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Reverse Engineering A Warfighter Resume

Reverse Engineering A Warfighter Resume

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Having a better understanding of the discharge process may avoid making a bad hire.

The events at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, September 16th will resonate for months and years to come. Who was responsible for granting Aaron Alexis access to the secure facility will be scrutinized extensively and exhaustively.

However, given that Alexis was an honorably discharged Navy veteran with no criminal record, vetted by 2 federal contractors, the Navy Yard itself, and a full security clearance background check, understanding how this horrible event happened in spite of all that scrutiny, and more importantly, how to prevent it from happening again, is unfortunately never going to be satisfactorily answered.

However, the one group with the best opportunity to assess Alexis’ suitability/unsuitability before any ‘official’ vetting took place was the recruiting desk. Had a recruiter with sufficient understanding of the military discharge process questioned Alexis before submitting his resume, the placement may have been stopped before it even began. Here then is an overview of the salient facts about warfighter resumes:

Warfighter Vs. Corporate Culture

  • How mentorship differs and why it is so important for recruiters to understand.
  • The ethos of “Leave no one behind”.
  • The security of the military ‘cocoon’ and how it adversely impacts veterans in the civilian workforce.
  • We are losing the psychological battle during and after transition.
  • According to the Department of Veterans Affairs the suicide rate among veterans is the highest of any minority demographic group in the nation.

Types Of Discharges

Honorable – To receive an honorable discharge, a service member must have received a rating from good to excellent for his or her service.

General – General discharges are given to service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct expected of military members.

  • Drug abuse, but not distribution.
    • Difference is usually determined by amount of contraband substance confiscated.
  • Repeated alcohol abuse.
  • Repeated failure of the annual Physical Readiness Test.
    • Due to the number of opportunities and remediation available, ‘High Year Tenure’ is usually reached and therefore an Honorable is given.

Other Than Honorable – The most severe form of administrative discharge and are typically given to service members convicted by a civilian court bringing discredit upon the service.

  • Drug distribution
  • DUI

Bad Conduct (BCD) – Handed down for felonious offenses that always include a period of incarceration.

  • Robbery
  • Assault
  • Repeated instances of Unauthorized Absence (UA) formerly known as AWOL

Dishonorable – Dishonorable discharges are handed down for what the military considers the most reprehensible conduct.

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Desertion

Re-enlistment Codes (RE-Codes)

  • Found only on the ‘undeleted certified copy’ (long form) of the DD-214.
    • Most employers are not permitted to disqualify applicants for a less than honorable discharge, however, this does not apply to positions requiring a security clearance.
  • RE-1 is fully eligible for reenlistment.
  • RE-2 is ineligible because of discharge resultant in a ‘Retired’ status
  • RE-3 is ineligible due to any of the following:
    • Failure to meet aptitude requirements
    • Parenthood/pregnancy
    • Condition (not physical disability) interfering with performance of duty
    • Hardship
    • Disenrolled from Naval/Military Academy, and therefore not considered qualified for enlisted status.
    • Physical disability (includes discharge and transfer to Temporary Disabled Retired List).
      • Obesity, Motion sickness, etc.
    • Failure to meet professional growth criteria.
  • RE-4 is ineligible for reenlistment (almost always as a result of punitive reasons)

Possible Examples Of Red Flags:

  • Anyone (officer or enlisted) discharged with 7 – 19 years of service.
  • An enlisted who fails to promote to E-4 in 4 years
  • An enlisted who retires at 20 years of service as an E-5.
  • Any officer who fails to promote to O-3.
  • Any officer who retires at 20 years of service as an O-4.
  • Claims of retiring with less than 20 years of service.
  • Claims of having a clearance such that they cannot divulge their background
  • Claims of membership in any elite unit.
    • Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Recon, etc.

If any evidence of a red flag exists, it is incumbent upon recruiters to drill down on those areas by asking probing questions about why. With sufficient knowledge, a recruiter with little or no military experience will easily separate viable candidates.


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Tony Palm Tony Palm is a talent acquisition professional with over 10 years staffing experience in both agency and corporate environments; placing candidates with the federal government, private sector, and non-profit organizations.