Who's running the Army's computers?

ITworld.com |  Career

Joining the Army doesn't necessarily mean looking down a gun barrel belonging to
some far-off enemy on the battlefield; it may mean looking down the barrel of a SPARC
server cluster in a climate-controlled computer room. According to Secretary of the
Army Louis Caldera, "We have increasing demands for technical skills."

The army and the other branches of the armed forces have plenty of opportunities for
tech-savvy high school graduates, as well as older recruits that already have some post-
secondary IT training. And if you don't have such training, don't worry -- they'll
teach you.

That's not to say you'll never see the front lines, but somebody's got to run the
computers back home. Major Dave Sorensen, Chief of Special Missions, US Army Recruiting
Command, is in charge of trying to find those people. Like any other employer of high-
tech staff, the Army has to compete with private industry and offer incentives. "Our
competition is right here in our backyard," said Sorensen. "We used to be able to
say, 'We'll give you money for college' -- but now so is local industry." To stay
competitive, the Army has had to go the extra mile. And as modern warfare gets more
high-tech, soldiers are increasingly able to return to the private sector with relevant
experience that is of real value.

Turn to Uncle Sam

Even in the present job environment, it's still difficult to get a job with no
experience, even if you have the education. "I think the Army's a great way to get that
kind of relevant experience," said Caldera. "Our computer programmers are in high
demand and they know it. Many of them will go into the Army and get their experience,
and after serving their enlistment, they'll go take those skills to the private
sector."

Job guarantee

The Army's new Partners in Youth Success (PAYS) program guarantees that you will get a
job after your tour of duty is over. Pete Keating, director of communications at
General Dynamics Land Systems, said, "We were willing to look at these people early,
before they enlist. And if they enlist and complete their three- to four-year term of
service honorably, and had the right skill mix, we could see them in certain jobs we
would have available three years from the date they enlisted." General Dynamics matches
up military operation specialties (MOSs, in military talk) with jobs the company has
internally. The program provides General Dynamics with a steady stream of skilled high-
tech workers, and at the same time provides young soldiers with relevant high-tech
experience they can use in the private sector.

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