The 82nd Airborne Division “America’s Guard of Honor” hosted its third, “Paratroopers For Life,” forum inside the division headquarters at Fort Bragg, Jan. 25.
The division launched the PFLF in December 2016 to create an easier transition for paratroopers who are separating from the U.S. Army.
“The Paratroopers For Life program was built on some of the same tenets of the Army’s Soldier for Life program, which helps troops connect their military service to potential civilian careers,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, 82nd Airborne Division public affairs officer. “The idea is that we want our paratroopers to have a soft landing when they depart the division.”
The U.S. Army recently restructured the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program to allow Soldiers transitioning from active duty up to 18 months to access services that will educate them on a variety of civilian careers and provide training opportunities before separation; retirees would have 24 months.
Reinforcing the SFL-TAP, the PFLF’s objective is to ensure every paratrooper who wants to depart from service is educated on the opportunities available to them and their Families.
“Once you wear the ‘All American’ patch, you’re a member of the 82nd Family forever,” said Buccino.
During the forum, transitioning members of the division gathered with representatives from Fort Bragg’s SFL-TAP, Johnston Community College (Smithfield, North Carolina), and Schneider National (Wisconsin) and Werner Enterprises (Nebraska) trucking companies.
Billy Gazdagh, an Army retiree and a Werner Enterprises military recruit manager, was eager to partner with the division and provide transitioning paratroopers with the opportunity to work in his company.
“We want to be participants in the next step, which is job fairs, career days and partnering with Fort Bragg,” said Gazdagh. “We want to be able to provide an option for the Soldiers.”
Having served 22 years, Gazdagh feels he knows the capabilities paratroopers have and will value having them on the team.
“We know what you are capable of as a Soldier,” said Gazdagh. “You are dependable, reliable and trustworthy; we want that in our company.
“A Soldier takes care of business; they are the ones we want,” he added.
Gazdagh, a Sebring, Florida native, believes this program will help paratroopers leave the service with additional support.
“It’s cost-free for the service member,” said Gazdagh. “When the Soldier is hired, the company will value them, ensure them income, health insurance and retirement benefits. We want this to benefit the Soldier.”
With PFLF in place, All American paratroopers better prepare while going through their transitioning process.
Sgt. Greg Means, a 126th Composite Truck Company, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, 82nd Abn. Div. motor transport operator, feels sure these forums will help him secure employment.
“This was very beneficial to me,” said Means, a Columbia, South Carolina native. “I can come out making more than I make now.”
Means is nine months away from departing service and believes efforts being implemented by the division are essential for all paratroopers.
“Every leader should know about this and inform their Soldiers,” he said. “I have seen Soldiers leave without a plan of action.”
“This is very educational for me,” said Means. “Everyone has been helping me.”
So far, PFLF has focused on law enforcement and fire and emergency services. The division plans to conduct a quarterly forum, with the next one likely highlighting information technology.