Joining Forces’ Director Cites ‘Tremendous’ Progress

WASHINGTON — About 1,500 com­pa­nies have hired 20,000 vet­er­ans and mil­i­tary spous­es in the past cou­ple of months, and that’s just the tip of the ice­berg for the Join­ing Forces cam­paign, the campaign’s exec­u­tive direc­tor said yes­ter­day.

These com­pa­nies aim to hire upward of 135,000 vet­er­ans and spous­es over the next cou­ple of years through actions spurred by the White House’s mil­i­tary-sup­port ini­tia­tive, Navy Capt. Bradley Coop­er told Amer­i­can Forces Press Service. 

“This is a sto­ry of the extra­or­di­nary — the extra­or­di­nary nature of our troops, vet­er­ans and our fam­i­lies, and the extra­or­di­nary capac­i­ty of a great nation to lend a hand and offer sup­port to those who have earned it,” Coop­er said. 

First Lady Michelle Oba­ma and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, launched Join­ing Forces in April to raise pub­lic aware­ness of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies’ chal­lenges and sac­ri­fices and to call on all sec­tors of soci­ety to sup­port them. Coop­er came on board in the sum­mer to head up this initiative. 

Since its incep­tion, the cam­paign has made “dra­mat­ic leaps” in mil­i­tary fam­i­ly aware­ness and sup­port, the cap­tain not­ed, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its focus areas of employ­ment, edu­ca­tion and wellness. 

The pub­lic aware­ness dimen­sion gained a boost when some big-name stars signed on to help. Tom Han­ks, Oprah Win­frey and Steven Spiel­berg each appear in a pub­lic ser­vice announce­ment to hon­or mil­i­tary fam­i­lies’ sac­ri­fices. These PSAs now are rolling into the­aters and nation­al networks. 

Join­ing Forces also has teamed with large orga­ni­za­tions such as Major League Base­ball and NASCAR, Coop­er said. MLB recent­ly ded­i­cat­ed Game 1 of the World Series and NASCAR its final race of the year to mil­i­tary fam­i­lies and veterans. 

“We’re going to keep doing those types of events,” Coop­er said, “engag­ing with big, nation­al voic­es and lead­ers who can help the first lady and Dr. Biden shine a light on the impor­tance of vet­er­ans and mil­i­tary families.” 

Along with pub­lic aware­ness, the cam­paign has made tremen­dous inroads in tack­ling vet­er­an and spouse employ­ment in recent months, the cap­tain noted. 

In about three months, the cam­paign went from team­ing with 100 com­pa­nies to more than 1,500, and from 1,500 peo­ple hired to near­ly 20,000.

“There’s been a dra­mat­ic leap, par­tic­u­lar­ly in employ­ment, of peo­ple will­ing to step for­ward and lend a hand,” Coop­er said. “And I think you’ll con­tin­ue to see this tra­jec­to­ry mov­ing very fast in a very pos­i­tive direction.” 

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma signed a bill ear­li­er this week that gives tax cred­its to employ­ers who hire unem­ployed vet­er­ans and vet­er­ans with ser­vice-con­nect­ed disabilities. 

This ini­tia­tive will have a big impact, Coop­er pre­dict­ed, cit­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Fran­chise Asso­ci­a­tion as an example. 

IFA is seiz­ing on the great capac­i­ty and poten­tial of ‘vets hir­ing vets’ in lever­ag­ing their 66,000 vet­er­an-owned small busi­ness­es around the coun­try to hire a vet­er­an,” the cap­tain said. 

IFA also has com­mit­ted to hir­ing 5,000 of the nation’s wound­ed war­riors by 2014, “and not just hire them, but men­tor them,” he said, so they can devel­op into suc­cess­ful man­agers and facil­i­tate fran­chise own­er­ship for those who are interested. 

“As com­pa­nies large and small have shown, the pri­vate sec­tor has enor­mous capac­i­ty to help our troops, vet­er­ans and fam­i­lies,” Coop­er said. “The peo­ple of this great nation clear­ly want to help; peo­ple want to have impact. Every­where we’ve turned and with every com­pa­ny we’ve asked to step up, the answer has been ‘yes.’ ” The pos­i­tive response makes sense in light of the tal­ent vet­er­ans and mil­i­tary spous­es bring to the table, he noted. 

“The con­sis­tent feed­back that we have received is that com­pa­nies like the type of tal­ent they’re get­ting,” Coop­er said. “These are indi­vid­u­als who at a young age have man­aged large groups of peo­ple and … had to make quick deci­sions often in the most dif­fi­cult of cir­cum­stances. I think that trans­lates well into any company.” 

While some Join­ing Forces’ efforts bear instant fruit, oth­ers are sus­tained efforts that will fos­ter sup­port for years to come, the cap­tain said. On Nov. 7, the pres­i­dent unveiled two new Inter­net-based job- search tools for unem­ployed vet­er­ans: My Next Move for Vet­er­ans, where vet­er­ans can browse career options and trans­late their mil­i­tary expe­ri­ence to a civil­ian appli­ca­tion, and the Vet­er­ans Job Bank, where vet­er­ans can seek jobs post­ed by com­pa­nies com­mit­ted to hir­ing them. Com­pa­nies such as Google and LinkedIn have com­mit­ted to pop­u­lat­ing the Vet­er­ans Job Bank, Coop­er said, and Sim­ply Hired scoured vet­er­an-friend­ly com­pa­nies in job por­tals around the coun­try and deposit­ed more than 500,000 jobs in the job bank. 

Fuel­ing these efforts in part is Google, Coop­er not­ed. The com­pa­ny has devel­oped a process that enables lit­er­al­ly every com­pa­ny in the Unit­ed States to elec­tron­i­cal­ly tag any job they choose as a vet­er­an com­mit­ment. Google’s search engines then col­lect these post­ings and pop­u­late the job bank. This offers a “con­stant fuel­ing of jobs,” he said, not­ing a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the 1,500 com­pa­nies already are elec­tron­i­cal­ly tag­ging jobs. 

“As time moves for­ward, you’ll see those trans­late into real peo­ple get­ting real jobs in a more syn­chro­nized, man­age­able way,” he said. 

Also aimed at employ­ment, the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce has spon­sored 75 vet­er­an and spouse hir­ing fairs around the coun­try, with a goal of host­ing 100 hir­ing fairs with­in a year. The cham­ber also has com­mit­ted to host­ing 300–400 addi­tion­al hir­ing fairs for vet­er­ans and mil­i­tary spous­es around the coun­try in 2012, the cap­tain said. 

In mid-Jan­u­ary, the cham­ber will host its first mil­i­tary-spouse-only hir­ing fair and career forum here, look­ing to bring togeth­er more than 100 employ­ers and more than 1,000 spous­es, Coop­er said. 

The Defense Department’s Mil­i­tary Spouse Employ­ment Part­ner­ship pro­gram also is aimed sole­ly at mil­i­tary spouse sup­port. MSEP part­ners with local, nation­al and inter­na­tion­al busi­ness­es to fos­ter job opportunities. 

Since its launch in late June, the part­ner­ship has grown from 72 com­pa­nies to 96, and has led to the hir­ing of more than 8,000 mil­i­tary spous­es, Coop­er said. The program’s site — — lists more than 70,000 jobs for mil­i­tary spouses. 

“It’s a real­ly enor­mous capac­i­ty and includes jobs all over the world,” the cap­tain said. 

Coop­er also not­ed a recent emer­gence of vir­tu­al hir­ing fairs, which is an asset to peo­ple unable to attend a hir­ing fair due to dis­tance or who want to see what’s avail­able in oth­er locations. 

Mili­cruit host­ed a vir­tu­al fair a few weeks ago that includ­ed more than 24,000 jobs from near­ly 70 employ­ers with more than 30,000 vet­er­ans and spous­es engaged in the process. “As we go for­ward, I think we’ll see pos­i­tive results,” he said. 

While employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties have gar­nered the most atten­tion, the cam­paign also is mak­ing inroads in the area of edu­ca­tion, Coop­er noted. 

When Join­ing Forces first rolled out, the Mil­i­tary Child Edu­ca­tion Coali­tion and the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of Col­leges for Teacher Edu­ca­tion com­mit­ted to work­ing togeth­er. They aimed to bring 100 uni­ver­si­ties around the coun­try on board to devel­op and imple­ment a cur­ricu­lum that would give edu­ca­tors around the coun­try knowl­edge of mil­i­tary child-cen­tric issues. They’re on track to accom­plish this goal by 2012, Coop­er said. 

This Join­ing Forces effort will have a last­ing effect, the cap­tain said, as thou­sands of teach­ers enter com­mu­ni­ties with a greater under­stand­ing and appre­ci­a­tion for what mil­i­tary chil­dren experience. 

Coop­er also not­ed progress in the area of wellness. 

Med­scape, a web resource for physi­cians and oth­er health pro­fes­sion­als, com­mit­ted ear­ly on to stand­ing up a resource cen­ter and cur­ricu­lum on mil­i­tary fam­i­ly health care for physi­cians and nurs­es. The site con­tains orig­i­nal med­ical edu­ca­tion pro­grams as well as links to gov­ern­ment, aca­d­e­m­ic and com­mu­ni­ty resources. 

Med­scape already has launched sev­en med­ical edu­ca­tion pro­grams and they will com­plete three more by the end of the year, Coop­er said. These pro­grams, which can be accessed by any­one, address a vari­ety of top­ics includ­ing health care needs of mil­i­tary fam­i­lies, mil­i­tary cul­ture, and screen­ing and treat­ment for post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der and trau­mat­ic brain injury. 

As of Nov. 21, more than 40,000 doc­tors and nurs­es around the coun­try had accessed the por­tal and site. “It’s been a huge hit,” he said. 

Look­ing for­ward, Coop­er said he’s work­ing close­ly with 14 asso­ci­a­tions — nurs­es, physi­cians and psy­chi­a­trists — to see “where we can cap­ture the pow­er of these asso­ci­a­tions in the world of behav­ioral health for fam­i­lies and veterans.” 

Over­all, Join­ing Forces has exceed­ed his expec­ta­tions, Coop­er said. He nev­er imag­ined that the nation’s pri­vate sec­tor would hire 20,000 peo­ple so fast, and that’s just for starters. “We’re at the infan­cy of this effort, and the tra­jec­to­ry con­tin­ues to go even steep­er and faster,” he said. 

To get a true sense of the campaign’s effect, Coop­er said peo­ple would sim­ply need to ask those most direct­ly affect­ed — the 20,000 vet­er­ans and spous­es who have land­ed a job through Join­ing Forces hir­ing actions. “And then ask the next 135,000 what the impact has been or will be in their life,” he said. 

Still, much work remains to be done, espe­cial­ly as the wars draw down and more troops enter the work­force. “There’s been a great leap in aware­ness, ser­vice, impact and effect these last few months,” he added. “But tremen­dous work remains as we have more than a mil­lion troops tran­si­tion­ing out of the ser­vice by 2015.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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