Sentinels of Freedom |
Published in the March/April 2011 issue of print Search & Employ® |
They stand watch at our nation’s borders, ports, roads and airports and often serve as our nation’s first – and best – line of defense. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the largest law-enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security, with more than 58,000 employees serving both nationwide and overseas.
CBP’s priority mission is to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from entering the United States, while ensuring the security of America’s borders and ports of entry. The agency is also responsible for apprehending individuals attempting to enter the United States illegally; stemming the flow of illegal drugs; protecting our agricultural and economic interests from harmful pests and diseases; protecting American businesses from theft of their intellectual property; and regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing U.S. trade laws. The tricky part is maintaining a line of defense while allowing legitimate travel and trade in and out of the United States.
Joe Arata, Assistant Director, National Recruitment and Veterans Program Manager, and Vice Chair of the Secretary Department of Homeland Security’s Council on Veterans Employment, enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1983 and was commissioned as an Army Infantry Officer in 1985. He served as an Airborne Infantry Officer with the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg. While with the 82nd he was part of a combat parachute assault in Panama during Operation Just Cause (1989-1990) and was among the first ground combat troops in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield. Arata also commanded the Advanced Airborne Operations School at Fort Benning.
“We’re always in need of IT specialists and operations support specialists,” Arata said about employee opportunities at the CBP. “In fact, we’re really looking to fill a lot of positions.”
Veterans may find a sense of familiarity upon joining the CPB. “Our organization mirrors the military,” Arata said. “Lots of skill sets transfer directly into what CBP does. Logistics, human resources, pilots, law enforcement – there are a lot of similarities. Also, about 26 percent of our employees are former military. We like to say, ‘You’re changing your call sign, not your calling.’”
Prospective employees should not worry if they don’t have a law-enforcement background but want to be part of the law-enforcement portion of CBP. “We’ll send them to our academy to teach them the skills they need,” Arata said.
He also cited several reasons why veterans make good employees at CBP. “Military personnel understand long hours, selfless service, getting the mission done, and following the chain of command; and they know how to be good leaders,” he said.
Arata noted that veterans find work at CBP to be rewarding. “There are a lot of diverse missions and a lot of career paths to take as well. It’s easy to find a path that is rewarding.”
Kijuana Young, a community manager with the CBP who oversees a Sharepoint site for her team, said that working for the American people is a big motivation. “I know I’m still serving my country and doing something that is making a difference,” she said.
Young joined the Army in 1997 as a Petroleum Supply Specialist, and later became an Administrative Specialist. Her military experience directly links with what she does now. “I manage my team’s website to ensure that members can share information and collaborate with each other, no matter where their location,” Young said.
Arata suggests that service members who are thinking about leaving the military should get started on looking for future employment as early as possible. “It can be a scary transition, so don’t wait to start looking and making contacts,” she said. “CBP is a great place to end up where veterans can still make a big difference in serving their country. “
The CBP needs mission support personnel, including IT specialists, management analysts, contract specialists, human resource specialists, mission support specialists, mechanics, budget analysts, purchasing agents, and security specialists. You can find all current CBP vacancies by searching the USAJobs site.