By: Andy Romey
Dating back to the Civil War, military veterans have enjoyed a proud history of working for the railroads.
It’s that history that brought together some of the industry’s most recognizable names on Thursday for a Hiring Our Heroes career fair at Amtrak’s primary maintenance facility in Beech Grove, Ind.
The event – which welcomed CSX, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern – was part of Amtrak’s commitment to make 25 percent of its new hires consist of service members and veterans by 2015, said Derrick James, director of governmental affairs for Amtrak.
“We are hiring system-wide,” James said. “We are hiring folks who are interested and who have many different types of skills. There are a lot of jobs available across Amtrak.”
Hiring Our Heroes is an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which brings veterans career fairs to numerous towns and cities across the country. These events are often sponsored by The American Legion on the national or local level of the organization.
Thursday’s event specifically catered to employment within the railroad industry, as the three major railway employers from the area were present, accepting resumes and advertising open positions.
James said service members and veterans are a fit for many different careers within the industry because military skills of all types have a use at the railroads. “Many (veterans) are conductors, train engineers, do locomotive maintenance, or are operations managers,” he said. “Almost every job that exists also exists in the railroads.”
Jason Wolfe, who has spent almost 20 years in the Army, was in attendance Thursday looking for a job so he could relocate to Indianapolis after he separates this October. He said he’s not necessarily looking for the perfect job, just a job that will allow him to move closer to family.
“I have an open mind. I’m really not exclusive,” he said. “My history is aviation. I used to work on Blackhawks and was a crew chief with 800 hours. Something along those lines would be really nice.”
John Phaegley, a Marine veteran who left the military in 1988, was on hand also looking for work that would allow him to move to Indianapolis to be closer to family.“The military was so long ago for me,” he said. “I owned a business for 12 years, so my background is more of a financial business management-type background. Over here, I’m just looking for a job.”
James said that the career fair is one of many that Amtrak has participated in and will continue to participate in as the company moves closer to its goal of making 25 percent of its new hires service members or veterans.
“The railroad industry and the military have a long history together,” James said. “Military veterans helped to build the network here, and we move troops for the nation and supplies. Amtrak considers itself America’s railroad.”