Wounded Warrior job fair offers opportunities
By Trista Talton - MarineTimes
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Cpl. Mark Marcoux set his sights on college long before he was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
His goal to earn a bachelor's degree hasn't changed, but the 23-year-old acknowledges he may struggle because of the injuries — including traumatic brain injury — he sustained from the October 2006 blast in Ramadi.
"I still want to go to college," he said. "But I have memory problems. Usually, I'm good at accomplishing my goals when I set my mind to it, ... what I have left of it."
Like other Marines with Wounded Warriors Battalion-East, Marcoux wanted to get an idea of other options available at a job fair hosted by the Quantico, Va.-based Wounded Warriors Regiment.
Wounded troops had the first two hours of the June 17 fair to themselves, giving them time to talk to dozens of employers looking for prospective job candidates, including representatives of law enforcement, defense contractors and Homeland Security.
Marcoux and a small crowd of Marines gathered around a table covered with pamphlets and leaflets.
"Homeland Security sounds pretty good," Marcoux said.
So did Alion Science and Technology, a technology solutions company that offers expertise and operational support to the Defense Department, government agencies and commercial customers. Marcoux, an infantryman, said he's primarily interested in defense contract work.
As a fellow grunt, Cpl. Dennis Ndaanee, 25, understands Marcoux's attraction to that profession.
"For us, it's kind of really hard to go into civilian life and go out and do stuff other than what we've been doing," Ndaanee said.
Unlike Marcoux, who is leaving the Corps in August, Ndaanee re-enlisted three weeks before he "got blown up" in August 2007. Ndaanee was ejected 50 feet into the air after the vehicle he was in crossed a pressure-plate bomb in Baghdad. He suffers from TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder and he's losing vision in his left eye.
"I don't want to get out any time soon," he said. "I don't really have anything. I have a really long way to go. I've thought about it. That's why I'm going to take my time."
When he does leave the Corps, he said he's leaning toward trying to get a security job. He listened as an inspector with the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service pitched job descriptions to Marines.
"This is a law enforcement security organization," inspector Jeffrey Caldwell explained. "What we're looking for mostly today is inspectors. We're looking for capable people who understand discipline."
Inspectors are responsible for securing federal buildings, such as Social Security offices, and act as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's security force. Candidates must pass hearing and vision tests, as well as physical training requirements.
That may automatically count out some of the wounded troops who visited the fair. But there are other options, including employment with major defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which has an employment program that targets wounded troops.
Under the program, called Operation IMPACT — Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition — about 50 wounded troops, their spouses or primary supporters, have been hired, said Duane Hardesty, senior military trainer and outreach manager. The company is actively pursuing another 200 to 300 people through the program, he said.
"We try to put them in the program as soon as we make contact with them," Hardesty said.
Some of the program requirements include that service members be severely injured in combat on or after Sept. 11, 2001, and have at least a 30 percent disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
About an hour after the job fair began, 14 Marines had left their names and contact information with Hardesty.
Sgt. Terrance James was one of the Marines to put his name on the list. James, who walks with a cane after injuring both knees during training, said he's looking for a job where employers understand he'll have multiple medical appointments.
"I don't want to be looked at funny every time that comes up," he said.
The Wounded Warrior Regiment plans to host a similar job fair at Camp Pendleton, Calif., next month.
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