There are a number of critical elements to a successful transition from a military job to a civilian one. Recognizing that a transition is not just a change of career, but a change in life, BAE Systems has developed the Warrior Integration Program, or WIP, to shepherd military members through this tumultuous time.

The company that brings the U.S. military the M-109 Self-Propelled Howitzer and the Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle and is working on the latest in hypervelocity electromagnetic railguns wants to bring veterans to work on those projects.

It’s a three-year rotational program to integrate post-9/11 veterans into BAE Systems. The program is open to any post-9/11 U.S. combat veteran who was wounded, ill or injured as a result of direct combat action on a combat tour of duty.

The company aims to translate soft and hard skills learned in the military and shape them for a civilian career in the corporate world.

Through technical and leadership training, career development, advanced education and leadership opportunities, and exposure to different functions, BAE hopes to not only help veterans but help the company with a diverse workforce of qualified, capable veterans. At the end of the three-year program, the veteran will be a fully transitioned, trained and capable employee.

For BAE Systems, it’s an easy win-win.

“The Warrior Integration Program is BAE facilitating opportunities for transitioning veterans,” says Scott Wolfe, a WIP manager in the company’s Platforms & Services sector. “They’re getting additional support from someone who’s gone through the program and just might be their manager.”

WIP is designed to provide the stability of a continuing career, as well as mentorship through all the changes veterans face when leaving the military. On top of learning a new job with BAE Systems, WIP employees will have a kind of mentor who helps guide them through the external organizations, such as enrolling for benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It doesn’t matter what a candidate’s military career might have been. BAE Systems will train accepted WIP employees to learn their position while on the job.

“We see it as a total transition program,” says Wolfe. “We look at the total individual, what skills they have, injuries from their service that could affect their work or home life, and we talk to them. We talk to them on a regular basis, making sure they get what they need to succeed.”

The program’s directors liken its mentorship aspects to those of the military’s noncommissioned officer corps, who ensure mission success by taking care of their troops. They maintain open lines of communication and step in to help when necessary. It wasn’t part of the original plan, but it evolved organically among the veteran graduates of the Warrior Integration Program, according to Wolfe.

“Having the passion to lead troops and lead people by taking care of them and developing them into a success, is the aspect of the NCO that we developed into it,” says Wolfe, who is also a veteran and WIP alum.

The program has hired veterans from all branches of the military, from career fields ranging from forestry to infantry to special operations.

BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems Warrior Integration Program team. All are veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy or Marine Corps. (BAE Systems)

WIP managers are looking for those with honorable military experience and leadership, strong communication skills, the ability to build and work in diverse teams, as well as people who can develop and manage plans, projects and resources.

“When looking at a candidate for the WIP, we have a couple of things in mind,” says Alan Kenneally, also a WIP manager, veteran and alumnus of the program. “We’re looking for good character, good focus and good energy. Someone who is motivated to attack the next step in the process.”

Chris Chouramanis is currently in the program. He was a member of the Army National Guard who left his military career in artillery and moved right into BAE Systems. He’s currently in his second year as a Supply Chain Planner for BAE’s FAST Labs Research and Development business.

“The application process made it easy to leave the military and take another career path over to BAE,” says Chouramanis, who began the application process while still in the military. “They support everything a wounded veteran might need, VA appointments and all. It was a no-brainer for me.”

BAE Systems currently has Warrior Integration Program openings in New Hampshire, Alabama and Texas. Even if a potential candidate isn’t based in these areas, they are still encouraged to apply, as relocation funds might be available.

— Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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