Building a warrior workforce

By JOSHUA COFFMAN
The News Enterprise

August 20, 2008

FORT KNOX — You're Hooahed.

The Army hosted business partners Wednesday in its Partnership for Youth Success, or PaYS, program.

Photo by JILL PICKETT
Ray Cuttino, with Johnson Controls, ends a visit with Pfc. Shakoor Mitchner with some words of encouragement for the soldier as he continues basic training Wednesday at Fort Knox. As part of Mitchner's enlistment contract he was matched with Johnson Controls for possible post-service employment through the Army PaYS program.

PaYS links up soldiers upon enlistment with employers that give them preferential hiring opportunities after an honorable discharge or, in the case of a reservist, after completing initial training.

More than 80 representatives from 50 companies toured Fort Knox on Wednesday, getting a taste of skills learned by soldiers Organizers say it gives soldiers solid career options after serving their country, while it gives job recruiters a potential work force with core soldier values, including hard work, responsibility and discipline.

Some representatives who attended met face-to-face with potential employees of the future.

During the tour, Ray Cuttino, a recruiter with Johnson Controls, met Pfc. Shakoor Mitchner. Mitchner signed on with the company for first crack at a job after he completes his Army career.

Cuttino, a former Army noncommissioned officer, plans to mentor Mitchner through his soldier career as he helps prepare him for a possible future at Johnson Controls.

He backed up that vow by giving Mitchner phone numbers for his home and cell phone as well as his e-mail address.

The two exchanged a hug and a "Hooah," the Army's shout of affection, as they talked about the young soldier's experience thus far in basic training.

"Your feet are going to hurt," Cuttino told him. "When you get to that point, give me a call."

The recruiter can advise the soldier on what skills in which to seek additional training and updates during an Army career to be ready for a civilian career.

"That makes him marketable," Cuttino said, noting that it makes his job easier by lining up a prospect for 2011.

Mitchner, a four-year JROTC cadet in high school in New Jersey, signed a three-year contract as a quarter master in chemical equipment repair, but the agreement he made with the company allows him to re-enlist if he chooses and still have preference with his PaYS company.

"I'll already have somewhere to go to interview for a job," he said.

Many of the organizations participating in the PaYS program are police departments, ranging from Louisville Metro and Kentucky State Police to departments in New York City and Los Angeles.

Other companies that sent representatives to Wednesday's tour included RSC Transportation, Sears, Southwest Airlines and Hyundai.

Attendees fired simulation .50-caliber machine guns at computer-generated targets and had lunch in a mess hall with a group of soldiers.

Sherry Whitman-Powers, human resources director for Elizabethtown-based Bluegrass Cellular, a PaYS program participant, attended. She said such programs tie together the companies and community.

"We get first dibs when these people get out of the Army," she said. "It's a win-win for both of us."

Joshua Coffman can be reached at (270) 505-1740, or at jcoffman@thenewsenterprise.com.

This story, written by Joshua Coffman, was provided to One Knox courtesy of The News Enterprise. Read more stories from The News Enterprise at www.thenewsenterprise.com.