SALEM — Rey Rivera knows his way around an aircraft engine. As a soldier, he was the crew chief and lead quality control officer for all AH-64 D Apache helicopters in the first wave of air combat in the Iraq War.
“I know more about those aircraft than some of the people who built them,” he said. “I can tear an aircraft apart and put it back together again blindfolded.”
Unfortunately, getting a job stateside is trickier than fixing jet engines.
The engines Rivera spent years maintaining for the military are conveniently built right here in Lynn by GE. But when Rivera’s deployment was over, the company would not hire him — he didn’t have the proper paper credentials.
The problem is the same for military mechanics, medics, truck drivers, supply logistic experts, and many more servicemen and servicewomen who have exceptional skills and training, but no piece of paper to prove it.
“It’s like starting all over again, despite their experience in the service,” said Congressman John Tierney, who convened a round-table discussion in Salem on the issue with more than a dozen local veterans and veterans services agents.
Work is under way to address the problem. The Department of Defense is launching a pilot program this month to look at how military occupational specialties translate to civilian fields. More importantly, the program will also attempt to streamline or eliminate some of the red tape that prevents many veterans from earning the necessary permits, certificates and credentials that are preventing them from getting jobs that they are more than qualified to do.
It would help people like Christina Ayube’s son, a combat medic who even trained other medics but couldn’t get a job on an ambulance because he wasn’t certified.
Carlos Noyola drove 7-ton trucks, forklifts and other big machinery in the military, managing huge supply warehouses in the Middle East.