Border Agency to Hire More Army Reservists

By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Army Reserve and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will sign an agreement today to create a partnership aimed at filling some of the growing federal agency's 11,000 job openings with Army reservists.

The border agency is the first federal entity to join the Army Reserve's Employer Partnership Initiative, a collaborative project established last year aimed at placing reservists with a host of employers in the public and private sectors.

Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, the chief of the Army Reserve, said yesterday that he is seeking similar agreements that will start more reservists on careers with the government. The alliance with the border agency "sets the standard among other federal agencies and the Army Reserve," he said.

The Army Reserve, which numbers about 206,000, has about 10,000 soldiers trained in law enforcement, nearly one-fourth of the Army's total military police force. About 12,500 Army reservists are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, and heavy demand probably will be made of the reserve for years to come.

"If we're going to sustain this, we need the employers with us," Stultz said in an interview. "The benefit for me is a soldier with a good, steady job."

Under federal law, employers must hold jobs for military reservists called to active duty. But some reservists, fresh from school, did not have jobs when they left, and others do not want to return to the same job. "Soldiers who deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan come back and say, 'You know, I can do better. I had responsibility over there. I don't want to go back to what I was doing before,' " Stultz said.

Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security, is the largest law enforcement organization in the nation, with responsibility for securing trade and travel, including ensuring that goods arriving in the United States are legitimate and that appropriate duties and fees are paid, protecting the country against terrorism, and enforcing hundreds of U.S. regulations, such as immigration and drug laws.

Between attrition and new positions, the agency expects to hire for 11,000 positions this year, bringing the size of the agency to 56,000 employees. The expected hires "cover every kind of position you can imagine," Christine Gaugler, assistant commissioner for the border agency, said in an interview yesterday. The jobs include positions for frontline Border Patrol agents, agriculture officers and air interdiction pilots.

Many Army reservists are well-qualified for such jobs, she said. "They have experienced many of the stressful situations we have experienced on the border, situations where they have to make decisions quickly, in difficult terrain and in the dark," Gaugler said.

"We're a good fit from the military perspective, because they continue to represent the country," she added.

The Army Reserve has begun preliminary discussions about establishing a similar partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is in need of air traffic controllers, Stultz said. The Army is also considering approaching the FBI, he said.

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