|WASHINGTON, D.C. (Army News Service) — In an effort to
address military spouses’ employment challenges, the Defense Department
June 29 launched a program to expand career opportunities for military
spouses worldwide, and to recognize the skills and talents they bring to
the employment table.
Flanked by military spouses and corporate leaders, top government and
military officials unveiled the Military Spouse Employment Partnership
during a ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here. The partnership
encompasses more than 70 employers who have committed to opening their
doors to spouse employment.
Jill Biden, wife of Vice
President Joe Biden, and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, talk during the kickoff of the Military
Spouse Employment Partnership at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in
Washington, D.C., June 29, 2011.
(Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st
Class Chad J. McNeeley)
In remarks at the event, Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe
Biden, lauded military spouses for their service and sacrifice as
they juggle households, children, volunteer work and jobs — many
times in the midst of deployments.
Due to their ability to thrive despite multiple challenges and
demands, she noted, military spouses possess the qualities highly
sought after by employers, such as dedication, flexibility, a strong
work ethic and “endless energy.”
“If you’re looking for hard-working, highly skilled and educated,
dedicated employees,” Biden said, “our military spouses are
precisely the employees you need.
“Every day our military spouses are giving back to our country,” she
added. “While their loved ones are called to serve, they serve right
alongside them. Now we must serve them as well as they serve us.”
Deborah Mullen, who was accompanied to the event by her husband,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen,
acknowledged the difficulties military spouses face in finding jobs.
Many spouses, she noted, are turned away for jobs, not due to their
qualifications or training, but due to the frequent moves their
servicemember spouse is required to make.
“More than one spouse has told me, ‘All I wanted was to get in the
door to be able to be judged on my merits, my qualifications and my
strengths,’” she said. But in many cases, she noted, they are unable
to even score an interview.
“They aren’t asking for rules to be broken or regulations to be cast
aside,” she said. “They know the economy is tough out there. This
isn’t about entitlement for them; this is about opportunity.
Military spouses just want the same shot as everyone else.”
Only 1 percent of the nation serves, comprising about 2.2 million
servicemembers, Mullen said, and about half of them are married to
someone seeking a job. And most of those job seekers are women, she
noted, “educated resilient, serious women who possess strong values
and even stronger work ethic.
The partnership launched signifies a positive step toward employing
these highly skilled spouses, Biden said.
“We’re making it a little easier for them to find work, and perhaps
a little less frightening for new employers to take that gamble and
find the talent so resident in our ranks,” she said.
But the work is just beginning, Biden noted. Today, the Defense
Department launches the partnership, she said, and “tomorrow, we
must make that partnership work.”
Clifford L. Stanley, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and
Readiness, lauded the partnership, noting that programs like this
didn’t exist when he joined the Marine Corps in the 1960s. He
recalled a time when he and his wife had to watch their spending,
unsure of whether or not she’d have a job at the next duty station.
Today, there’s an abundance of programs aimed at supporting military
Families, and their welfare is taken into consideration at every
level of command, Stanley said. The partnership is a significant
commitment toward that military Family care and, he added, “a big
deal” for spouses and employers.
The event also marked the inclusion of 15 new employers who signed
onto the partnership.
Leaders from each company stepped forward to sign a statement of
support, signifying a pledge to:
• Increase employment opportunities for military spouses, while
maintaining employment for relocating spouses;
• Provide career promotion opportunities for military spouses who
are excelling at their jobs;
• Ensure pay equity for military spouses commensurate with their
level of training, work experience, accomplishments and credentials;
• Spread the word about spousal support throughout the military and
Partners also are pledging to post job opportunities on the Military
Spouse Employment Partnership Web portal located on OurMilitary.mil
The partnership program evolved from the Army Spouse Employment
Program, through which more than 100,000 military spouses have been
hired since 2003, explained Robert L. Gordon III, Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy.
“As [this program] continues to grow, just think about what this
partnership can do for our spouses, for our military,” he said.
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Gary Profit, senior director of military
recruiting for Walmart, one of the program’s partners, noted the
importance of caring for military Families in all sectors of
“As a retired Army officer, and with a spouse that followed me
around the world for 31 years, it’s an opportunity to give back to
those with whom we had the privilege of serving,” he said of the
partnership. “It’s an important public and private partnership we
have to honor the service and sacrifice of military spouses who have
served very much as their uniformed member serves.”
Military spouses also voiced their approval of the program.
“It will make our lives as military spouses so much easier, because
right before you move, there’s that ramp up of getting that resume
ready and all that on top of moving,” said Kristi Hamrick, an Air
Force spouse who has moved 11 times in 17 years. “If you can get a
job where you have another job waiting on the other end that would
reduce so much stress.”
“I’m overwhelmed,” added Jennifer Pilcher, wife of Navy Cmdr. Eddie
Pilcher. “I truly think it’s the first time in history that the
military spouse has been recognized. To sit here and hear the
program is for us is overwhelming and exciting.”