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  • ’31 Whiskey’ Means Civilian Jobs

Photonics Spectra
Mar 2000
Gaynell Terrell

NEW YORK -- Ask any photonics CEO, and he or she will tell you that good managers, engineers and technicians are in strong demand in today's hot high-tech job market. And just where do you look for an experienced "31 Whiskey"?

In military-speak, a 31 Whiskey is an expert on telecommunications switches. A "fire control technician" is a telecommunications-network expert. The job descriptions may ring true to your company's needs, but the military's job classification system requires some translation.

One place you look for these technically trained people is the New York-based Center for Military and Private Sector Initiatives Inc., a nonprofit employment center for former military personnel. Spouses can register, too, for positions as consultants, computer networkers, engineers, chief financial officers or project managers, or in mobile telecommunications and the like.

Center director Wesley Poriotis said a hidden talent pool of former military personnel exists even in today's voracious job market. Often stationed at foreign locations or aboard ship, many former military workers don't know how to navigate the private-sector job market once they leave service, and that's where the center provides assistance.

Poriotis calls them "the newest aliens in America," but with a lot to offer. About 20 to 25 percent of enlisted service people hold college or advanced degrees.

"A sizable percentage have engineer training," he said. For instance, a tank driver may have been trained in engineering and then received additional training to earn a master's degree in computer software.

For the center, the challenge is spreading the word that thousands of highly trained workers are leaving the military every year for the civilian work force. During a recent placement forum, 68 of the 85 network engineering candidates received immediate job offers, he said.

A number of photonics companies agreed that military experience could be an asset.

Kollmorgen Corp.'s electro-optical division in Northampton, Mass., does 90 percent of its work designing multispectral sensing systems for the military. Even here the technical skills of job prospects outweigh a military background, said Tom Norton, director of human relations. But for a candidate who had both, "that would be a big plus."

The jobs center can be reached online at

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