By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
Ed Poley of Whirlwind Career Counseling Center for Veterans feels strongly about his mission. His own experience following his tour in Vietnam has made him extremely interested in the well being of American soldiers today. With a Reduction In Force (RIF) sweeping the military as a result of funding cut backs, helping local soldiers transition smoothly into a civilian career has become his mission.
Changes made to the GI Bill, effective Jan. 1 of this year, has Poley concerned for some soldiers. However, he said, for Seward County, the GI Bill is still an excellent option.
“There have been three tweaks to the to the post-9/11 GI Bill that has a dramatic effect on some guys,” Poley said. “Now the majority of them, it may be an improvement. What they are saying right now is they will pay $17,500 a year to go to school, regardless of where you go to school. Now, if you are going to Seward County, that is a great deal. If you are going to K-State, that will cover tuition and fees. If you are going to Baker University – not even close. The old GI Bill covered tuition and fees at whatever college you were going to. It was a lot more work for the VA, but it was a lot more fair to soldiers – I think.”
With this recent change to the GI Bill, Poley believes Seward County offers an excellent option in regards to schooling for soldiers. He believes the soldiers will be coming as they continue to experience the RIF in the military.
“Everybody goes through a RIF when times are bad,” he said. “Our whole economy has done that – that is why we have 10 percent unemployment, basically. I have heard the government is proposing to cut $400 billion out of the military budget.
“I’m not going to say neither here nor there about that, except to say that if we already have the smallest military we have ever had and now they are going to cut it even more, the people that it is going to affect the most – and this is why I started Whirlwind – will be our Guardsmen and Reservists,” he explained. “We will go right back to being the same National Guard we were prior to 9/11, where you worked one weekend a month and had a two-week summer camp.
“There is nothing wrong with that, but the kids that have been in the Guard for the last seven years, they have lived on deployment and they have made good money,” he continued. “They have gotten older and haven’t thought about a civilian career. Both units from here on deployment, one in Iraq and Afghanistan and one in Kuwait. There are so many units there right now, they are bored and they are getting in trouble. When they get assignments, they know they will be gone for the next 21 days, so they leave and are out of contact for that time. Then they come back and may not do anything for another month. It has been very interesting for them.”
Poley’s concern is that soldiers will experience the RIF and find themselves back at home with decisions to make regarding their futures. That is where Whirlwind Career Counseling Center for Veterans comes in, he said. He can be reached either at his office at 130 W. Pancake Blvd., or by phone at (620) 482-3431.
Poley wants to hear from soldiers ready to make the transition into civilian life right here in Seward County. He believes the resources are available to offer assistance, and he is ready to help local soldiers utilize them.
“We do have a great GI Bill,” Poley said. “It is the best GI Bill we have ever had, but it is only good if you know what you want to study.”
Editors note: This is the beginning of an ongoing series with Poley that will explore options of local soldiers finding themselves back at home with many decisions facing them regarding their futures.