By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2011 – First Lady Michelle Obama, on a visit with her husband to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., today announced a private sector hiring commitment of 25,000 military spouses and veterans as part of the Joining Forces campaign.
Some 270 companies represented by the American Logistics Association for doing business in military resale and morale, welfare, and recreation, have committed to hiring 25,000 military spouses and veterans in the next two years, the first lady said. The commitment is the largest yet toward President Barack Obama’s challenge for the private sector to hire 100,000 military spouses and veterans by 2013.
“They do not want to miss out on your potential,” the first lady said to a cheering audience inside the 94th Fighter Squadron’s hangar. “They want American businesses to have the best, most-talented, most hard-working employees around.”
The commitment came from diverse companies, she said, ranging from the corporate behemoths Procter & Gamble, Tyson Foods and Hewlett-Packard, to smaller companies such as Prime Time Services, which plans to hire hundreds of military spouses and veterans within the next year.
Some hiring efforts already have begun, Obama said, with Siemens, Sears, K-Mart and Sam’s Club, and through Chamber of Commerce job fairs.
“These are bold commitments, and these are companies that are making these pledges not just because it’s the right thing to do or because it feels patriotic,” she said. “They’re also doing it because it’s good for their bottom line … because they know that veterans and military spouses, like all of you here today, represent the best our country has to offer. And they want you on their team.”
The first lady then introduced her husband, the president, saying his presence shows what “a huge deal” the announcement is.
The president thanked the troops for their service, noting, “Your generation has earned a special place in America’s history.”
Many of the 3 million post-9/11 war veterans “have taken their leadership experience, their mastery of cutting edge technologies, their ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and they’ve become leaders here at home,” the president said. “They’ve become leaders at businesses all across the country.
However, the Obamas said, many military spouses and veterans struggle to find good employment.
“The truth is that sometimes employers may not always know about all that you have to offer,” the first lady said. “They might have trouble understanding a military resume, or they might see a spouse who’s lived in five cities in seven years as a red flag, rather than a reality of military life.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” the president said. “If you can save a life in Afghanistan, you can save a life in a local hospital or in a local ambulance. If you can oversee millions of dollars of assets in Iraq, you can help a business balance its books here at home. If you can juggle the demands of raising a family while a husband or wife are at war, you can juggle any demands of any job in the United States of America.”
In announcing the initiative, the first lady said the administration wants to raise awareness that many important job skills — time management, organization, people skills, and complex decision-making — are “second nature” to military spouses and veterans.
“That is really the reason why we’re here today, because those are precisely the skills that we need in workplaces across America,” she said.
“We want America to know that you’re veterans who have completed missions with enough variables involved to make most people’s heads spin; that you’re trained in state-of-the-art technologies; that you’ve managed dozens if not hundreds of your peers; and when the stakes are the highest, that’s when you’re at your best,” she added.
The American Logistics Association represents the largest consumer packaged goods companies in the United States, including major manufacturers such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and ConAgra, along with a multitude of specialty suppliers to the on-base military consumer channel, according to its president, Pat Nixon, a Vietnam War veteran who took part in a White House conference call with reporters yesterday.