Former troops answer new call

Wounded veterans form rich labor pool for government contractors.

Beau Barnett was an Air Force contract
specialist when his left thumb was torn off
in a training accident. Although the thumb
was surgically reattached, Barnett no longer
has full use of the finger. Later, while stationed
in Kirkuk, Iraq, he broke his foot and
it never healed correctly.

Today Barnett is one of about 15 contract
specialists hired by CACI International Inc.
to work at the Missile Defense Agency in
Huntsville, Ala. He oversees vehicle leasing,
daily services contracts and other activities
for the military agency.

Mayo Van Dyck was an Army satellite
communications operator when he sustained
a severe back injury in South Korea
in 1998 and underwent surgery after reinjuring
his back in Kosovo, Serbia. He then
spent time at the Walter Reed Army
Medical Center in outpatient treatment,
where he met a
CACI recruiter last
winter.

Van Dyck was
hired in May under
the company's new
Deploying Talent-
Creating Careers
program, designed
to bring qualified
disabled veterans
into the company.
He is now a CACI
quality assurance
engineer in
Manassas, Va., testing the satellite communications
systems being built by CACI
clients to ensure they meet all proper
specifications.

"We have been reaching out through a
variety of channels to disabled veterans who
are trying to restart their careers and looking
for meaningful employment," said Paul
Cofoni, CACI president and chief executive
officer.

"We're giving them an opportunity to
have a meaningful career, and they bring to
us enormous experience by virtue of what
they've been doing in warfighter-related
areas for the last several years," he said.

More than 20,000 wounded and disabled
U.S. veterans have returned from Iraq
and Afghanistan, and more will be coming
home during the next several years.
Cofoni views their employment prospects
as a national problem. The company, however,
views those veterans as a relatively
untapped pool of potential employees,
many of whom have information technology,
intelligence and defense expertise in
addition to high-level security clearances.

The more businesses can do to help,
Cofoni said, the less likely it is that today's
service men and women will face the situation
that occurred in the Vietnam war era,
when many disabled veterans returned
home suffering from social dislocation and
were unable to find work.

CACI's program ? which officially began
in July ? has already exceeded expectations.

"We set a goal initially that we were
going to hire 10 this fiscal year, and we're
already past that," Cofoni said. "It's good for
us and it's good for them, of course, and it's
good for the country."

The program gives disabled veterans dignity
and productive work, he said.

Larry Clifton, CACI's personnel director, said the goal of Deploying Talent-Creating
Careers is simply to provide meaningful
jobs to talented veterans transitioning to
civilian life "so they can take care of their
families just like everybody else." Clifton directs the program with the help
of Jaime Whitaker, the company's staffing
and recruiting manager.

"Technically, I'm looking for anybody
who's got some IT skillset that we can use,"
Whitaker said. "We've hired people into all
different positions. We actually have a [disabled]
recruiter that we've hired."

CACI casts its recruiting net widely by
participating in job fairs on military bases
and hospitals and advertising on the
Internet. "We go out and post our positions
on special sites for returning veterans such
as VetJobs and Early Eagle," she said.

The outreach program extends across
the country, with no limit on the number of
disabled veterans CACI will hire. CACI has
recruited at various military job fairs from
San Diego to New Jersey. "There's not one
particular place where we're finding these
people," Clifton said.

Van Dyck said he had a good impression
of the company from his contacts with
CACI employees when he was in the Army.
That impression was reinforced when he
met CACI recruiters at Walter Reed. "The
recruiters had this great positive attitude. I
didn't feel like they were giving me any
bull."

CACI also works with the Paralyzed
Veterans associations and the Armed
Forces Foundation's career counseling program
at Fort Bragg, N.C., Whitaker said.
The program advises disabled Special
Forces soldiers whose injuries have forced
them to leave the military.

"We're now getting involved with their
Real Lifelines program," she added, which
works with disabled veterans in medical
facilities to help them write their résumés
and advise them on how to write about
their military career and skills in language
that civilian placement officials can readily
understand.

CACI evaluates all résumés against the
positions available, Clifton said. Disabled
veterans do not get special preference,
although "we do try to incentivise the program
a little bit to hire these people"
through such programs as special employee
bonuses for successful referrals of disabled
veterans.

When the program was being organized,
Clifton said, he thought the initial new
hires would be placed in traditional support
positions such as human resources
and finance and accounting. "But I am
happy to say that of those 11, 10 are in what
we call billable positions on client sites.
They're right in with clients, which is a
good thing for them also."

"Once I got here, I realized it was the
place to be," Barnett said of his job in
Huntsville. He added that accepting the
CACI job offer "was one of the best things I
ever did."

Whitaker said the program has also had
a positive effect on the company's clients.

"We do a lot of work with DOD, so it makes
sense for us to be bringing in candidates
who are exceptionally qualified, who not
only have a lot to offer our company but
have a lot to offer our clients as well."

Clifton credits Cofoni as the inspiration
behind the program. "He got us all energized,
and put together [the founding]
committee, which he still chairs himself
once a month."

Deploying Talent-Creating Careers has
taken on a life of its own, he said. "We just
hired two more [disabled veterans] last
week." And a full-time recruiter will join
CACI in January specifically to work with
Whitaker on hiring more disabled veterans.

"We're committed to make this a longterm
program," Clifton said.

Associate Editor David Hubler can be reached at
dhubler@1105govinfo.com.

NEXT STORY: Growth of state budgets halts

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