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'Hire a Hero' Links Employers with Former Marines

U.S Marines go through the toughest training of any of the armed forces. And yet when they leave the military to join the civilian workforce, that experience isn’t easy to sum up in a resume. An expe

'Hire a Hero' Links Employers with Former Marines

U.S Marines go through the toughest training of any of the armed forces. And yet when they leave the military to join the civilian workforce, that experience isn’t easy to sum up in a resume. An experiment on Camp Pendleton this week gave some CEOs a glimpse into why a former Marine might make a good civilian employee. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

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The unemployment rate for young military veterans is 15 percent - that’s compared to about 8 percent for others in their age group. So Camp Pendleton put on an event to show potential employers how they could benefit from hiring someone who’s been through military training.

This Drill Instructor is yelling - not at Marine recruits, but at a group of successful businessmen.

<b> Drill Instructor: </b>  Let’s go Now… you are supposed to touch the person in front of you.    Go now… 

Everyone in this group being herded off tour buses is a member of the Entrepreneurs Organization, an elite group whose members must be CEOs of companies that have earned at least a million dollars last year.

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Their day trip to Camp Pendleton includes hands -on experience of recruit training to get a feel for how the corps instills its values. Discipline is a good thing in an employee but businesses need creative thinkers too.

The CEOs also get a chance to see how on-the-job ingenuity is tested. Up on a rocky hillside with helicopters buzzing overhead, they’re put through an exercise that happens during the most arduous part of recruit training, known as “Crucible Week.” 

The entrepreneurs are split into groups to tackle training missions. 

<b> Garland: </b> Mission is to destroy the tower and return to starting point, Instructions the explosives must be handled with care.

Tyler Garland, who runs an industrial design company in Culver City, took a moment to retrieve his sunglasses from a fence post. 

<b> Garland: </b> This sort of tests your creativity in very immersive, slightly stressful situations. 

Garland says the exercise also built teamwork, good communication skills and reaching consensus rapidly. He says the training to stay sharp and perform well under stress might be an asset to his organization.

<b> Garland: </b> I would love to have that drill sergeant come in and talk to my staff.

<b> Snelson: </b> Let’s finish up, take those kevlars put them in the back of the truck.

Staff Sergeant John Snelson rounds up his recruits for the day. He says the exercise encourages people to think outside the box. He noticed one team came up with a solution he’d never seen before. Snelson says hopefully the exercise demonstrated to the CEOs the qualifications - like discipline and ingenuity – that marine training fosters.

<b> Snelson: </b> You have someone who went to a San Diego school or let’s say college and that’s pretty easy to quantify on paper and it’s not so easy to quantify a military person’s experience and so we hope to give them a little taste of that when a former military comes to their desk with a resume.

At the end of the day, Jerry Morton, CEO of an L.A. company that sells nutrition products, says he’d consider hiring a former Marine any day.

<b> Mortin: </b> It’s already a pre-qualified employee-- someone who’s already shown they have that character and values. The commitment to stick through basic training -  to be a Marine - they’re probably not going to flake out on a Tuesday morning for work… 

Dan Caulfield, who helped initiate the day trip to Camp Pendleton, has launched an organization called “Hire a Hero” to link employers with former Marines, National Guards and Reservists. Caulfield says young military vets getting back into the job market are often undervalued.

<b> Caufield: </b> They are often underemployed in jobs that are really beneath them, getting paid less than they should get paid - and it’s almost as if they left high school to go and prove themselves but then when they get out of military, they are getting the same jobs they could have gotten coming out of high school.

Caulfield wants to help make better use of the hard earned talents that Marines and soldiers could bring to the workforce. He’s working to get Congress to earmark money that would help those making the transition from military to civilian life. Alison St John, KPBS News.

 (Photo: Drill instructor leads employers in a training exercise at Camp Pendleton as part of the "Hire a Hero" program. Alison St John/KPBS ).