – look no further. The bride wore an amazing wedding gown to walk up a very long historic aisle to her handsome soldier/pilot husband, who looked resplendent in his full dress uniform. This is one uniform that outshines the Marine Dress Uniform.

A few days later, he was headed back to work, piloting rescue helicopters and she went back to their home, went grocery shopping and started planning a big trip.  That trip took the couple to Canada, where they enjoyed canoeing, attended a big Canada  Day celebration, met lots of fun folks and ended up at the Calgary Stampede.  She packed carefully, and even recycled some of the clothes she already had, including her fave jeans and those really comfy heels for when she had to be on her feet for a long time.

The trip ended in the US, where they went to a huge party, he played some sports, they did some art and fun stuff; then they went to a military support activity and packed some care packages.

Sounds like a fun trip, huh?  Well, I think HRH the Duchess of Cambridge had some fun, but she was also working hard.  Working hard as a representative of the Queen; working hard as a representative of her new family; working hard as a new wife.

She met thousands of people, from Governor General and elected officials, to homeless teens; from Green Gable re-enactors to cancer patients; from survivors of fires, to members of the tribes of the First Peoples, from stars of stage, screen and TV, to children on Skid Row. The last appearance was at a Joining Forces, Service Nation/Mission Serve event.  As her husband said:

This is the last event on our tour of North America, but to my mind, it is one of the seriouslyt most important. This is because it is about men and women who – of their own freewill – choose to put their life on the line for their Country. They are the front line of a remarkable relationship between the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, which has safe-guarded our freedoms for a century.

But Mission Serve is about something more than just men and women in uniform. It is about our other halves. The half that makes the loved one’s duty and sacrifices possible and worthwhile. It is about you: families, partners and friends.

When HRH talked to some members of Blue Star Families, she mentioned wanting to help the military spouses in  her own country. Clarence House/St. James’  has made it clear that she and the Duke are going to maintain a lower profile while he studies for flight captaincy and she mulls over which of the thousands of charities she will become a patron of.  I can only hope that she will choose a group that works with military families.  We may not hear as much on this side of the Atlantic, but our military family over there are struggling with the same issues we have; deployment after deployment; reintegration problems; PTS and TBI; dealing with the military bureaucracy.  While she cannot influence the government, she and Prince William can take the work they saw during their LA trip and extend that.  The Prince William and Prince Harry Foundation are already working with military families and Prince Harry has made helping wounded warriors a priority for him.  As the Duke said:

I am delighted, therefore, that our Foundation – and in that I include my low-flying Apache very average brother – is a partner in today’s event. We have much to learn from you.

It was wonderful to see the attention being paid to our issues by the mainstream press, even though some of them were more interested in the Duchess’ dress.  I could hope they continue to spend some time on them, without the dazzle of royalty.  We’ll see!

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Today was the day the latest effort by DoD to help military spouses with their employment issues was officially unveiled.  The Military Spouse Employment Partnership .

 The Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) is developing partnerships with local, national and international businesses to support the workforce needs of both the military spouses and the companies with which we partner. Through MSEP, not only does the military spouse benefit, but so do our company partners.

This program was originally the Army Spouse Employment Partnership, but as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy) Robert L. Gordon III, said – all the services took a look at this program and  jumped aboard.  The program has been connecting military spouses and employers, and encouraging employers to work with military spouses to get them jobs that are not just entry level, but are career level jobs.

Mrs. Deborah Mullen was introduced by Secretary Gordon as a titan  – as a voice of the military spouses.  (and you all know that I stand in absolute awe of Mrs. Mullen, and couldn’t agree with Secretary Gordon more)  She, as always, said it succinctly.  She told her audience that military spouses aren’t asking for rules to be broken, they know the economy is tough, this isn’t about entitlement, it’s about opportunity; they want a chance to get a foot in the door.   As she said, a job isn’t just a job, it’s respect, self empowerment and the defeat of impoverishment of the spirit.   The lady can turn a phrase!

Dr. Biden was on hand to reiterate that this is also an important issue for herself and the First Lady, that they are Joining Forces with this initiative as well.

I was on a followup roundtable phone call this afternoon with Secretary Gordon and his team.  There were some great questions and information.  Did you know that the wage gap between what a military spouse and the equivalent civilian earns is 25%?  We earn 25% less than our civilian contemporaries…  That just sucks.

Secretary Gordon talked about the vetting process – how the employers become partners and how the program will be checking up on them, it’s been streamlined but it’s still “robust” – they can’t just stand there and say we support military spouses, they will have to prove it!

The question of how the site works, they are still working on it (did you know the site was designed by a milspouse?  Money where the mouth is, in practice!)  and a few of us were hoping it might integrate with USAJobs.  (btw, we are all encouraged to head over to the site, kick the tires, and if there’s a problem, let them know)   A resume that is sent to an employer from MSEP’s site will go straight to that company’s HR department, no middleman involved, and with a “watermark” that shows it’s from MSEP.  The HR departments (where we all know the final decisions are made as to which applications are accepted or not) are being or have been trained in what military spouse resumes look like, (as in we aren’t  job hopping because our resume shows 9 jobs in 12 years!)

We talked a bit about how to market this new program to milspouses.  After all, I can hear some of you from HERE

Another program.. more talk, less action.

After MyCAA, you think I’m going to trust these people?

Yeah Yeah, DoD really cares about me, they just screwed up my employment history again…

And I’ve thought the same.  So I’m going to take Secretary Gordon up on his challenge to hold their feet to the fire.  If this isn’t working, we’ll need to make some noise.    BUT, we also need to give them a chance.  So let’s get the word out that this site is here, that there are some pretty big companies out there who have signed this agreement to hire us, to work with us to help us stay employed and help support our families.   Some of the jobs are going to be entry level, but the partners have committed to not just filling jobs, but to helping spouses with continuing sustainable employment.

I asked about the certification/licensure aspect of employment for milspouses.  This has been a huge issue for many of us.  MSEP isn’t specifically set up for that, but Secretary Gordon told us that there is a group in his office working on this with the States themselves, on the legislative level and with Governors’ offices.  There are some states that have partnered with them, to streamline the process.  There’s a website that is working on many issues that were determined to be quality of life issues, not just spouse employment – USA4 Military Families    If you head over to the site, you’ll see the list of 10 issues, and certification/licensure is number 5.  There is suggested language for bills etc.  Might be a good call to your local/state/federal legislator?

Do I think this is the silver bullet that will magically change the dire employment issue for military spouses?  Oh hell no.  Do I think it’s a start?  Am I cautiously optimistic that this program might help some spouses get jobs?  Yes.  We’ll see.

KESF

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