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A CRASH COURSE

The military has its own culture, complete with its own language. Knowing a few basics about that culture (and just a few of its thousands of acronyms) will help you interpret resumes, find the strongest applicants and understand what the heck your interviewees are talking about. For more of an education, sign up for one of the Hiring Our Heroes employer webinars that are led by highly experienced trainers who can provide insight on recruiting, hiring and retaining service members.

FIVE BRANCHES, TWO STATUS TYPES EACH

There are five military branches: the Army, Navy, Marines (who also report to the Secretary of the Navy), Air Force and Coast Guard. Each has a different mission and culture.

Each branch also has two main statuses: active duty and reserve. Active duty service members serve in the military full time. Reserve service members are required to serve on a part-time basis (a minimum of one weekend a month with two weeks of annual training each year, although many serve as full-time support or are activated to full-time status when needed). Veterans serving in either status often have identical skills and experiences.

Personnel on reserve status are particularly valuable to civilian employers because they will continue to receive training, professional development and leadership experiences at no cost to their employers. Each time they report, whether it’s for drill weekend or a deployment, they’re not just serving their country—they’re also gaining experience that will translate to your workplace.

Read the Military 101 primer produced by JP Morgan Chase for more information on each of the services’ branches, structure and experience.

NATIONAL GUARD AND RESERVE

Because Guard and Reserve personnel serve their country while also leading civilian lives, they are sometimes described as “twice the citizen.” Of the 2.2 million veterans currently serving, about 830,000 are Guard and Reserve. These service members also have civilian careers or serve as full-time students.

National Guard and Reserve personnel are particularly valuable to civilian employers because they will continue to receive training, professional development and leadership experiences at no cost to their employer.

Reserve personnel perform the same mission as their active duty counterparts, complementing them and serving under the same Department of Defense (DoD) leadership. National Guard units are organized in each state and are used most often for stateside missions such as disaster relief—although many have been activated for overseas deployment during the last several years. The governor of each state controls the state’s National Guard units unless they are mobilized for deployments on federal duty, when they are managed under federal control.

These personnel are particularly valuable to civilian employers because they will continue to receive training, professional development and leadership experiences at no cost to their employer. Each time they report, whether it’s for drill weekend or a deployment, they’re not just serving their country—they’re also gaining experience that will translate to your workplace.

WHAT DO YOU CALL THEM?

Army = Soldiers
Air Force = Airmen
Navy = Sailors
Marines = Marines
Coast Guard = Guardians (or “Coasties”)

LINGO YOU WILL SEE

There is some common terminology across all services. You will see these on resumes and in government documentation required for tax credits, or hear them during interviews:

DD214: Department of Defense Form 214. A DD214 is a summary of active duty military experience. You’ll use it to verify your employee’s official veteran status if you apply for tax breaks.

MOS/AFSC/NEC: All of these refer to job codes. In the Army, for example, an MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) of “15R” means the Soldier is an Apache helicopter crew chief. An Airman who has an AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) of “3D0X2” is a cyber systems operator. A Sailor with an NEC (Navy Enlisted Classification) of 0164 is a patrol boat coxswain.

NCO: Noncommissioned officer. NCOs are mid-to-senior-level military leaders, in charge of training and managing teams. If you see "NCO" on a resume, the candidate has significant management experience and training.

JMO: Junior military officer. JMOs are lower-level military leaders who are in charge of managing teams. In the Army, for example, a junior officer could be someone at a rank ranging from second lieutenant to captain. In the Navy, it could be someone ranging from ensign up to lieutenant. Many businesses offer corporate leadership programs for JMOs.

MILITARY RANK: A CLUE TO AN APPLICANT'S EXPERIENCE

There are three main categories of rank: enlisted personnel, warrant officers and commissioned officers. All commissioned officers outrank all warrant officers, and all warrant officers outrank all enlisted personnel.

Within each category, there is also a hierarchy, with each rank assigned a letter/number designation and a title (lieutenant, sergeant, etc.). Officer ranks all start with an “O,” warrant officers with a “W,” and enlisted personnel with an “E.” The lowest officer rank is an O-1 and the highest is O-10. The titles for ranks differ from service to service. An O-1 in the Army is called a second lieutenant, while an O-1 in the Navy is called an ensign, but both are equal in rank since they’re both O-1s.

Remember, while an O-1 technically outranks an E-8, their job skills and experience will be vastly different. An E-8 will have years of experience, including management, but the O-1 might be brand new to the military. As a general rule, you can equate a higher-numbered rank to more experience, but there are exceptions, like when someone who has been enlisted for years decides to become an officer. In all cases, just like with a civilian resume, reading job descriptions will give you the final word on experience and skill level.

Each rank comes with its own insignia. Go to these sites for a guide:

Enlisted Rank Insignia
Officer Rank Insignia

VETERANS SHARE SOME CORE VALUES

The military is an enormous entity. It has around 2.1 million active duty and reserve personnel, and if it were a country, it would fall not far behind Jamaica in population. With that enormous number of people comes an enormous amount of variety in character, but there are certain qualities you’ll find in every veteran.

Each is the kind of person willing to raise their hand and say they’ll put their life on the line to serve others. Some of your veteran workers might bring a hard-nosed, blue-collar mindset often found in jobs like the infantry. Some might come from very corporate environments, like cyberwarfare operators. Each will bring with them values that each military branch has at its core, such as integrity, service to others before self and courage.

SPOUSES OF VETERANS ARE RESOURCEFUL, FLEXIBLE AND RESILIENT

Veterans don’t serve in a vacuum. Their families, and especially their spouses, serve too. While spouses and partners might not have raised their hand to join themselves, they have proved to be a faithful part of the service equation. Each and every one has given time and energy supporting their partner, probably spending long nights hoping that their loved one is safe. If their veteran has deployed, they’ve also had to carry alone the weight of a household built for two. All of these experiences leave their mark on military spouses—building strength, giving them an appreciation for what’s important in life and proving their willingness to put others’ needs before their own. This is a sign of a great employee.