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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Military News

Center will help former MacDill service members stay in Tampa

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Every year about 1,200 to 1,500 service members from MacDill Air Force Base leave the service.

But only 40 percent stay in Tampa, says Scott DeThomas, who wants to change that ratio.

One of the last things DeThomas did before turning over the MacDill Air Force Base key ring to the new base commander was attend last week’s opening of the CareerSource Tampa Bay MacDill Transition Center that he helped make a reality.

“This is an opportunity to bring our civilian resources to bare on helping service men and women and spouses find work in the local community,” said DeThomas, who last Friday found himself out of a job, at least temporarily, when he passed command to Col. Daniel Tulley. “Right now, we know that about six out of every 10 who transition out of the military at MacDill end up somewhere else than Tampa. There are a lot of great resources that want to help. Unfortunately, the military does not have a lot of resources to make available.”

As base commander, DeThomas was in charge of a massive operation with nearly $3 billion in assets that pumps about $5 billion into the local economy.

But even he has limitations.

“You can only do certain things in our government buildings,” DeThomas said. “It prevents me sometimes from opening up the aperture.”

By setting up a facility on base, the first of its kind in the Air Mobility Command, DeThomas said it will be easier to reach service members before they get out.

“This provides a venue to bring people onto the base and share resources,” said DeThomas.

Local business owners, who have jobs to offer, will have a place to reach out, said DeThomas, adding that this effort is a supplement to the military’s Transition Assistance Program.

The MacDill Transition Center will offer re-employment assistance to transitioning service members and spouses, job search assistance, resume review, employer information sessions, recruitment events, referrals to community partners/agencies and information on job centers, according to CareerSource officials.

The center will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. It will have two staff members — a local veteran employment representative and business services team member — who will be available to assist with workforce needs.

“The Transition Center will serve as a job exchange for Veterans who are seeking employment,” said CareerSource Tampa Bay President and CEO Edward Peachey.

CareerSource Tampa Bay will host employers who are recruiting for open positions within their respective businesses and provide veterans with immediate and future opportunities to interview for jobs in the Tampa Bay area, Peachey said.

“We believe this initiative will provide an efficient process for veterans to find employment and an effective method of talent recruitment for employers,” Peachey said.

For more information, go to https://careersourcetampabay.com.

DeThomas hasn’t told me what he plans on doing for work now.

But he does say that, if they are willing, he wants to spend time at the transition center helping others do what he is doing — create a life in Tampa after a career in uniform.

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Speaking of openings, next week marks the unveiling of the new James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Primary Care Annex, located at on Fletcher Avenue just west of Interstate 75.

The 110,000 square-foot annex, which officially opens in September, will offer one-stop shopping for a variety of primary services, said hospital spokeswoman Karen Collins, adding that it will combine some of the services now performed in trailers on the main Haley campus under the same roof.

She offers the following description of what services the annex will offer.

The Primary Care Team will have team work areas and work stations for dieticians, social workers, pharmacists, psychologists and home telehealth nurses. Consult rooms are unassigned and are available to all specialties.

The Comprehensive Women’s Center will offer primary care as well as gynecology speciality care, a breast clinic, a children’s area, lactation rooms for veterans and staff, speciality mental health and a maternity coordinator.

The Dental Clinic will have 24 dental operatories, three oral surgery suites, dental providers with specialities including general dentistry, prosthodontics, periodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery and dental hygiene.

There will also be an on-site full-service dental lab.

The annex will also have a patient library, with education and training rooms, five individual carrels with dedicated library staff, My HealtheVet and other patient education resources, six patient education classrooms, two with associated exam rooms.

About 300 employees will move to the new locations, Collins says, adding that all primary care patients will receive a letter informing them if their doctor or location has changed.

There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony 2 p.m. Thursday in the annex lobby, 13515 Lake Terrace Ln., Tampa.

Tours of the facility and light refreshments will be available immediately following.

RSVP to Kaylynn.Brown@va.gov or 813-972-2000 ext. 3804.

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Continuing on my theme of newness, the freshly minted Le Meridien Hotel, which opened two months ago in the old federal courthouse at 601 N. Florida, played host to five recently deployed service members and their families.

As someone who covered land-use issues and started a cutting-edge urban design column in Philadelphia, I have to say that the hotel folks created a stunning reuse of a dead property in a key area for expansion of downtown growth.

The five-day/four-night luxury stay was provided in partnership with Troop Rewards, a Tampa-based non-profit organization dedicated to providing relaxing vacations and other rewards to U.S. service members returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hostile overseas areas where American troops are deployed, said Tom Burkett, the organization’s executive director.

Aside from the hotel stay, the service members and guests received free admission to the Tampa Museum of Art, and complimentary visits to Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, and an eBoats cruise on the Hillsborough River.

All activities were provided thanks to support from the businesses involved, said Burkett, CEO of Burkett Asset Management Inc.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Stranges, who serves with the 6th Security Forces Squadron at MacDill, just returned from a three-month deployment to Qatar. He says the gift package, which also included a flag flown over the nation’s capitol provided by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, was “an awesome way to spend some time with my wife and three young kids.”

The hotel stay and gifts “are another great example of how Tampa is a wonderful place for service members,” says Stranges. “Everywhere I go, people thank me when they see me in uniform.”

Burkett created Troop Rewards in 2009 and counts Jessica Schwarzkopf, daughter of the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, among its board members.

For more information, go to trooprewards.org

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The Pentagon announced the deaths of two soldiers last week.

Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, 55, of Schenectady, N.Y., died Aug. 5, in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by small arms fire. The incident is under investigation. He was assigned to the Combined Security Transition Command, Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Girard D. Gass Jr., of Lumber Bridge, North Carolina, died Aug. 3, in Jalalabad Air Field Hospital, Afghanistan, from a non-combat related incident while on patrol that occurred in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

There have now been 2,329 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation’s longest war.

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

@haltman

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