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Locals interested in Obama's 'reverse boot camp'

August 5, 2011 5:59:38 PM PDT
President Obama is proposing a jobs program intended to help returning veterans enter the workforce. Obama says this country needs a "boot camp" to help soldiers transition back into civilian life when they return home from overseas.

Noelle Morra and Josh Aguilar are two veterans who are looking for work in a very challenging job market. In the military, they had leadership responsibilities, but on the outside, they are looking at minimum wage.

As a captain in the Air Force, Morra said she managed 150 subordinates working to resupply forces overseas. Now, Morra is working part-time as a department store sales clerk.

"It's been very rough, and I honestly didn't know what I was walking into," Morra said.

Aguilar, once a staff sergeant in the Army, wonders how leading a squad of infantrymen in Iraq is going to translate into a state-side job.

"That's very difficult," Aguilar said. "It really is, especially with the infantrymen, because there's not a call for an infantryman in the civilian workforce."

Aguilar is planning to back to school for business management, while Morra is about ready to give up on being a sales clerk in exchange for going back to school to become a marriage counselor.

On Friday, President Obama announces a program he hopes will help both Morra and Aguilar, along with one million other unemployed veterans of war.

"We are saying to our veterans, you fought for us and now we are fighting for you," Obama said.

The plan calls for tax breaks for companies that hire unemployed veterans of $2,400 to $4,800 for veterans and $9,600 for veterans with a service-related disability. The president wants the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to design what he called a "reverse boot camp."

"The problem is, right now we spend months preparing our men and women for life in the military, but we spend much less time preparing them for life when they get out," Obama said.

Aguilar said the idea of a reverse boot camp is a good one because there are too many soldiers leaving the military without taking advantage of the existing programs.

"There's a lot of programs involved with them getting out, and I used a lot of them," Aguilar said, "but they're sporadic and you have to search them out yourself, and the initial briefing on them is good information, but then it's kind of on you to go back."

Aguilar says soldiers used to the structure of the military would be helped by a more-structured exit, and Morra agrees, though personally she's beyond that. Morra's goal now is to get her Master's degree in psychology, even though she'd rather be in business.

"I would like to get back to doing similar work that I was doing in the military," Morra said.

The president's plan will cost $120 million for the tax breaks, plus the cost of implementing the reverse boot camps, but it's a job stimulus program that has a real change of getting through the Republican-led House of Representatives.


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