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Hiring our Heroes

CAES is proud to be hosting this fall a “Hiring our Heroes” Corporate Fellow, U.S. Army Major Paul R. Smith.

In addition to handling multiple projects at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, Smith is networking and sharing the story of the Hiring our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program with employees throughout Idaho National Laboratory. He is the second Hiring our Heroes fellow at INL. The first was Major (retired) Brent Soelberg, who began his fellowship in January and is now a full-time employee with Battelle Energy Alliance.

Soelberg and Smith have been friends since the beginning of their military careers, serving together first in an armored brigade in Germany in 1997, then as newly minted majors at Fort Drum in New York in 2011, and, in 2018, at the Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

“Brent led the way,” said Smith, an Idaho native who originally had been recruited by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in early 2018, sparking the idea of returning to his hometown to work at INL upon his retirement.

“After Brent did his fellowship at INL, it got me excited about the program,” he said. “INL-BEA has a great opportunity to get more Hiring our Heroes fellows here. Many senior officers and senior noncommissioned officers are project managers and operations managers. These veterans are skilled in things like cybersecurity, facilities management, and contracting. Most would love the opportunity to be able to contribute right off the bat. We can build a pipeline between Hiring Our Heroes and INL and help fill INL’s recruiting needs with transitioning service members ready to work.”

The Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program is an innovative 12-week program that provides transitioning service members with professional training and hands-on experience in the civilian workforce. The professional development offered through the program prepares candidates for a smooth transition into meaningful civilian careers. Participating corporations benefit by gaining access to the best and brightest transitioning service members, while also developing a more comprehensive understanding of the veteran job market.

The Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program was established by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in conjunction with the Department of Defense in 2015. The first fellowship location was the Seattle area, but now there are fellows in cohorts throughout the United States. The fellowship program is just one of many Hiring Our Heroes initiatives and programs for transitioning service members, veterans, and military spouses.

In less than four years, the Corporate Fellowship Program has become one of the premier ways for military members to transition out of the military and into employment. There are three Hiring Our Heroes cohort groups each year at various locations around the country. Most fellows are placed with corporate partners in locations near military installations. Some are placed at remote locations, like Smith coming to INL. Each cohort group has between 20 and 30 veterans per location. The remote fall 2019 cohort has 29 service members from all the military branches placed with host companies around the country, from Orlando to Seattle.

The Department of Defense collaborates with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes to fund and support the program. This allows active-duty service members to be “hosted” for 12 weeks in a Permissive Temporary Duty (PTDY) status with U.S. corporations in order to better understand and partake in the corporate culture and fill open positions with participating corporations. Fellows are given the opportunity to network and work with associates, managers, deputy directors, and in some cases, senior level leaders at more than 200 major U.S. corporations.

The average rate of placement of military members nationally through corporate fellowships was more than 92 percent in 2018.

The Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program is exactly what Smith was looking for after serving more than 22 years in the Army.

“I wanted a program that would help me transition successfully to the private sector in an efficient and effective way. Hiring Our Heroes provides that approach,” Smith said.

Smith held many leadership and staff positions during his Army career. He was a platoon leader, detachment commander and company commander, branch chief in transportation, logistics and later strategic intelligence. His staff positions included being an operations officer, operations planner, division movement control officer, senior observer/controller/trainer, and human resources officer (battalion S1/adjutant). Of note, Smith was the deputy chief of staff for logistics for 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, and in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He also worked on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the director of Intelligence and for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Washington, D.C. He was most recently the deputy director for Operations at the U.S. Army’s prestigious Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Smith’s career highlights were serving in command, serving with 11th Armored Cavalry in Iraq, with 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, and serving with DIA in Washington, D.C. He is a highly decorated veteran with multiple awards including earning three bronze stars for service while deployed in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Smith grew up on a farm just north of Idaho Falls and he helped run his father’s farm while attending Utah State. At the time, he never thought he would join the Army, much less travel the world, fight our nation’s wars, spend a career in the Army, and then finally get to come back home to work at INL.

Prior to joining the Army, he worked near the INL Site (then INL) for years. That is because his family farmed in Idaho Falls, off East River Road, and in Mud Lake, near the INL Site just off the Salmon highway. The Smiths ran cattle on large Bureau of Land Management (BLM) pastures around the Big South Butte out on the Site. In fact, just to go out and fix their fences or round up their cattle, Paul, his dad and brothers would have to get INEL visitor badges at the security checkpoint off the Arco highway on the INL Site in order to transit with their trucks and horses across a portion of the Site near EBR-I to their BLM pastures around the Big South Butte. Smith’s older brother and nephews still farm just a few miles north of the INL campus in Idaho Falls. They also run cattle in the Teton Valley near Driggs, and have cattle on pastures near Pinedale, Wyoming.

Smith is hoping to become a full-time INL employee at a cutting-edge position supporting INL research, possibly as an intelligence analyst, program manager, operations manager, or in Human Resources working with business management and/or logistics support after his fellowship concludes in mid-November.

For the time being, he is busy developing CAES communications projects, contacting and coordinating potential speakers for the CAES Codebreaker Seminar Series, writing an emergency communications plan, and updating CAES one-pagers related to the recently updated CAES Strategy including research capabilities within the various CAES labs.

“INL BEA CAES is a great place to work and is precisely what I was hoping for during my fellowship and beyond,” he said. “It has the things that I had outlined for a follow-on career after the Army: working with brilliant, intelligent, and kind people in a dynamic atmosphere, working on an innovative team on projects, challenges, and programs that will change the world for the better. I love the synergy here at CAES! I am inspired by the mission and the ideas supporting the CAES strategy, and I’ve met with leaders in the field of cybersecurity technology. All of that creative energy and INL BEA CAES is just five minutes away from my family’s farm where I grew up. So, finally I am back home. You can’t beat that!”

Smith is excited about the opportunity afforded him to come to INL via the Hiring our Heroes program.

“It feels so good to finally be home,” he said. “I feel like I am in a dream.”