Three weeks before we observe Veteran’s Day, Woman Around Town launches a three-part series by career expert Jason Veduccio interviewing experts who help returning warriors re-enter the workplace. This week, Jason talks with Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Eric Furey (Retired) who spends his personal time assisting fellow veterans looking for work, mostly in the defense industry as contractors. These assignments allow veterans to use the knowledge they gained fighting a war to assist companies who produce defense-related products or provide personnel services.
Part I – Helping Vets Find Jobs as Contractors
Americans cherish freedom and understand that the country’s all-volunteer armed forces deserve credit and loyalty for protecting those freedoms. During their service time, soldiers may be in charge of scores of people, handle millions of dollars worth of equipment, and devise complicated strategies for multiple teams around the globe. Yet many will return home and have difficulty finding work.
Veterans already in the workplace are in the best position to help their fellow veterans, but they cannot do it alone. Corporate America must pitch in to help. The result would be a win-win: corporations will benefit from employing veterans who are highly trained, dedicated, driven, and adept at problem-solving, while the veterans will find meaningful, well-paying jobs that can help them transition back into civilian life.
I spoke with LTC Eric Furey of Virginia, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel (Green Beret) who served as a Red Team Leader, as part of the first Red Team to deploy with the Special Operations to Afghanistan from July 2008 to January 2009. These days LTC Furey puts his abilities to good use away from the battlefield, working in his spare time helping veterans find work mostly as contractors within the defense industry. I spoke with LTC Furey on the phone recently as he was driving through Virginia, where he now finds himself working for a defense contractor. (Please see below for a more complete bio of LTC Furey.)
When the draft was discontinued after Vietnam and the military became more sophisticated, it also became leaner and as such many specialized jobs that before went to military personnel started getting contract workers to perform them.
Who were these contractors?
Many were veterans since they knew the terrain and the way in which these jobs needed to be done. They also understand how demanding this work can be.
Do you find that many want to do this work or is it more that they lack opportunity here at home?
It’s both really. There are some that go to these places on tours of duty and really integrate with the culture as part of their mission and then after their tour they want to return, to be with their colleagues helping in some way, with their family of military brothers. Others are not able to find work back home in the U. S. and they are forced to take these jobs to support families in the U.S.
Do you have success in finding them work?
The success rate really depends on the individual’s personal motivation. But I tend to see the gamut of people who may have suffered traumatic war injuries or Post Traumatic Stress and so they can get discouraged as well, and what’s worse is many have found that when they return many people have made promises that they just don’t keep.
Do you work within a corporate structure or on your own?
I work on my own in my spare time. I simply help them network. I started just because I wanted to help veterans. It wasn’t this organized effort on my part it just came to me when a friend or colleague needed help; it was just doing it one by one. It’s about helping people just like someone would who works in publishing or construction, where you might see someone you think is talented or needs a break and you just help by making some calls or finding them the right people to talk to.
Have you ever thought to start an organization?
Yes, but there are already many out there. For me I want to hook up veterans with other veterans with similar needs so they can inspire each other, even beyond getting them jobs. Imagine if we could pair veterans that are doing well with children who are in trouble and let them push and inspire each other.
There are all kinds of people helping. There are many organizations out there doing great work. And some individuals too. You never know who is doing what because many do it quietly. Did you know that Martha Raye a.k.a. Colonel Maggie was a Nurse, Entertainer and Honorary Green Beret out in the field during her visits to Vietnam with the U.S.Special Forces? People are out there doing incredible things that we just don’t know about. (Professional Golfer) Phil Mickelson does incredible things behind the scenes for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. At the Fort Bragg, N.C. Airborne & Special Operations Museum (above) you would see all that John Wayne did including helping to fund the Green Beret statue of “Bronze Bruce” (the Special Warfare Memorial Statue) dedicated in 1969. But then there are people who aren’t celebrities and who do things all the time. Much of it is done quietly.
What is demand like for these contractors?
People don’t realize that even when we are not at war; it doesn’t mean we are at peace. And that means we need not just the military but also these contractors that support them. So there are always needs for workers, but when the military makes cuts, usually these jobs are among the first to go.
How much can a contractor make?
The contractors who go overseas to combat zones can make six figures, which might sound like a lot, and is a lot for someone who may not have attended college, but these jobs are demanding and highly dangerous. And the time hired is limited so they need to stash away much of this money because there is no long-term guarantee. The problem is that the government’s spending is elastic and it expands and shrinks depending on what engagements we are involved with, but these workers have lives and families and want some sense of security.
Do you help any particular branch of the military of all personnel?
Sometimes each branch likes to work with like-branches, such as the Special Forces Association and the Green Beret Foundation, but for me I like to just help anyone who wore a uniform.
How long are these contracts?
Contracts are usually for a year. The problem is there is if a contractor gets hurt they do not have access to the same resources as those in uniform unless it is life or death. And contracts can be harder to come by as the military downsizes in order to be more efficient.
If there are some veterans out there interested in this type of work or better yet, some companies looking to hire veterans can they contact you?
Absolutely. I hope more companies outside of the defense industry will step up and many are to see that these veterans are superb workers and leaders, able to learn complicated operations. Veterans also happen to be among the most loyal workers you will ever hire.
If you would like to contact LTC Furey please send your request to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be forwarded.
When he was ten, LTC Furey’s father took him to the Savoy in downtown Boston to see The Green Beret, a film starring John Wayne. He doesn’t remember exactly what he said after the viewing but he knew that it had changed his life. After high school he decided he wanted to be a United States fighter pilot. From there he attended Norwich University, the Military College of Vermont. After a brief stint as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, LTC Furey received a direct commission from the U.S. Army Reserve in 1984 whereupon he fulfilled his dream of becoming a Green Beret in 1985. By 1999, he was recalled to active duty to teach as an Assistant Professor of Military Science at Northeastern University. However, shortly after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, he led a Massachusetts National Guard team dedicated to responding to potential domestic attacks involving chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in the New England area. Thereafter he would serve the next eight years serving in every aspect of the Global War in terror to include a deployment to Kosovo as an Infantry Battalion Commander.
In 2008 he became part of the first Red Team to deploy with Special Operations to Afghanistan where Red Teaming brings external creative and critical thinking into the strategic and operational military decision making process. Red Teamers offer alternative perspectives, play the role of devil’s advocates and assist key leaders in preventing problems in planning associated with cognitive biases such as tunnel vision, group think, and cultural missteps, all techniques that LTC Furey says work just as effectively in the private sector when leveraged as a corporate executive decision tool.
With his fellow Red Teamers and essential input from U.S. Army Special Forces Operational Detachment – Alphas, better known by the moniker ODA’s, stationed along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border, LTC Furey developed the concept and wrote the plan for the Tribal Engagement Initiative, utilizing aspects from the unwritten, ancient, Pashtun tribal ethical code called Pashtunwali. Their initiative would become the genesis for subsequent local engagement activities in Afghanistan.