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Feature Stories

Major General Talks of Veteran Unemployment

From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 25
12/13/2013


By Alison Keiser


The Rotary Club of Long Beach welcomed Major General Megan Tatu in a discussion on how both groups could serve unemployed members of the Army Reserve.

Major General Tatu is the commander of the 79th Sustainment Support Command in Los Alamitos, the second largest army reserve unit in the nation.

“At this time in our history, we have the largest number of young population of veterans -- given the last 12 years of war -- since Vietnam,” Tatu said. “We have currently in our nation over 700,000 veterans across all generations that are unemployed.”

Tatu’s mission at Rotary involved telling community leaders and employers the qualities instilled in army reserve members, and how those attributes would benefit the civilian workforce.

“The total army is composed of three components: You’ve got the active component, the national guard, and the army reserve.
Tatu explained that those who serve in the Army Reserve are different from the part-time soldiers of the National Guard on the level at which they serve.

“The National Guard is the State militia, so they are answerable to the governors of their state,” Tatu said, “whereas we work directly for a federal force. Our chain of command goes all the way up to the President of the United States.”

Tatu told those at the Rotary Club meeting last month that the Army Reserve is an important part of America’s military, and the training of its soldiers helps build the skills needed in the private sector.

“70 percent of the entire army’s capability for logistics… 60 percent of the total army’s medical assets… and upwards of 30 percent of the engineering capabilities of the total army reside in the army reserve.”

The skills developed by Army Reservists in the field can be appreciated and utilized by non-military employers.

“Whether it be transportation of goods and equipment, whether it be water production, fuel distribution, management of all those commodities that allow the war fighters to sustain their operations,” said Tatu.

“The army reserve accounts for 19 percent of the total army force at only 6 percent of the army budget.”

Tatu’s command covers 21,000 soldiers in 19 states.
“To help in me in that command and control, in that mission command responsibility, I have four subordinate, one-star commands [called] ESCs – Expeditionary Sustainment Commands.”

Tatu said that the ESCs aid her in commanding soldiers based across the country, from Wichita, Kansas; San Antonio, Texas; Marysville, Washington; and Los Angeles.

“In a wartime environment, to put it in the most simplistic terms would be like an über Wal-Mart distribution center, where you are accounting for all of the goods that are coming into a theater of operations and you are managing the flow of those goods throughout the theater…” ensuring that everyone involved has what they need to perform to the best of their abilities.

Tatu’s job is to ensure that the soldiers under her command meet conditions for employment, for their civilian and military careers.
“First and foremost, they have to be physically fit,” Tatu said. A three-event test is administered “that establishes for us a pass/fail, but the reason why we have the emphasis on physical fitness is because science and medicine has proven that if you are physically fit, then you have a greater chance of survival on the battlefield should you suffer a wound.”

The Army Reserve also tests the “emotional fitness” of its soldiers. “The army is in a comprehensive program right now. The… comprehensive soldier and family fitness, Tatu said. “We recognize that you have all seen in the news that we have over the years we have sustained an elevated number of suicides throughout the force. Oftentimes it’s not attributed so much to repeat deployments, but for many it’s because of financial woes.”

Tatu said that all reservists go through the military’s learning system. “The first is the brick-and-mortar school house – what we call the institutional training,” Tatu said. “That trains our soldiers on the basics of their technical area.”

“The second phase of their training is what we call operational, and that’s where we ask you to take what we’ve taught you in that school house environment and apply it in a field setting” where any gaps can be filled.

Tatu said that when employers are interviewing current service members or veterans of the armed forces to think of the leadership potential sitting before them, and know that individual understands the value of hard work and commitment.

“As an army reserve soldier, we are your neighbor, we are your co-worker, we are that student, we are community based. We don’t reside on an installation, on an army post. We are you.”

alison@longbeachcomber.com