Working 24-hour shifts is the norm for EMT and Army veteran Michael Shepherd, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Serving his local community through the Harker Heights Fire Department is where he wants to be.
“I knew when I was getting out (of the Army), this was the job I wanted to do,” Shepherd said. “As corny as it sounds, I am following my childhood dream. My stepfather was a firefighter in the Air Force, and I admired his work.”
Shepherd enlisted in the Army after he graduated from high school. He hoped for a firefighter military occupational specialty, but that field was overcrowded when he enlisted; his recruiter talked him into another job.
Five years later, when his time to leave the military was near, Shepherd enrolled in an emergency medical technician certification course. By the end of his military career, he had a month left in the course and was quickly hired after he finished it.
EMT made the Careercast.com list of top 10 best civilian jobs for veterans. The list was released earlier this month. Paralegal and legal assistant, training and development manager and construction program manager also made the list.
Martin Traylor, Army Career and Alumni Program operations and liaison officer, said he was not surprised by the occupations on the Careercast list.
Many are military specialities that use civilian standards. This allows service members to obtain certifications before leaving the armed forces.
“They are starting to do that with commercial truck drivers,” Traylor said.
Heavy- and tractor-trailer truck driver is another job on the Careercast list, as well as software engineer.
“We have done it on the (information technology) side for years,” Traylor said. “You just transition easier because you are already certified.”
More than certifications
Getting a job after the military takes more than just certifications, Traylor said. Just like civilians, veterans need to want a job.
“Personal responsibility is a factor; you have to take charge in that,” he said.
Veterans also should be willing to relocate for the jobs and salaries they want, Traylor said. Older veterans are sometimes unwilling to relocate because they have children in school and have other ties to the community.
Learning to build a good resume also helps the job hunt, he said.
Killeen Fire Chief Jerry Gardner said veterans make good firefighters and medics. He has hired many veterans to serve Killeen residents as firefighters and EMTs.
“All my firefighters are initially EMTs and then they are trained to the paramedic level,” he said.
Fire and emergency medical services are paramilitary operations with chains of command — a system that veterans understand, Gardner said. Veterans are prompt, work well in teams, and are team builders and leaders.
The GI Bill helped Shepherd pay for his firefighter and paramedic courses, but his Army training positioned him in a place of command in the Harker Heights Fire Department.
“(The military) prepared me for this job as far as the leadership aspect of it,” he said.
Shepherd has been in the firefighting and EMT business for 19 years and in Harker Heights since 1995.
Gardner said other veterans will continue entering the EMT field.
“I think (the fire service) is something that appeals to men and women who are accustomed to that lifestyle,” Gardner said. “They are helping their country on a local level.”