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CO Employers Eager to Hire, Support Reservists

By Army Reserve 1st Lt. Olivia Cobiskey/Special to American Forces Press Service

DENVER, March 27, 2009 - Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. signed on to the Army Reserve Employer Partnership Initiative at a March 20 ceremony here that also drew 11 private-sector employers.

The governor is the first to commit all state agencies to working with the Army Reserve to fill critical shortages, officials said.

"It is my pleasure to add Colorado to the list of employers who will proactively seek to hire and retain Army Reserve soldiers when they return home," Ritter said. "This partnership with the Army Reserve expands the opportunities for the men and women who have made great sacrifices on our behalf. It is one more step towards attempting to repay the debt we owe our brave troops and veterans."

In the end, 11 Denver employers and the state of Colorado agreed to work collaboratively with the Army Reserve to enhance job opportunities for America’s soldiers and veterans. The Denver-area employers that signed on include Adecco, BC Services, City of Denver, Cicsco, Front Range Airport, Loomis, NorthGlenn Dodge, Pennica Financial Group, Pepsi Bottling Group and Western Freightways.

The alliances launched under the initiative will help to strengthen the community, support Army Reserve soldiers and their families, and maintain a strong economy, Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve, said.

The excitement over the program’s success, especially at the height of an economic recession, was clear on the faces of Army Reserve Sgt. Gregory S. Ruske and others who attended the event.

“It just demonstrates how much the public supports the military,” said Ruske, who serves with the 96th Regional Readiness Command and received the Silver Star, the Army’s second-highest award, for valor while deployed in Afghanistan. “You can’t help but smile each time a business signs the agreement. Here we are in a struggling economy, and they’re willing to put their support in writing and hire Army Reserve soldiers.”

Ruske, a juvenile corrections officer at the Mount View Youth Service Center in Denver, said he has found the tools offered by the EPI invaluable.

“I want to find something in law enforcement, security,” said Ruske, 29, the fourth Army Reserve soldier to earn the Silver Star for heroic service since Sept. 11, 2001. “I think it’s more suited to my personality, and I like to be more active, not confined to a cubicle.”

It’s also more suited to the skills he learned while an infantry soldier and complements the bachelor’s degree in sociology he earned from Colorado State University.

Employers at the ceremony in Denver seemed to agree as Ruske collected a stack of business cards. But that’s not the only help he has received from the initiative. Carl Blum from Tip of the Arrow Foundation has been helping Ruske with his resume and networking.

“There are tools out there to help you in your job search, but EPI is like a power tool -- most of the grunt work is done for you, and you can concentrate on the details,” Ruske said.

“It’s not like the old days where you had to know someone, or play golf, to get a job,” Ruske said. “EPI has created this symbiotic relationship that benefits both the Army Reserve and the employers.”

Since its inception in April 2008, nearly 300 public and private employers have joined the initiative, including Fortune 500 corporations, hospitals, industry associations, state agencies and local police departments.

"I'm pleased to officially begin an enduring, strategic partnership with so many of Denver's leading employers and the state of Colorado," Army Maj. Gen. Mari K. Eder, deputy chief of the Army Reserve, said during the ceremony. "I look forward to collaborating with our newest valued partners to achieve mutual goals to attract, develop and retain a quality workforce."