MG Terry M. Haston
Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley, and distinguished members of the subcommittee; I am honored to appear before you today on behalf of the more than 14,000 men and women serving in the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard, and I would like to begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for the outstanding support of this Subcommittee.
Since the tragic attacks on our homeland on September 11, 2001, more than 27,000 brave Tennessee National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have deployed both at home and abroad protecting the freedoms that we all enjoy.
Tennessee National Guard Unemployment Statistics
These men and women of the Volunteer State have answered the call of this nation without hesitation or reservation. Most return home after defending this great nation and resume the civilian lifestyle they left, renewing relationships with family and friends and returning to their civilian workplace; but all too often many return to an uncertain future. The issue of Soldiers and Airmen facing unemployment in the civilian sector is paramount in our concerns for the well-being of our troops.
In Tennessee, about 20-25 percent of our National Guard strength is either unemployed or under employed, with about 3.5 percent of those identified as full-time students. This compares to an 8.7 percent unemployment rate for Tennessee as a whole. We owe these volunteers our very best efforts in helping them gain employment. But to effectively combat this problem, we have to know the enemy. We have to look beyond the reported numbers that may, in fact, demonstrate a "false positive". To understand the magnitude of the problem, we have to determine an accurate number of Guard members who are actively seeking employment. We also have to determine if their deployment caused them to be unemployed, or were they unemployed before deploying. In Tennessee, we continually encourage the unit commanders and leadership to identify these individuals in order to assist them however we can. Simply, we must know what the true objectives are before we can attack them.
Tennessee National Guard Initiatives and Transition Assistance
In Tennessee, we are striving to identify those true objectives. In conjunction with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, we are conducting Employment Assistance Workshops about once each month. This 3-day event provides one-on-one career counseling addressing issues such as writing an effective resume, guidance in preparing for, and how to conduct an interview. On the final day, employers, such as FEDEX, Verizon Wireless, Hospital Corporation of America, Dollar General, AT&T and a multitude of other employers are on hand to interview prospective employees. Hopefully, through this process the employers will find and hire a quality Guard member that brings a great deal to the table, offering that employer a motivated, disciplined, drug-free asset with the training and potential for leadership within their company.
We have sponsored or supported 18 Job Fairs in the past 17 months with 415 participants. Of those participants, 111 have responded to inquiry, and 37% of the respondents have found employment.
This program, along with our Yellow Ribbon initiatives, unemployment counseling at Soldier out-processing upon their return, and our outstanding relationship with the Tennessee Department of Labor are all positive steps in reducing the number of unemployed Guard members in Tennessee.
I’ve often heard it said that the Soldiers and Airmen of our National Guard are the best America has to offer. These men and women are willing to put their lives on hold, and without hesitation . . . without reservation, walk away from family, community, and their civilian occupation to defend and protect this great nation. We owe them no less than our very best.
Thank you for allowing me to address this subcommittee, and I stand ready to answer any questions you may have.