Stand-down from war: With deployment canceled, Guardsmen face tough job market

Army National Guard Spc. Andrew Hoogeboom, of Delta, participates with an honor guard at a funeral at Veterans Memorial Cemetery of Western Colorado. Hoogeboom and other members of his unit 
face the
challenge of finding other jobs after learning that regular Army troops will be sent to Afghanistan in their place.

It’s one thing to go to war, another entirely to plan to go to war, and then be told to stand down.

That’s what happened to the 157th Infantry Battalion, a National Guard unit which was bound for Afghanistan in March, only to learn last month that a regular Army unit will be going instead.

For Spc. Andrew Hoogeboom, the on-again, off-again deployment took a bite out of his plans.

The married father of two who lives in Delta had planned on the deployment for employment and now he’s in search of work in a western Colorado economy that’s lagging behind much of the nation.

Hoogeboom is making ends meet in the honor guard at the Colorado Army National Guard Readiness Center, but he’s hoping to get back on his feet, possibly with a job in the energy industry.

“I have a college degree in personal training,” Hoogeboom said, “but that’s hard to get clients.”

One of Hoogeboom’s comrades, Sgt. Jeff Jonas, is in similar straits.

“I’ve become a professional job hunter,” since learning that the Boulder-based unit wouldn’t be bound for Afghanistan in a little over a month.

As with Hoogeboom, Jonas said he hoped to land work in the energy industry, but found himself out of step since the deployment was canceled.

Hoogeboom and Jonas both know the far-away turf; each has served in previous deployments, but now they’re negotiating different terrain as job-seekers.

Hoogeboom has visited with a recruiter to see if there’s an opportunity on active duty, but the outlook isn’t promising, he said.

That’s a change from his experience when he moved to Iowa and Vermont for Army jobs, he said.

Hoogeboom and Jonas are in much the same position of other veterans, Mesa County Work Force Center Director Sue Tuffin said.

“There’s a higher percentage of unemployment in the veteran community than there is in the community as a whole,” Tuffin said.

Veterans and others are encouraged to attend the Jumpstart Job Fair sponsored by the Work Force Center next week, Tuffin said.

The job fair will include 40 employers who are actively hiring, Tuffin said.

The fair will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 5 at the DoubleTree Hotel, 743 Horizon Drive.


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