Wednesday, April 18, 2012

First Lady Celebrates One-Year Anniversary of Joining Forces with Orion Alumnus

Michelle Obama embarked upon a tour on Thursday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Joining Forces, a White House initiative to increase programs and opportunities for veterans and their families. Mrs. Obama started the tour off at Kansas City Southern, a freight railroad company, in Shreveport, LA, and announced 60,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired through the program in the last year. The event also featured Dave Ebbrecht, Senior VP of Operations at KCS, and Michael Abitago, an Orion alumnus and the 50,000th hire through Joining Forces.

Abitago, a Heavy Equipment Operator in the Army who is transitioning this month, is joining KCS as a Conductor Trainee. He was hired through the Fort Hood Military Hiring Event held in March, which marked the first official Military Hiring Event co-sponsored by The White House Joining Forces initiative to Hire Veterans and Orion. The next Joining Forces Military Hiring Event co-sponsored by Orion will be held April 26 - 27 at Fort Bragg, NC. He is one of the 20 veterans hired by KCS in 2012 so far, and will add to the growing percentage of veterans amongst the KCS Shreveport workforce.

"We have 15 new hires that we are onboarding right now that originated from a cooperative effort between our long-standing recruiting partner, Orion International, the Joining Forces campaign, and the ACAP center at Ft Hood,” explains Ebbrecht, “This cooperative effort is reaching those soldiers that are often neglected and yet deserve most of our attention: those young combat vets returning from the front lines. As always, we at KCS are proud to do our part."

Abitago is not the first Orion alumnus at KCS to be recognized in the media. Kelly King, a 2005 United States Military Academy graduate and former Army Captain, was featured both by the Association of American Railroads and in an article in Military Times Edge by Adam Stone. She explains that her military experience greatly prepared her for her career as a Director of International Rail Operations Support at KCS, “My experience in the military prepared me to work in an environment that operates 24/7, address any challenges and issues simultaneously, and communicate with many groups on multiple levels to achieve a common goal or company objective.”

The transferable skills of both Abitago and King are representative of countless veterans who are seeking civilian employment. Mrs. Obama agrees:

Today’s modern battlefield means that our 9/11 generation of veterans has served not only as soldiers or airmen or sailors, but as diplomats -- they’ve served as social workers, as mediators, as educators. They’re directing dozens of their peers -- so they’ve got the management experience. They’re executing highly complex, life-or-death missions, and they’re operating some of the most advanced technology on the planet.

As Joining Forces turns one, Mrs. Obama touted the success of the initiative and the ongoing need to forge ahead at this event. She went on to affirm Ebbrecht’s earlier comment that employers should employ veterans not just “because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s a patriotic way to show our support, but because it’s good business as well. That’s important. This is good business.” Hire a Hero, Hire a Vet supports this initiative and is glad to see companies nationwide recognizing that is just good business to hire veterans.

You can watch a video of the KCS event as covered by KSLA here.

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