Veteran’s Perspective: Boots to Fed: Transitioning from the Military into Federal Government Employment

Paloma Alaniz is a U.S. Army Reserve veteran and combat veteran from Operation Enduring Freedom through service in Afghanistan. She is currently an employee of the Federal Emergency Management Agency within the Region 6 Texas Recovery office working on Hurricane Harvey Long Term Recovery.

By Paloma Alaniz, U.S. Army Reserve Veteran, Acting Branch Director, Hazard Mitigation Branch, Texas Recovery Office, FEMA

Military to civilian transition can be intimidating and uncomfortable as we make a move from a very regimental and “by the numbers workplace” and venture into the working class. Enlisting at 20 years old, I felt the desire to serve immediately after 9/11. While I selected service in the Reserves, I spent most of my time in the military on active duty orders that I volunteered for. This included service in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Marrying a fellow service member who was in active duty, I had a big decision to make. We were both in units that were deploying to the Middle East and both slated to go. I was pregnant with our first child and would have had to leave him with my parents when our son was only three months old. I decided to request a pregnancy discharge from the reserves. While the decision was hard, I decided to continue to serve as an Army wife instead.

A pose outside of Bahrain Airfield Afghanistan where Paloma served as a member of the 321st Civil Affairs Brigade out of San Antonio.

Shortly after my son was born, my husband’s orders to Iraq were rescinded and we were told that they were replaced by orders from the Department of Homeland Security to be part of a new team in Denton, Texas that would represent military assets and resources for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As I heard more about his job at FEMA, I realized this could be how I could continue to serve my country. I enrolled at the University of North Texas using my GI Bill and started my degree in Emergency Management. While still studying, I started working as a secretary at the FEMA office in Denton in 2008. Twelve years later, I am a Deputy Branch Director for a team working on Hurricane Harvey long term recovery mitigation. My dream came true. I want other veterans to know that if they still feel the urge to serve after unlacing their boots, the federal government is a great place to fill that desire.

A career jump from military service could leave veterans feeling a huge sense of culture shock and discomfort. Transition could be smoother if considering employment within the Federal government. There are several characteristics of Federal workplaces that may provide a level of comfort for those leaving the military, to include standardized job classifications, chain of command organizational structures, national service missions and established pay grade-based salaries.

A veteran’s key mission through their service in the military was the defense and protection of our nation. They are the epitome of what it means to “serve”. This is ingrained in those who chose to join the armed forces and is easily aligned with Federal government service. Each department and agency provide critical services to the American people.

Those who want to seek employment within the Federal government should start their search at https://www.usajobs.gov/ . The Federal government also has a dedicated veteran’s website at https://www.fedshirevets.gov/ . Another huge incentive to work within the Federal government is the preference that veterans receive over non-veteran applicants. Learn more about preferences at https://www.usajobs.gov/Help/working-in-government/unique-hiring-paths/veterans/ .

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