FORT HOOD — A national committee tasked with creating best practices for hiring military spouses was announced at a Fort Hood job fair Thursday morning.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program announced the start of the Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council, which will allow businesses to trade ideas about hiring and keeping military spouses. Derek Blake, vice president of marketing with La Quinta Inns and Suites, was named the committee’s co-chair. At the hotel chain, Blake said they struggle to find great talent, but have had a lot of success hiring veterans and military spouses.

“Looking at the military spouse community, with all their passion, loyalty and dedication, (they are) a wonderful employee group,” he said. “La Quinta’s overall mantra is embracing military spouses is the right thing to do.”

USAA also will play a role in the committee, said Michael Kelly, executive director of stakeholder engagement for the San Antonio-based banking, investment and insurance company. While he’s not sure what that role will be, Kelly said he is eager for the opportunity to share USAA’s 90 years of experience hiring military spouses and really make a difference.

“I love what the chamber has done,” Kelly said. “We have learned a lot and we want to share that with others.”

Chryssy Johnson, the spouse of a first sergeant, has worked with USAA in San Antonio for three years and said she is grateful to now work for a company that understands the challenges working military spouses face.

“You’re in a position for three to four years, that’s promotion timeframe and that’s when the military is moving you,” she said. This not only makes it hard to move ahead in a career, but as that list of previous employers grows on a resume, prospective employers get nervous.

Johnson said her company also gives her flexibility as an employee, such as allowing her to support her husband at military functions he’s required to attend.

“(I enjoy) being a part of a team that understands and appreciates not only the military, but their spouses as well,” she said.

Blake said La Quinta has spent the past couple of years incorporating flexibility, as well as portability and promotability into their military spouse employment framework, and he looks forward to sharing these practices with other interested employers.

“This effort is not about aggregating numbers, or tracking spouses,” he said. “It’s about top companies rolling up their sleeves and figuring out how to acquire and keep talent.”

This was the second year the U.S. Chamber hosted a military spouse job fair at Fort Hood. More than 800 job-seekers attended and met with more than 60 local and national employers, said Teresa Shipman, Fort Hood’s Army Community Service Employment Readiness Branch manager.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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