31 Central Texas Employers Honored at ‘We Hire Vets’ Ceremony for their Commitment to Hiring Veterans

PHOTO: Workforce Solutions of Central Texas COO Ken Cox, TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs, and Central Texas Workforce Development Board Executive Director Susan Kamas, at the Killeen "We Hire Vets" event.
PHOTO: Workforce Solutions of Central Texas COO Ken Cox, TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs, and Central Texas Workforce Development Board Executive Director Susan Kamas, at the Killeen “We Hire Vets” event.

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and Workforce Solutions of Central Texas honored 31 area employers for their commitment to hiring veterans during a recent “We Hire Vets” recognition ceremony.

The event was held at Workforce Solutions of Central Texas Killeen on May 25.

Launched in 2017, “We Hire Vets” is an employer recognition program developed by TWC in partnership with the Texas Veterans Commission and Texas Workforce Solutions Offices, to recognize Texas employers for their efforts in hiring our nation’s heroes. Employers whose workforce is comprised of at least 10 percent military veterans are eligible to receive a “We Hire Vets” employer recognition decal to display on their storefront, as well as an electronic decal to display on the employer’s website.

Among the many employers recognized at the event was McLane Southwest, one of the largest supply chain services leaders in the country, maintaining one of the nation’s most expansive private fleets.

“At McLane Southwest, we feel it is a value to pursue and hire our veterans of this great country. In fact, 14.7 percent of McLane Southwest’s workforce is comprised of veterans,” said Gary Johnson, McLane Southwest Division President of Grocery Supply Chain Solutions. “These individuals come from a previous background where a culture of accomplishment and teamwork are second nature. Many of them possess some form of leadership training and capability, and they take their assigned responsibilities very seriously. Our veterans are not afraid of hard work, and given the right opportunity and support, they become some of the most valuable assets to our organization.”

McLane Southwest's Warriors to Wheels LogoMcLane’s commitment to veterans led the company to launch a Registered Driver Apprenticeship program featuring a veteran initiative, Warriors to Wheels.

The Warriors to Wheels program is designed to attract and provide military veterans an “earn while you learn” training model that utilizes their military training experience to move into a career in transportation. McLane offers careers that don’t require drivers to be away from their families for extended periods of time. Delivery drivers run 1-2-day routes, with over 80 distribution centers nationwide.

“McLane values military veterans and the work ethic and skills they bring to the table. Because of this, McLane decided to provide an opportunity for veterans to utilize their military training and start a new career in transportation, with the goal of becoming part of the McLane family. This program enables eligible veterans to take full advantage of their GI Bill benefits while training to become a McLane Driver. For more information and a list of participating locations, please go to www.mclanew2w.com,” said Jennifer Rojas Clause, Inclusion and EEO Compliance Manager at McLane.

Another Central Texas employer who was recognized for their commitment to hiring veterans is Seton Medical Center Harker Heights (SMCHH), whose workforce is comprised of at least 12 percent military veterans.

PHOTO: (L) Michael Hales, RN at Seton Medical Center Harker Heights, Zachary K. Dietze, CEO of Seton Medical Center Harker Heights, TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs, and Central Texas Workforce Development Board Executive Director Susan Kamas, at the Killeen "We Hire Vets" event.
PHOTO: (L) Michael Hales, RN at Seton Medical Center Harker Heights, Zachary K. Dietze, CEO of Seton Medical Center Harker Heights, TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs, and Central Texas Workforce Development Board Executive Director Susan Kamas, at the Killeen “We Hire Vets” event.

SMCHH offers an array of health services for the Central Texas community, such as a Cardiology, Emergency Services and a Level IV Trauma Designated Emergency Room.

“At Seton Medical Center Harker Heights we are honored to be recognized by ‘We Hire Vets.’ We understand the advantages that come with hiring veterans and the invaluable experience they bring to our organization. We will continue to make it a priority to hire veterans and are fortunate to be part of the larger Fort Hood community,” said SMCHH CEO Zachary K. Dietze.

Some of the other employers recognized at the Killeen event included Azbell Electronics, Central Texas College, the Cities of Belton, Harker Heights, Lampasas and Rockdale, as well as General Dynamics Land Systems.

For maintaining a workforce of about 25 percent veterans, the Workforce Solutions of Central Texas Board and Workforce Center were also recognized at the Killeen event by TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs.

During previous recognition events, Lockheed Martin, Prudential Financial, the San Antonio Police Department and Southwest Airlines have been honored as “We Hire Vets” employers.

We Hire Vets LogoEmploying veterans creates a dedicated workforce with employees who know how to lead, build teams, and accept and meet challenges. Recognition of employers with veteran-friendly hiring practices is an important aspect of the Texas Operation Welcome Home (TOWH) initiative that assists recently separated veterans with employment and training opportunities.

As Gov. Greg Abbott shared when the “We Hire Vets” program was launched, “It is important to recognize current employers utilizing our highly-skilled veteran workforce, and encourage future employers to consider veterans in their hiring process. While we can never say ‘thank you’ enough, the ‘We Hire Vets’ program will create well-deserved opportunities to get our veterans back into the workforce.”

For more information on TOWH and the “We Hire Vets” program, and to download the “We Hire Vets” nomination/employer form, visit www.TexasOperationWelcomeHome.org.

Full List of Central Texas Employers Recognized at the Event:

More Photos from the Event:

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Symbol of Unity, Tradition: TVLP Helps American Legion Present Stetsons to 1st Cavalry Troopers at Fort Hood

PHOTO: U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division pose with John McKinny of the American Legion - Department of Texas, and TWC Texas Veterans Leadership Program Manager Jeff Singh.
PHOTO: U.S. Army Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division pose with John McKinny of the American Legion – Department of Texas, and TWC Texas Veterans Leadership Program Manager Jeff Singh.

The Texas Workforce Commission’s (TWC) Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP), in conjunction with the American Legion – Department of Texas and Fort Hood, presented 10 Stetsons to a U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division unit during a recent ceremony at the Central Texas military installation.

PHOTO: John McKinny with the American Legion - Department of Texas, presents a Cavalry Stetson to a U.S. Army soldier with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division.
PHOTO: John McKinny with the American Legion – Department of Texas, presents a Cavalry Stetson to a U.S. Army soldier with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division.

John McKinny, an Army veteran and former American Legion State Commander, presented the Stetsons directly to soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion along with the unit’s commanders.

McKinny said the Stetsons were donated to the Battalion by the American Legion Travis Post 76 Honor Guard, as a way to give back to our service men and women.

“It’s refreshing to see the dedication of these soldiers. I’m excited about this new generation of veterans,” he said.

McKinny entered the U. S. Army in 1969 and served two years, one of which was in Vietnam. He was honorably discharged as a Specialist (E-5). After returning from military service, he was hired by the Texas Workforce Commission (then known as the Texas Employment Commission) as a Veterans Placement Specialist, before being promoted to Interviewer, Site Manager, and then serving as the local office Veterans Employment Representative for the Port Arthur Texas Employment Office.  He went on to serve as the State Director of the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) until his retirement.

PHOTO: John McKinny with the American Legion - Department of Texas, presents a Cavalry Stetson to a U.S. Army soldier with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division.

McKinny said when he got out of the service, the American Legion was there for him, to help during his transition back to the civilian world.

“I had nothing when I got back, but with their help I was soon serving as a local veterans representative in Port Arthur, and was able to help fellow-veterans find work — more than 800 within one single month,” he said.

McKinny said while he knows the Army of today is very different that the one he served in, he said ceremonies like this help connect veterans through a strong esprit de corps.

PHOTO: John McKinny with the American Legion - Department of Texas, presents a Cavalry Stetson to a U.S. Army soldier with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division.

“I have faith in our future. Today’s generation is tomorrow’s future,” he said.

PHOTO: Stetsons are a standard for all cavalry units in the Army.
PHOTO: Stetsons are a standard for all cavalry units in the Army.

The tradition of the Cavalry Hat (Stetson) began in the early days before the Vietnam War, and has continued to become the standard for all cavalry units in the Army.

The “Cav Hat” is not an issued item for soldiers, and is not covered in any of the uniform regulations. But the Stetsons are worn by the Troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division and many other cavalry units, for ceremonies and special cavalry events, according to the Division.

Hat cords are worn and represent the rank of the wearer. General officers wear solid gold cords, field and company grade officers wear black and gold hat cords, warrant officers wear black and silver hat cords and enlisted Troopers wear Cavalry yellow hat cords. Normally the branch insignia of the Cavalry, crossed sabers, are worn on the front along with the rank of the wearer.

PHOTO: 1st Sgt. Dailey of the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion speaks to his Troopers about giving back to the community.
PHOTO: 1st Sgt. Dailey of the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion speaks to his Troopers about giving back to the community.

During the ceremony at Fort Hood, the unit’s senior non-commissioned officer (NCO), 1st Sgt. Dailey, called his Troopers to formation and asked them to consider their lives after their time in the Army, and to seek out TWC services and to learn from the example that McKinny and many other veterans in public service have set.

“You never stop serving,” said Dailey to his troops. “If you plan to take advantage of the GI Bill to go to college, you have American Legion members like Mr. McKinny to thank for that. They introduced it in 1944. Veterans serving veterans.”

PHOTO: John McKinny with the American Legion - Department of Texas, speaks to soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division.
PHOTO: John McKinny with the American Legion – Department of Texas, speaks to soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division.

After the Stetsons were handed out by McKinny to selected members of the unit, he told the troops about the last time he stood in formation as a solider, in Vietnam.

“As we stood together, the enemy started shelling our position, and dropping ordinance right on top of us. That was the last time I stood within a formation like this. I hope you leave the service with good memories of serving together, and of participating in ceremonies like this,” he said.

In appreciation for his many years of service to veterans, Dailey and his Troopers presented McKinny with a military pin bearing the unit’s insignia.

PHOTO: During the ceremony, 1st Sgt. Dailey and his Troopers presented Mr. McKinny with a military pin bearing the unit's insignia.
PHOTO: During the ceremony, 1st Sgt. Dailey and his Troopers presented Mr. McKinny with a military pin bearing the unit’s insignia.

“Wow! Just, wow. Thank you all,” said McKinny with gratitude to the soldiers.

Following the ceremony, the soldiers who received the Stetsons thanked McKinny personally, and posed for photos with him. Many of them said they were honored by the gift.

“They didn’t have to do any of this,” said one soldier. “But to know that they went out of their way to make us feel special, and to honor the traditions of the 1st Cav, that’s special.

“These Stetsons were handed down to us with pride. There’s a lot of honor in that,” said another soldier.

PHOTOS: PHOTO: Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion show off their new Cavalry Stetsons.
PHOTOS: PHOTO: Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion show off their new Cavalry Stetsons.

“Veterans service organizations, such as the American Legion, are critical to keeping the focus on veterans issues,” said TVLP Program Manager Jeff Singh. “This ceremony at Fort Hood was a wonderful opportunity to bring these organizations together to keep that bridge open — for relationship building, to preserve military heritage and for the continuing of service traditions into civilian life.”

TWC Texas Veterans Leadership Program Logo

TVLP is a program under TWC’s Texas Operation Welcome Home (TOWH), and assists veterans and transitioning service members as they resume civilian life in Texas.  This program provides critical resource and referral services to assist these veterans in connecting with necessary employment and training services, as well as locating existing resources that can provide other ancillary services. Modeled after the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, TVLP is overseen by a state director, and 22 local Veterans Resource and Referral Specialists (VRRS).

For more information on military transition, skills training and career resources available just for veterans in Texas, visit TexasOperationWelcomeHome.com.

See More Photos from the Ceremony:

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From Combat Medic to Master’s in Communication: Army Veteran Advances Education, Career Opportunities through Texas Operation Welcome Home

U.S. Army Veteran, Texas State Graduate Student David Beadle
Photo: U.S. Army Veteran and Texas State Graduate Student David Beadle

Military veterans and their spouses have an array of options to bolster their transition into civilian life. But as U.S. Army Veteran David Beadle and many others have discovered, Texas goes one step further in its commitment to honoring our nation’s heroes, by offering a program to provide a seamless transition to employment.

David is one of more than 1.5 million veterans estimated to call Texas home. In response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s charge to identify gaps in services to veterans, Texas Operation Welcome Home (TOWH) was created to assist and provide training opportunities to recently separated service members preparing for employment in high-growth, high-demand occupations.

The goal of the program is to provide a clear pathway for veterans such as David, as they move into civilian employment in the Lone Star State, by eliminating obstacles to attaining licensing, certification, accreditation and degree awards, so that veterans transition quickly into the workforce.

David, meanwhile, is a testimony that clear pathways help. David served as a combat medic for five years in the Army.

U.S. Army Spc. David Beadle's basic training graduation photo
Photo: U.S. Army Spc. David Beadle during basic training

He said when he left the service in 2003, as a Specialist (E-4), he wasn’t sure what path to follow as a civilian as he settled in the Austin area.

“I attended college through the years, but I spent the majority of that time working and kind of building my own career,” he said. “I looked for a career change and in doing that I realized I wanted to add more marketable skills.”

In 2015, David enrolled in the Occupational, Workforce and Leadership Studies (OWLS) program at Texas State, which works in partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and the Texas Workforce Solutions network.

David said the difference at school this time was that he tapped into the veterans’ network at the university, which helped him map out a clear plan to earn his degree.

“Through the OWLS program I was able to take the military experience that I had and transfer that over into college credit. Unlike other universities, the credits that they transferred from the military were actually applicable to my degree plan,” David said.

David credits the support of the TWC-backed veterans program, and his peers, for expediting his transition.

“I was lucky enough to find a few other veterans in the program who helped remind me that I wasn’t the only one managing school and life,” he said. “That social element was a key component in completing my degree.”

In 2017, David graduated from Texas State with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree, with a focus on Business and Sociology. He stayed on at the university to pursue a Master’s degree in Communication Studies.

David now helps fellow veterans and Bobcats navigate the challenges of academic work as a Communications Graduate Instructional Assistant at Texas State. He encourages veterans to take advantage of programs such as TOWH to expedite their career goals, and offered some advice based on his experiences.

“The best advice I can give veterans on the same path is to talk to people,” David said. “Ask for help. Keep moving forward towards a goal and don’t stop chipping away at it — it will happen!”

Texas Operation Welcome Home LogoTo learn more about resources available just for veterans in Texas, as well as training and employment opportunities statewide, please visit the Texas Operation Welcome Home website.

Veterans helping veterans

Support for veterans can come in many forms. At the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), that support comes in the form of fellow veterans. Last fall, U.S. Air Force veteran Kandyss Touchstone found herself in Texas with two children and only three bags of belongings. She was starting over after more than 12 years of military life, first as a serviceperson then as a military spouse.

Touchstone quickly secured housing, but shortly after settling in Houston, she was hospitalized for approximately a month. That was when the reality of transitioning to civilian life and the challenges of employment began to surface. The holidays were quickly approaching, and Touchstone had exhausted her savings, was unable to find a job and faced possible eviction. Reluctantly but desperately, she reached out to a Veterans Resource and Referral Specialist through the TWC’s Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP).

This unique program provides veterans with assistance in finding employment, education, job-training or referrals to other community veteran service organizations, and to state or federal programs. The TVLP’s Veteran Resource and Referral Specialists are all veterans with firsthand knowledge and understanding about the challenges of transitioning into civilian life. “Peer-to-peer support is very important in building relationships and trust,” said TVLP Director Bob Gear. “Whatever the need is – short-term, long-term − every situation is unique, but with everyone working together, including our partners in other agencies, this program works to connect veterans to the resources to meet those needs.”

The Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP) was formed in 2008 to serve as a resource and to also provide referrals to returning veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, and Operation Inherent Resolve; however the TVLP does not turn away any veteran seeking assistance. Touchstone connected with the Gulf Coast region’s Veterans Resource and Referral Specialist Chris Howard who quickly provided her with resources and referrals to address the immediate issues – clothes, food, groceries and housing assistance. Next, Howard helped Touchstone write her resume and polish her interview skills.

He was able to connect Touchstone with Nancy Agravante, a staffing specialist with Workforce Solutions Gulf Coast who led her to job interviews and ultimately, an employment opportunity with a state agency. Recently, Touchstone was promoted and is now settling into her new life in Texas. “Emailing the TVLP changed my life,” said Touchstone. “I don’t know where I would be right now without their help.” For Touchstone, the TVLP program provided her clear guidance during a very stressful time. She advises other veterans to seek assistance from the program. “Just follow their directions. They really help and they really change lives,” Touchstone said. “This was not just for me; this was also for my kids. They helped me to feed them and provide for them and that means everything.”

Since its inception, the TVLP has reached out to more than 22,200 veterans and provided direct services to more than 18,000 veterans. For more on the TVLP, please visit texasworkforce.org/txvlp.

How Texas Partners with Colleges to Provide College Credit for Veterans

IMG_0152 Jimmy Burnett CCFH Intern Grayson CollegeThe Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) recently announced the expansion of College Credit for Heroes project, awarding $800,000 to support five new accelerated accreditation programs, expanding the projects reach with new education partners and better meeting the needs of veteran students.

Launched as a pilot 2011, College Credit for Heroes partners with 37 universities and community colleges throughout Texas that recognize the knowledge and skills gained by military service members and award college credits for their military experience, allowing these veterans to more easily transition into the civilian workforce. College Credit for Heroes was designated as a permanent program with the passage of SB 806 in the 84th Legislative Session.

“We are pleased to announce the new accelerated programs that demonstrate a commitment to launching innovative approaches to better recognize and credit the training and service of our veterans,” said TWC Chairman Andres Alcantar. “TWC and our partners will continue to replicate and scale programs that ease the transition of our heroes into Texas jobs.”

The additional colleges and universities will further expand the College Credit for Heroes initiative to locations throughout Texas. This new collaboration will increase the number of veterans and service members who can benefit from the accelerated educational programs.

One of the new participants in College Credit for Heroes is Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC), which is developing an accelerated Veteran to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (VBSN) degree in which well-qualified veterans can complete program requirements in less than one year through rapid, online based curricula that students can complete at TTUHSC campuses located in Amarillo, Dallas and the Austin area beginning Spring 2016. Plans are to expand to Abilene and Odessa in 2017.

For a full list of participating colleges and academic opportunities available through College Credit for Heroes, visit: www.collegecreditforheroes.org.

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A Resource For Veterans

As many did this past weekend, we too took time to salute all our US Military personnel and veterans for their sacrifice and service to this great country. The role they play in allowing most of us to live relatively care-free lives cannot be overstated, and I for one am guilty of taking that for granted all too often.

The US Military is seldom described as a training organization, but in fact it is, and the largest one in the world at that. And the product of all that training are men and women who are focused, dedicated, able to work well under pressure, understand the meaning of “good” communication, and routinely function in environments where command of subject matter and ability to quickly process information and react are absolutely critical to success. In short, they’re great potential employees. The trick really, is just making the connection with them.

That connection is something the public workforce system is continuously working on, and it takes many forms. It’s connecting employers and veterans, military skills to non-military career fields, military training to public accreditation programs and industry-recognized credentials, and so on.

Specific to the connection between employers and veterans, I’d like to point out MilitaryFriendly.com and a page they’ve put up detailing the Top 100 most veteran-friendly employers. The list includes company name, profile, accolades, a link to open jobs, and a ton of other relevant information about their efforts specific to hiring veterans.

It’s a great resource for any vet looking for work and I hope you’ll share it with any you might know. I’m not saying it’s an “in the bank” job offer, but an educated job seeker is a well-prepared job seeker. And knowing which companies have an ongoing commitment to hiring veterans for what they bring to the table, well, there’s not much better prep than that.

Red, White & You!

Helping our US Military Veterans successfully transition from their military careers is something we at TWC place a very high emphasis on. We work hand in hand with the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) to ensure that every veteran who wants or needs it, receives all the assistance the Texas workforce system can provide.

To that end, via a partnership with Governor Rick Perry, Texas Medical Center surgeon Dr. James Henry “Red” Duke, Jr., Texas Workforce Solutions, and TVC, let me introduce:

Hiring Red, White & You! November 15 Job Fair.

“Hiring Red, White & You.” Hiring Red, White & You is a big, coordinated job fair event that will take place in each of the state’s 28 Workforce Development Areas on Nov. 15, 2012, with the main focus being to help address the employment needs of Texas veterans.

This unprecedented statewide initiative will help Texas employers interested in hiring veterans for their experience, discipline and other exceptional qualities, easily connect with Texas veterans. These job fairs are free to all veterans and employers, though pre-registration is encouraged.

If you’re an employer interested in participating, please contact your nearest Workforce Solutions Office.

If you’re a veteran (or an employer) and would like more information regarding times and locations, or to get contact information for the event in your area, please visit this webpage. There’s also a PSA on YouTube easily found here. And if you still have questions or want more information, feel free to contact TWC at redwhiteandyou@twc.state.tx.us or 512-936-3103.