CHICAGO (CBS) — Sometimes appearances aren’t what they seem.
As CBS 2 Morning Insider Vince Gerasole reports on this Memorial Day, that’s also true for the military.
It’s the image we have of the army at its core: defending the nation in times of war. It’s part of what led Jim Bland to West Point and 13 years of service. Early on, he was in charge of cutting edge communication systems.
“In my early 20s, I had the opportunity to have $10 million worth of equipment under my command and 14 soldiers that I was in charge of,” said Bland.
He may be a financial executive in a suit now, but the army is still a part of his life.
“I call it my night job,” Bland said.
He was sworn in last month as a civilian aid to the Secretary of the Army, or CASA. It’s a volunteer position with a mission.
“We have so many opportunities in the army. That’s really the word and the message we want to get out,” Bland said.
Eighty percent of the career paths in the army are non-combat. But the fact that 79% of those serving in the army have a relative who has served suggests a disconnect.
“That means there is a lack of awareness within the community about opportunities in the army,” Bland said.
They work with business professionals and educators to get the word out that the army is a great place for job training and job placement.
Retired businessman Steven Herman was exposed to the military in a similar way. Now he’s a CASA too.
“We all walked away saying two things” ‘I didn’t know’ and ‘how can I help,'” Herman said. “It was eye opening.”
It’s also interesting to note though these men are civilians, they kind of sort of have a military rank.
“From a protocol standpoint, I have the rank of a three star lieutenant general,” Herman said. “I think that’s doing a disservice to the three stars. They deserve all the glory.”
Helping more people find the army and more businesses turn to vets for employees, is their ultimate goal.
“Because we are passionate about the army,” said Bland.
There are currently 110 active CASAs supporting the Secretary of the Army.