Fort Jackson to open 270 jobs to civilians; Move is part of Army’s effort to free more troops for other duties
By CHUCK CRUMBO
The Army’s effort to have more troops ready for combat not doing desk work will result in about 270 new jobs for civilians at Fort Jackson.
This is necessary because the Army needs to free up some of our military so they can fill in where they are greatly needed, said Jerry Weidner, resource manager of the Columbia garrison.
About 40 jobs once held by soldiers already have been filled by civilians.
About 3,600 soldiers are assigned to the fort. The conversion of jobs from military to civilian will reduce the number of soldiers there by about 7 percent.
Nationwide, the Army plans to put civilians in 5,000 jobs held by soldiers by the end of 2006.
Jobs being vacated by soldiers at Fort Jackson include supply clerks, legal assistants and wheeled-vehicle mechanics instructors.
Most of the jobs will pay between $24,641 and $54,300 a year, said Emma Billue, human resources officer. A couple of computer jobs pay $65,704.
The soldiers whose jobs will be filled by civilians are moving to a new post or job in the Army, said Varina Bradberry, mission director of resource management.
Most of the troops will be reassigned to new brigade combat teams. The Army will add 10 of those teams designated Units of Action by the end of 2006 and possibly an additional five by the end of 2007.
The teams will be self-contained units of about 3,000 soldiers each that can deploy rapidly to trouble spots.
Many of the civilians seeking the former military jobs at the fort are veterans who live in the Columbia area, Billue said.
Preference will be given to federal employees who have lost their jobs because of budget cuts, and also to veterans, other former federal workers and the disabled. A soldier leaving the military also may apply.
Not all applicants need to have military experience, spokeswoman Karen Soule said. For example, the post newspaper will hire civilian writers and editors, jobs that do not require military training.
One of the new hires at Fort Jackson is Andrew Hines, a retired 50-year-old Army master sergeant from Augusta. He started a couple of weeks ago as a supply technician.
Hines’ new job is similar to other jobs he has held in logistics, so it did not take much time to catch on, he said.
Following orders also should not be a problem, he joked. I’ve adjusted to civilian life, so I know how to follow. But I can do both lead and follow.
Also moving to the civilian side is Nicholas Monroe, a retired first sergeant.
Monroe, 44, works at the post’s operations center, monitoring everything that happens at the fort.
The last eight, nine years I’ve been doing operations work, Monroe said. After 20 years in the Army, this is pretty much what I know best.
Monroe’s job formerly was done by junior officers who rotated into the operations center.
Each time a new officer moved in, he or she would have to be trained, Monroe said. I think by putting civilians in this job, it will bring continuity.
The military-to-civilian conversion idea is not new.
In the early 1990s, the Army started taking soldiers out of Morale, Welfare and Recreation operations at military bases. Those operations manage base golf courses, theaters, bowling alleys and hotels.
The Army also has replaced a number of military police, needed by combat units, with civilians.
Civilians in the conversion program also will be involved in training and teaching recruits, Bradberry said.
For example, civilians will replace Army instructors in the mechanics school. That change will help address the Army’s shortage of military mechanics.
How the conversion of jobs will affect the Army’s overall morale is an open question.
On the training-center side, there’s a lot of concern they may be losing that esprit de corps with jobs being filled by civilians, Weidner said.
But with many of the jobs being filled by veterans, some believe the commitment to the Army mission will remain.
I can contribute and do the job, allowing soldiers to be free to do something else that’s needed, Hines said.