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S.C. businesses eye Marines leaving the Corps

Nov. 8, 2012 - 08:11PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 8, 2012 - 08:11PM  |  
A forecaster for Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, observes various weather patterns at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. South Carolina officials want Marines leaving the Corps to stay in the state.
A forecaster for Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, observes various weather patterns at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. South Carolina officials want Marines leaving the Corps to stay in the state. (Lance Cpl. Joshua Pettway / Marine Corps)
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Officials in South Carolina want Marines who are getting out of the Corps to think about making the state their permanent duty station.

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Officials in South Carolina want Marines who are getting out of the Corps to think about making the state their permanent duty station.

Lowcountry Economic Alliance views Marines exiting the Corps as an asset to the community. The public-private partnership works to get companies to see South Carolina as an attractive place to start a business, and the organizers think Marines and sailors in the area can help give their state an edge.

Kim Statler, executive director of the alliance, said troops transitioning to civilian life from bases in their area — including Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Recruit Depot Parris Island and Beaufort Naval Hospital — have important skills to offer potential employers there.

"They have security clearance that in the civilian world costs a lot of money to obtain. They have a great ability to work as a team and are very logistics oriented," she said.

Retiring Marines and sailors can also offer an edge in that they already have health care, something Statler said can save money for potential employers.

"The cost of that type of employee looks very different to an employer," she said. "They already have benefits, so that starts them off from a different negotiating level."

Statler said they hope to be matching troops with jobs by the beginning of 2013. For now, they'll research what the military already does to aid transitioning veterans so they can build on the process.

Bridging the gap between the public and private sectors is something that retired Lt. Col. Kevin Schmiegel, a field artillery officer who headed up enlisted assignments while in the Corps, is working to accomplish at the national level. Schmiegel is a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and executive director of its Hiring Our Heroes program. What he learned while heading enlisted assignments helped him to understand what Marines are thinking at the time they are transitioning out of the Corps. "Marines are making a decision of the heart when they leave," Schmiegel said. "Instead of looking at jobs and who's hiring, they're thinking, ‘How can I get closer to those that I've been separated from?'"

Similar to what the alliance in South Carolina is trying to accomplish, Schmiegel wants troops transitioning to civilian life to look for attractive job markets. That means getting them to think about the transition process while they're still in the Corps.

"Why are we waiting until after they get back to their community when they could be finding high paying jobs if they know they're out there," he said. "We want to help them make an informed decision."

The program not only gets troops to look at their skills and how to sell them, but also gets them thinking about where they could be best applied. Both Schmiegel and Staler said there can be a communication breakdown in matching military skills with private-sector needs.

"The two cultures are so different that sometimes I don't think they understand the complete value in one another," Staler said. "Marines may not speak the language of private industry to sell themselves best."

Schmiegel said the public-private partnership that the Hiring Our Heroes program emphasizes created a movement across the country, and that private sector employers are starving for talented veterans. The key is just identifying the industries and places that best support troops' skills. So they're looking at the top industries that are showing the biggest growth, and they want Marines to do the same. That includes areas such as manufacturing, transportation, energy, infrastructure and health care, all of which he said are growing.

Both placement experts advise flexibility, and to look where the jobs are. For the alliance, Statler said the hope is that Marines in Beaufort or Parris Island stick around and apply their skills there.

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