Change can be difficult.

For servicemen and women leaving the military, however, the transition to civilian life can be far more challenging.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office is hoping to help make that change easier by offering soldiers a leg up on possible employment after their service in the Army.

On Tuesday, Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway signed a memorandum of agreement with the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success, or PaYS, program, a “strategic partnership” between the Army and corporations, companies and public sector agencies that guarantees soldiers a job interview after completing reserve training or their first term of service.

While the Army has signed MOAs with employers in many different job sectors across the nation through the program, the public safety profession is especially fitting for those with a military background, Lt. Col. Fredrick Parker, commander of the Army’s Atlanta Recruiting Battalion, said at Tuesday’s signing ceremony.

“The Army is about our people and our values — leadership, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage,” Parker said. “One of the things that’s important in being a (law enforcement) officer is having that integrity, because your people have to trust you. We train and motivate our soldiers to (have that) ... and that’s what the PaYS program brings to the (sheriff’s office).”

The way PaYS works, Parker said, is Army reserve or active duty soldiers are matched, through a database, with employers who have job openings. The database usually matches a soldier with a specific skill set to employers looking for the same skill set. PaYS also offers a similar database for ROTC cadets.

Once the soldiers are matched with two employers, but prior to their separation from the Army — or prior to cadets’ graduating from college — they’re guaranteed a job interview with each employer.

Those interviews frequently result in conditional job offers, which, in the case of the sheriff’s office, last for up to a year, meaning though the soldiers may still have several months before being discharged, they essentially have a job lined up for when they leave the Army.

“The Army has a 90-day transitioning period, so we can go ahead and solidify the job position for them, which gives them the opportunity to relocate and make all the different assessments for phase two (of the hiring process) without any stress,” said Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Melanie Jones. “They can come home, have a new home and have a job, and I think it really helps with their transition.”

The sheriff’s office currently has a similar agreement with the Marine Corps, Jones said; every year, deputies travel to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where they spend several days recruiting and helping marines complete the first phase of the hiring process.

Because of the success of that partnership, the PaYS program seemed like a natural fit, Jones said.

“It’s important because it’s also connecting us with our veterans; I always call it bringing our heroes to Gwinnett,” Jones said. “It’s important for us because we get good, qualified applicants who already have enough life experience and training to do the job. A big thing is integrity, and they’ve gone through that basic training, they’ve served their country, so now, why not come and serve the community they live in?

“Sometimes it’s hard stepping out of a (military) career and stepping back into the community ... this (partnership) makes transitioning easier for them, and we try to make that process as comfortable as possible.”

Crime Reporter

Isabel is a crime and health reporter for the Gwinnett Daily Post. She graduated from Emory University in 2016 with a B.A. in international studies. She is originally from the Boston area.

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