The article below was featured in the New York Daily News as part of their new feature on Iraq veterans returning home and looking for jobs. I wanted you to read it – it’s important for all of us to understand the challenges they face.
As a Black Hawk helicopter pilot shuttling soldiers between army bases in Iraq, New York Army National Guard warrant officer Michelle Roxby had a clear mission:
Deliver her passengers safely.
But when Roxby, 33, returned to New York from a second tour of duty in Iraq in 2009 to begin her job search in the civilian world, she felt lost.
“It was the first time in my life I didn’t know what my next goal would be,” said Roxby, who lives in St. George, S.I. “It became almost depressing.”
For many returning New York-area veterans, the feeling is mutual.
While a job search can be brutal for anyone, it is especially frustrating for veterans like Roxby who achieved success in the military.
In addition to being one of the army’s few female Black Hawk pilots, she has held several key jobs in her military career, including running a team that managed survival gear for 85 air crew members.
More recently, she spent months training to be a maintenance test pilot, testing aircraft to see if they’re ready for a mission.
“I knew I had so many abilities. I had flown multimillion-dollar aircraft,” Roxby said.
“Many veterans are used to having high-level responsibilities. It’s frustrating to return to the civilian world and not be able to continue utilizing their skills.”
Roxby grew up in Glendale, Queens, and enlisted in the Army National Guard 11 years ago, just before graduating from SUNY Albany, where she got a B.A. in geology. She was ordered to active duty for the first time in 2003.
When she returned from Iraq three years ago, she had no clear career path in mind. Roxby, who also has a master’s degree in forensic sciences from George Washington University, looked for jobs on Craigslist and on Idealist.org, a listing of nonprofit jobs.
Within a few months, she found a position working for a nonprofit veterans mentoring program. But the drive to continue to improve her military skills led her to leave that job and focus on her training.
Luckily, as she trained to become a maintenance test pilot, from March to October of last year, she continued to earn a paycheck and a housing allowance from the Army National Guard.
But last fall, because of budget constraints, her paycheck ended and Roxby found herself looking for a job again.
She changed her strategy. She’s now focused on networking with her connections both inside and outside the military.
The results, so far, appear promising. Through an army contact, Roxby learned Citigroup was seeking to hire veterans. Though she did not get a job, she remains in touch with bank recruiters and execs.
In the meantime, she is confident that the skills she cultivated in the Army National Guard will benefit a civilian employer.
“I am an organization guru. Anyone who needs a wealth of information to be organized and prioritized, I am your person,” she said.
“I have some great contacts. My résumé is out there. I just need to find a home for my skills.”
Shining Service Worldwide is a charitable organization that supports all women who are part of the military family. Our goal is successful re-integration back into civilian life.