Local vets could be supported with Obama vet jobs plan


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Marcus Mittvalsky knew he could return home to a secure job as an Iowa City police officer after two years as a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.


But many soldiers didn't have the same job security after deployment.

"As we prepared to return home from Afghanistan, many soldiers were concerned about employment opportunities," said Mittvalsky, who serves as a command sergeant-major in the National Guard. "This was partly due to unemployment, coming home with several months before classes resumed, or a desire to find a new job."

But the job search for veterans might be somewhat easier now. And their desire to serve is key, said Iowa City officials.

President Obama recently announced his intention to expand efforts to employ veterans in law-enforcement and conservation positions following their service.

"It's a popular job or career for people to go into who have done some service," said Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton. "One of the draws to law enforcement is the desire to serve. The desire to serve your country, the desire to serve your community."

The proposal would increase funding by $5 billion for programs that hire veterans in police and fire departments and also the $1 billion development of the Veteran Job Corps that would put veterans in conservation jobs restoring trails and roads.

"… We're going to do everything we can to make sure that when our troops come home, they come home to new jobs and new opportunities and new ways to serve their country," the President said during a speech on Feb. 3.

Veterans ages 18 to 24 are facing the highest unemployment rates in recent years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. In 2011, the unemployment rates peaked at 33.2 percent, while the unemployment rate for civilians in the same age range was 14.9 percent. In 2012, the same veterans are at 20.2 percent unemployment, with civilians at 15.8 percent.

University of Iowa Veterans Center coordinator John Mikelson said he would like eastern Iowa to further the initiative and include veterans in higher education.

"Our job is to not just recruit veterans but to graduate the veterans who will become the Iowa of tomorrow," he said.

The program gives veterans 18 and older job opportunities through the state Department of Natural Resources.

Harry Graves, the executive director of the Johnson County Conservation Board, said he is surprised the veterans of today have difficulties finding jobs.

"It's alarming to me to see that people who serve our country can't find employment," he said.

Graves said he currently has two long-time veterans working for him. One veteran has spent 40 years in conservation and the other 15.

Brotherton said the Iowa City police have three veterans who recently returned from Afghanistan — including Mittvalsky — and one who served in Egypt.

Mittvalsky said veterans are well-trained for these jobs.

"The rigors of continuous operations in combat and the problem-solving skills people develop in ambiguous and austere environments translate well to the types of incidents we deal with every day in emergency service," he said.

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