Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen suffer higher unemployment than state average

Open letter from the Alabama National Guard Adjutant General

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Maj. Gen. Perry G. Smith, Alabama National Guard Adjutant General, addresses a group assembled for the signing of the Heroes for Hire Act at the Capitol, April 4, 2012. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marty Dyson

MONTGOMERY, AL (04/10/2012)(readMedia)-- The National Guard has a long and distinct history, beginning with the first muster of militia troops in Massachusetts in 1636. The militia format of the United States military is still in existence today in the National Guard, a force that comprises 40 percent of Army and 19 percent of Air Force troops using only a small percentage of each component's budget.

This value is realized mostly due to the fact that the National Guard is comprised of part-time Soldiers and Airmen who also live in local communities. Our founding fathers knew the significance of the militia – Citizen-Soldiers who have businesses, professions, farms, etc., yet who are ready to drop what they are doing and pick up a musket and answer the call to duty to fight for the nation. The militia is now called the National Guard and instead of picking up a musket, Soldiers and Airmen employ the most sophisticated, state-of-the-art weapons in the world. Some things have not changed, however. Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen still work and live in local communities.

Today, though, increasing numbers of Alabama National Guardsmen have difficulty finding employment. Many young men and women have given a year or more of their lives to fight for the cause of freedom, many have responded to local disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and the deadly tornadoes of April 27, 2011. Yet, hundreds of these dedicated warriors are unemployed and searching for work. The Alabama National Guard unemployment rate is 9.75%, more than two full percentage points higher than the state average.

I know many in business who, after the 9/11 attacks, said something about wanting to join the military to do their part. I heard this from many who were already past the enlistment age and they lamented that they could not join. I suggest to you that patriotism is more than just putting on a uniform and picking up a weapon. We saw true patriotism in World War II when Americans endured food rations, re-fit factories and truly sacrificed for the war effort. I am thankful that those types of sacrifice are not required by the American population today. However, we still need patriotism from more than just the uniformed services. I want to encourage all employers looking to hire someone to seek out and hire a Guardsman in need of a job.

Why hire a Guardsman? Loyalty, duty, respect, excellence in all we do, integrity, accountability – these are some of the core values of the Alabama National Guard, internalized by each Soldier and Airman. As a former businessman, I know these are attributes I look for in an employee. You can also count on a Guardsman to understand the value of a team, to have leadership and crisis management skills, and to be drug-free.

There may also be a financial benefit for businesses who hire troops recently returned from overseas deployment. Thanks to the Alabama Legislature and Governor Bentley, the new Heroes for Hire Act provides an additional $1,000 tax credit for job creation to employers who hire recently deployed, and now discharged, unemployed veterans.

The Alabama National Guard has deployed more than 17,000 troops to overseas operations since 9/11. We are the No. 1 per capita National Guard organization in the country. Please, help these troops who have given so much. Be a patriot! Hire an Alabama National Guardsman!

Perry G. Smith

Adjutant General

Alabama National Guard