Hire A Vet?

This kind of communication — blogging — breeds a particularly awkward and enervating phenomenon: sniping back and forth in the comment section. Doesn’t happen here, at least not yet, perhaps because, although some people read it, damn few comment on it. (That, subsequent notes notwithstanding, is a definite invitation to comment. On anything I post here.)

I follow maybe a dozen major blogs. By major, I mean the kind which attract many and continuing comments from informed and concerned readers. People who want to share an opinion and, most of the time, are willing to listen to someone else’s opinion. At even the best of those, some petty sniping sneaks in; still, there’s enough good stuff to make it interesting.

One of those blogs is The Best Defense, at Foreign Policy magazine, by Tom Ricks. A recent guest post there, was a bitter essay by a former Marine officer who’s found it impossible to land a decent job back in the civilian world. The back-and-forth which followed — all of it apparently by present or former military types — brought out an entirely different point of view. A former officer, now back in civilian life, has found that vets are among the worst workers he’s hired in his business.

Not at all surprisingly, a strong but generally rational debate ensued. Probably you won’t find it as interesting or relevant as I did; I got out of the Army more than fifty years ago, when the job market was wide open, and employers didn’t care — or that I remember, even ask — whether I was a vet.

Matthew Collins spent 10 years as a Marine Intelligence Officer, including tours with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the British Army. Now he’s an otherwise unemployed MBA student at St. Louis University.

I recently applied for a job as a security guard, but didn’t get it because I did not have the right credentials. I’ve carried a gun in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, but I apparently need more training and licenses to carry one around an office building.

There have been some great initiatives to try to help veterans use their military background in the civilian world. But, some skills simply don’t cross over. There are no civilian artillery observers or mortarmen. My roommate at Annapolis was a SEAL. He has a degree in oceanography, speaks fluent Hindi, and is frighteningly good at swimming and shooting people. I wonder where he will take those skills in the private sector.

The reply to Collins, from another former officer, Tom Kennedy, saw things from a different perspective.

I have had very limited success with hiring vets. The positions I need to fill are entry level and require a high school diploma only. Starting out several years ago, I thought that these jobs would be perfect for the typical 21 to 24-year-old first- or second- term enlistee who decided to get out and start laying roots. So I hired a few people like that.

…my experience has been that the vets I hire expect too much from the employer while also expecting high praise for no accomplishments… Worse, the typical vet was not ready to work. We track productivity by employee and I consistently found the vets near the bottom. After speaking and working with these guys, it’s apparent that
their attitude and work ethic is lacking. Many of them had a standoff-ish attitude among their coworkers because they’d deployed and so-and-so stayed home. Generally, their work habits were focused on avoiding tasks and generally hanging back to allow others to accomplish their work for them. They very much prefer to find a small task and extend it as long as possible in order to give the appearance of productivity.

Google “Hire a Vet” and you get about fifteen million hits. Sure, some of them are for animal doctors, but most — at least the first fifty I looked at, with no reason to think the ratio changed farther down the list — harp on the duty of employers to give civilian preference to the men (and women) who have put their lives on the line for American goals.

Anyone want to explain for me where “patriotism” fits into all this?


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