Texas group wants jobs for soldiers after military careers

Amanda Guillen, SHFWire

WASHINGTON – Military families were on the minds of 12 El Pasoans last week as they attended the 2015 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Members of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce arrived in Washington from Texas on Oct. 11, to attend the three-day event, which ended Wednesday.

They said they wanted to build relationships with Army leadership and to learn how El Paso can help soldiers at Fort Bliss.

AUSA supports the Army, National Guard, Reserve, civilians, government civilians, wounded warriors, veterans and family members through educational programs and public support.

The forum held here every October is one of the largest land warfare expositions and professional development forums in the world, with 25,000 people attending.

Representatives from the AUSA-Omar Bradley chapter, the El Paso chapter of AUSA, have been attending the forum for 18 years.

Fort Bliss, the Army’s second-largest military installation, covering 1.12 million acres of land in Texas and New Mexico, has a significant economic impact on the community.

John Baily, president of the AUSA-Omar Bradley chapter and chair of the Armed Forces Division of the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, said it is important for the community to support Fort Bliss.

“Fort Bliss and El Paso are very much intertwined. The Army provides great opportunity for employment and various things, but the community provides an opportunity to take care of the soldiers at Fort Bliss,” Baily said.

Fort Bliss provides 55,113 military and civilian jobs and returns $3.6 billion to area residents, according to a 2013 study conducted by the University of Texas at El Paso’s Institute for Policy and Economic Development.

Baily said it is important to keep soldiers in the El Paso community once their time in the Army is over.

Baily and Gus Rodriguez, AUSA 4th region executive vice president, attended about 30 meetings while they were in Washington.

Among those was one with Customs and Border Patrol, where the city officials learned about how Fort Bliss soldiers coming out of the military can get jobs with CBP and remain in El Paso.

Representatives from El Paso also met with officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We want to understand from a community standpoint how we can support and increase our services for the VA,” Baily said.

Rodriguez whose region covers Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, said that family is an important factor when it comes to supporting soldiers.

“We as a community recognize that it is not our role to step into the Army’s lane in terms of preparing soldiers for war, but it is our responsibility as citizens to ensure that we are taking care of their families because … many men and women deploy throughout the world,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that, for many soldiers, their biggest concern is leaving family behind. If the El Paso community can provide support that would be a burden lifted off the soldiers’ shoulders.

Reach reporter Amanda Guillen at [email protected] or 202-408-1490. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook, Instagram and follow us on Twitter.