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Witness Testimony of LTC Anthony D. Tabler, USA (Ret.), Senior Business Development Manager, Communications and Force Protection Systems, ITT Electronic Systems, Fort Wayne, IN

My name is Anthony D. Tabler (Tony), and I am currently serving as a Senior Business Development Manager in ITT’s Communications and Force Protection Systems business area located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

I graduated from the United States Military Academy in July 1975.    I spent 22 years in the U.S. Army attaining the rank of rank of Lieutenant Colonel and retired from the Army in 2001 after which I was hired by ITT in Fort Wayne.

During my time at ITT I’ve had regular contact with members of the military to include active Army, National Guard and reservists.  I have spoken with them at their military places of duty, in the community and at the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission.  I understand the challenges they face as they transition from military to civilian life.  I also understand the challenges they have in finding and keeping a job, and that the challenges of transitioning from the military is often greater for lower enlisted service members than for senior military officers such as myself.

I’m clearly not an expert on addressing unemployment issues for veterans, but I will share my views on what I think can be done to help decrease the unemployment rate for veterans, National Guard and reservists.  I will also provide insights on what ITT does in Fort Wayne to help veterans find and maintain employment.  For sake of simplicity I will only make reference to veterans through the remainder of this testimony. 

I think it is only fitting to first answer the question, why do we care about veterans?  My answer would be that veterans and their family members sacrifice much as they serve our country in time of war and peace.  Our veterans are willing to give their all to protect the interests of the nation and allow you and I enjoy the freedoms we have in America.  They may not fully understand or appreciate how important their job is, but veterans deserve our care, compassion and help.

Helping veterans to find employment should start when they transition from their military units and return to civilian life.  When I transitioned from the military at Fort Gordon, Georgia, I received guidance and coaching at the Fort Gordon transition office on how to write a resume, and how to best describe my skills and capabilities in a way that the civilian sector would understand.  Transitioning for me was easy because I was a Lieutenant Colonel, member of the Army’s acquisition corps, had a masters degree in electrical engineering and many contacts in the defense companies who offered to help me get a job in their respective companies.  My rank, job skills and degree made it easy for me to transition but this is not the case for the younger veterans.  Every veteran, however, possesses valuable skills that can add tremendous value to any community.  Some possess detailed technical skills, while all possess leadership skills that will serve them well in every job profession that I can think of.

The excitement of leaving the military quickly fades when the veteran arrives at his hometown and they try to figure out what they want to do as a civilian.  I believe it is important for the veteran to be able to visit, for lack of better words, a civilian in-processing center that provides an opportunity for them take a job aptitude test to determine the type of work they would best be suited for.  I’m not sure where this would occur but it potentially could be conducted at an existing Veterans Affairs facility.  I would compare this to a student taking a college aptitude test to determine which career field is the best match for them.  During this civilian in-processing, the veteran should be given assistance in developing a resume that allows them to match their skills against job opportunities in the community.  I found that writing and rewriting my resume really forced me to think about what I wanted to do when I departed the military.  The veterans should also be coached on how dress and participate in a job interview.  I would highly recommend that a case worker be assigned for those who want and need extra help.  It would also be of tremendous value if the civilian in-processing facility had a current listing of military friendly businesses and job opportunities in the community. 

With regard to military friendly businesses, I believe that offering some type of tax credit to companies who hire veterans would encourage them to be military friendly and make it appealing for them to hire veterans.

Once the veteran finds a job I believe it is important to offer them a military friendly place they can periodically visit that helps them get and stay connected to the community.  This could potentially take place at Veterans Affairs or National Guard facilities, American Legion Posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts or Disabled American Veterans Chapters or places of worship.  This would give veterans a place to congregate to talk about what is happening in their lives.  This would also be a great opportunity for caring professionals in the community to speak with and mentor veterans on topics of concern.  I am sure that professionals in the community would be willing to donate their time, offer free seminars or lead discussion groups on topics that educate and benefit veterans if they knew there was a need.

I would like to mention one other aspect of transitioning from the military.  Places of worship should be encouraged to reach out to the military and their families.  Many veterans, especially those returning from war, have serious emotional issues that they need to deal with.  Their families suffer and often do not know where to turn for help.  Places of worship should not try to deal with serious emotional and mental issues, but there is no substitute for a caring person coming along side another to deal with the struggles of life.  Places of worship need to become better educated in the area of veteran issues and develop creative ways to reach out to veterans and their families. 

I would now like to share some ideas on things that ITT is doing to recognize and care for our veterans. 

ITT in Fort Wayne hires veterans in the course of our normal recruiting activities.  Although we do not have a formally documented program that we follow to hire veterans, we do include veteran friendly organizations in our normal recruiting outreach.  For example we target Navy veterans for our Fleet Systems Engineering Team (FSET) and Army veterans for our Field Services Representative (FSR) positions.  We e-mail FSET job openings to NAVNET for posting on their communications board.   We also post to www.recruitmiliary.com and www.vetjobs.com.  We also periodically attend Recruit Military career fairs and place advertisements in the Search and Employ Quarterly Magazine sponsored by Recruit Military.   

Our employment records indicate that 83 ITT employees have self-identified themselves as U.S. veterans in Fort Wayne.  This count is likely low because some employees elect not to identify veteran status when they are hired. 

The web site www.Indeed.com scrapes our Geospatial Systems website daily and posts job listings to numerous websites that provide focus for veterans seeking jobs.  In addition, we post to Monster (Monster has military.com) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) which is a business-related social networking site in an effort to target veterans.

In Fort Wayne ITT is also a member of the Northeast Indiana Defense Industry Association (NIDIA) whose two fold mission is to support and grow the defense industry in NE Indiana (serving as a model state wide now) and to grow talent for the defense industry.  This group also focuses on the employment of veterans.  It is not uncommon for members of this group to share resumes of veterans between member companies.

ITT also is a member of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).  The mission of the ESGR is to “develop and promote employer support for Guard and Reserve service by advocating relevant initiatives, recognizing outstanding support, increasing awareness of applicable laws, and resolving conflict between employers and service members.”  ITT has received the ESGR Patriot Award in recognition of being an outstanding employer who supports members of the National Guard and Reserves. 

ITT also participates in the newly founded Fort Wayne Base Community Council which supports the Guard and Reserve in Northeast Indiana.  The Fort Wayne community has recognized this as important and has reached out to the Selfridge Air National Guard Base who has an established program in Michigan to help coach the establishment of our group.

Although I have made just a few brief comments, I hope that I have sparked a few ideas that will result in ways that could help reduce the unemployment rate of veterans, National Guard and reservists. 

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before this subcommittee and would be glad to be of service in the future.  I’d be glad to take any questions at this time.