Dan Gallagher - January 29, 2013
This is Dan Gallagher with Veteranís Viewpoint.
Today is a Ďblue mooní broadcast, meaning two commentaries in a single calendar month. Usually, on these occasions, my commentary goes in a direction I wouldnít ordinarily take, but Iím not sure that applies today.
Last week, I read that Senator Max Baucus had introduced a veteransí jobs bill in the U.S. Senate. It had the same focus as his remarks before the Montana State Legislature just a week or so prior.
Baucus has introduced and supported other
pro-veteran legislation in the past and, although Senator Jon Tester is more prominent in dealing with veterans legislation, Max has always shown himself as a friend of veterans--he votes right on such issues.
The Senatorís bill is positive and ambitious, and two aspects of it caught my attention.
The first is the emphasis on assuring that a veteranís military work experience will be given full credit in that veteranís resume when he applies for a job in a related field
in civilian life. For example, as I understand it, a veteran whose army MOS was that of a wheel-vehicle mechanic, would be able to count his or her military training on a par with any similar civilian training, and count his length of experience at that task as the equal of related civilian experience. That sounds good to me!
The second component to catch my eye was the providing of training in the military that actually parallels the needs of the civilian work force.
Of course, job training for veterans has become the popular administrative, legislative, and even political solution-du-jour, but making the returning veteran employable is, in fact, one of the best things that could be done to help him economically, and even psychologically, as he attempts to fit back in to society.
So, YAY, Senator Baucus!
However, the skeptic in me rears its gloomy head. Great plans and noble intentions come to naught if they are not--or cannot be--implemented, and this is a road we have been down before. Can it be made to work?
For instance, will it be possible to have employers and employees, unions, and industrial educators accept military
training procedures as equal to the training criteria they
now apply? After all, job preparation entities not only have vocational concerns, but also have a vested interest in not opening themselves to different training standards and methods--or competition. I can visualize future resistance, even if there is initial acceptance.
A point made in Baucusí bill that especially gives me pause is that there would be an effort to bring military training more in line with what the civilian work world requires. This is needed and intelligent--and practical, for the most part. But is may not be universally applicable.
I believe, and there is plenty of data to support me, that the servicemen and women having the most trouble readjusting to civilian/veteran life are those GIs whose MOS puts them in one of the combat arms; for example,
The infantryman, the artilleryman, and the demolition specialist or mine-laying combat engineer. Given what they endure in war, coming to their aid seems of the highest importance for a nation saying Ďthank youí.
But is it possible to find a way to fit training of that nature into any work-training package that might be found in the nationís job market?
You see, the reality is that there just arenít any jobs in polite society seeking someone to pull long-range patrols on the streets or in the mountains of Montana; no one asking for a minefield to be placed in the lower forty; no market for an employee who can
accurately lob a mortar round on a nearby farm or town!
What do we do about these soldiers? How, in a reasonable period of time, do we re-train them? When do we start such
programs--in the midst of the military hitches of combat soldiers, or after their ETS? Just how do we do it?
Baucusí bill is good, but it has to be fleshed out in the most down-to-earth of ways or it will just be another batch of window dressing--lipstick on a pig. We canít simply pass a bill and throw some money at it; it has to íworkí. Otherwise itís another cruel mockery foisted on a veteran population that has already seen way too many hollow promises. Hereís hoping those who implement this legislation look deeply into its actual application.
And also, this week: A recent decision by the Secretary of Defense makes it wholly possible now for women to be assigned to field combat. Ordinarily, I would be a strong supporter of such equal opportunity, but I admit to having reservations on this topic.
First of all, I believe that the day must come when we reinstitute the draft. Fairness would now demand that young women will be made just as subject to the draft as young males. Wrong or narrow as my thinking may be, the idea of my
18-year-old daughter being drafted does not set well with me in the slightest; although I would accept the draft for a son of mine. It has nothing to do with worth or ability, it is a cultural bias that is so historically engrained that a lot of parents and other citizens will likely take issue with, ending up swirling about in controversy.
Why didnít I hear any conversation about this possibility in the media run-up to this change?
Okay, I know that I have to change with the times, and accept contemporary realities, but that doesnít mean I have to like it, or think favorably of itís eventual existence. And Iíll bet Iím not alone in that thought.
Well, it is, at least, a conversation-starter.
And speaking of conversations, I spoke at the Ninepipes Museum fundraising dinner last week, speaking about the impact of the military and veterans on Montanaís history. Other than its length, the event went well, and I am grateful to Rod Wamsley for inviting me. I hope their dinner/effort was a huge success as they work to preserve that museum. Good luck to them in their efforts.
And, this is Dan Gallagher with Veteranís Viewpoint.