Vet Centers can help firms find skilled and experienced professionals.

By Bernie Siben, CPSM

Let’s assume the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) needs to survey the runway and taxiway systems at multiple military facilities across a broad geographic area to determine their actual length and width, and the locations of ring roads, electrical conduits and vaults, water/wastewater pipelines that run beneath those runways, and runway lighting and signage. The chances are that the USACE will issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) or a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) or On-Call surveying services.

Now let’s assume that a single military base needs to have surveys done in order to extend a few streets in its base housing area, identifying any water, wastewater, or electrical utilities alongside or crossing the right-of-way, and determining locations for manholes and fire hydrants. The chances are that the base civil engineering office will look for surveying skills right there on base before looking off base for surveying firms.

Because of the way such services are often needed, in bits and pieces, the military search out a wide variety of technical and other skills in their on-base personnel. These servicemen and women can perform the required services, and many of them are sufficiently skilled and experienced that they can train others as well.

As my firm is growing, one of my current job responsibilities involves identification of new locations for the placement of job notices for survey personnel — especially field crew, party chiefs, and survey technicians. While I was looking at all the “usual” places, one of my firm’s owners said, “There have to be a lot of veterans with the kinds of skills we need, and I’d really love it if we could hire some veterans for our open positions.”

That made a lot of sense to me. Every veteran I knew was generally responsible, reliable, and knew how to follow instructions, so they got the job done efficiently, on time, and on budget. And most important to a firm like ours, they already understood the concept of deadlines, had experience working long hours, and knew how to work well under even the most extreme pressure.

Many years ago, in my first “real” job, I worked with a senior executive who had a framed sign on his office wall that read: Stronger than all the establishments of man is an idea whose time has come!

Hiring veterans was definitely an idea whose time had come, and an idea that I could really get behind. So I said, “Okay. Let me look.”

My first stop was the website of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), where I learned that the VA can support veterans in every stage of their job searches — including getting more training to take advantage of new job opportunities and getting access to employers who want to hire veterans and military spouses.

On the department’s home page, there is a navigation button labeled “Locations,” and under that the second link is “Vet Centers.” There are at least 200 Vet Centers across the United States, and each has at least one bulletin board where they can post — among other things — current local job notices.

I called the Austin Vet Center and spoke with Jane Olien, the center’s director. I told her that my firm was looking for multiple survey party chiefs and technicians, and was interested in exploring the possibility of hiring veterans.

Sounding pleased and excited to hear that, she said, “We actually have a lot of veterans with surveying skills who come through this facility looking for many of the resources we provide, including job postings. And some of them were trained by the very best!”

The next day, I spoke with Angela Young, the outreach specialist at the center. She also sounded excited about the prospect of putting more local veterans to work, and said she’d be happy to post my notices. She also asked if she could hang my notices in other locations where veterans would see them, as well as their job board.

I sent her the notices for two positions later that day and she confirmed receipt and posting. A few days later, I sent her updated notices, including more information on the firm’s benefits package and our Equal Opportunity statement. She confirmed receipt of these updates and said that the notices would go up the next morning.

Initial response was not what we anticipated or hoped for, but we are eagerly looking forward to significant growth in responses as time passes. Meanwhile, kudos and thanks to the Austin Vet Center and all the other such facilities across the United States that help our veterans and their families get back to living normal lives when they leave the military.


Veteran business owners

  • Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Businesses: 10,791
  • Veteran Owned Small Businesses: 3,777
  • Total: 14,568
  • Engineering firms registered as SDVOSB or VOSB: 2,275

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization

Society of American Military Engineers

National Security Through Infrastructure

  • Membership, both military and non-military: 1,542 companies, 30,000 individual members

Veteran facts

Beginning in 2016, Gulf War Era veterans became the largest veteran population in the United States.

2018 Veteran population/2028 projection

  • Gulf War Era: 7.4 million/8.2 million
  • Vietnam: 6.4 million/4.2 million
  • Korean Conflict: 1.3 million/214,000
  • Word War II: 496,777/18,849
  • Total Veteran population: 19.6 million/16 million

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs


Bernie Siben, CPSM, is director of Marketing & Business Development at Chaparral Professional Land Surveying, Inc., in Austin, Texas. Contact him at bernie@chapsurvey.com, 512-443-1724, or 559 901 9596 (cell).

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