Unemployment and mental health issues continue to concern military officials months after about 3,000 Oklahoma National Guard soldiers returned from deployments to Afghanistan and Kuwait.
About 30 percent of the soldiers who returned from the deployment in March and April were unemployed when they got home. That number is now down to 22 percent, said Warren Griffis, director of the Guard's employment coordination program.
“It's high, but some of the numbers are people who may not have reported to us they got a job,” Griffis said. “Getting the accurate data has been a little tough. We also have full-time students. That's about 10 percent. Those are in the unemployment number.”
Griffis' program helps returning soldiers find work. They teach the soldiers how to write a good resume, interviewing techniques and they work directly with employers who might want to hire returning soldiers.
“We have been in contact with roughly 85 different employers,” Griffis said. “I have not made one cold call to an employer. That's pretty darn good.”
One of the hardest challenges is finding soldiers jobs where the pay is competitive with what they made while on active duty, Griffis said. There are jobs available, but many soldiers have a hard time taking a major pay cut.
Others aren't ready to go back into the job market.
“I have days where I feel a little concerned, but I have found there are some people who don't want to be employed just yet,” Griffis said. “Many of them are just now realizing what kind of a deployment they had, and it might take some of them a little longer to get their feet under them.”
That is where Capt. Misty Jobe comes in. Jobe is the medical operation officer in charge of the Guard's medical readiness branch. It's her job to get soldiers who need mental health services in touch with people who can help.
Many of them are just now realizing what kind of a deployment they had, and it might take some of them a little longer to get their feet under them.”