The nearly 3,000 Iowa National Guard soldiers who recently returned from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t facing a daily life-or-death mission any more– but many are facing the tough task of finding work as civilians at a time when jobs are not plentiful. Becky Coady works with the Department of Defense agency know as the “Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.”
She says finding a job was an issue for many soldiers before they left for active duty. “There were a significant number, 730 of them, stated that they were not employed prior to going on the deployment due to the recession,” Coady says. One Iowa guard member, 22-year-old Joe Carr of Pleasant Hill, said he had only a temporary job when he was called up.
“And that was pretty much all I could get, and I had that until I deployed,” Carr said. Temporary positions aren’t covered under the federal law protecting soldiers’ jobs while they are on active duty, so the army private is looking for work. He repaired drone aircraft in Iraq.
He says he got back to Iowa on July 15th and says he has not had very much luck in finding a job. “At first I was trying not to be picky, but I feel my skills earn me a little bit, not a minimum wage job,” Carr says, “But its really hard in this economy to find anything.”
Sergeant Clay Chickering deployed with a Denison Iowa Guard unit, and was in the same boat. “I knew before I went on the deployment that when I came back I was going to be unemployed,” Chikering says. His manufacturing job got moved out of state while he was overseas. In Iraq he ran raids on houses suspected of harboring the Taliban. That kind of background makes some civilian jobs less appealing.
“I don’t want to be sitting behind a desk doing a telemarketing job,” Chickering says, “It is kind of nerve-racking knowing that there’s a lot of people that are looking for work. Now that I’m off active duty I’m going to go ahead and file for unemployment.”
Iowa Workforce Development is trying to help the soldiers by taking its job search program directly to armories around the state.