Guard’s jobs program building life skills, finding careers

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Marley provides a counseling session with a member of the Tennessee National Guard enrolling in the Job Connection Edu-cation Program or JCEP.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Marley provides a counseling session with a member of the Tennessee National Guard enrolling in the Job Connection Edu-cation Program or JCEP.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Marley, of the Tennessee National Guard, now holds the title of “The Hope Coach.” Marley has gained this new role after serving a distinguished career in the Guard and becoming the manager of the Tennessee Job Connection Education Program or JCEP.

Sponsored by the Army National Guard, JCEP gives all members of the Guard and their families training and career counseling while also seeking to place them in jobs with corporate partners.

In difficult economic times finding work can be a daunting challenge for returning combat veterans, their family and service members overall. The JCEP staff is devoted to providing not only practical advice and counseling but a sense of optimism to often weary job seekers. Marley is considered the “Hope Coach” in that he attempts to provide guidance to the National Guard members and their family during times when often they are in dire need.

“I ask service members ‘what is in their toolbox’ and ‘how can you translate your military skill sets into civilian terms and be marketable in the private sector,” said Marley. “I’m also here to instill a sense of hope and create a positive atmosphere for those who are struggling in the job market of today.”

Tennessee is one of only four states with this support program, along with Texas, Iowa and Wisconsin. Since the spring of 2012, JCEP has successfully placed 627 National Guard personnel and family members in jobs with numerous companies across Tennessee out of a total pool of 951 enrolled participants. The 66 percent employment placement ranks Tennessee as a top program in the nation.

Marley, and his assistant, Lance Pryor, have worked tirelessly to maintain a one-on-one relationship with Guard leaders, service members and families to ensure each enrolled person is actively involved during the skill building and job search process. Marley emphasized the “unique spirit of cooperation in the Family Support Office of the Tennessee National Guard has made the program so successful. Nothing beats personal, individualized help and ultimately a sense of hope for the member and their family. In some cases a member has even obtained a job the first day they began the JCEP process.” 

Maj. Gen. Terry (Max) Haston, the adjutant general of Tennessee, views JCEP as one of the critical elements in what he calls “The Guard Circle of Life.”  Haston said, “JCEP is a vital component of not only getting jobs, but building careers and lifestyles that breed a sense of stability in our military family making them better citizen soldiers and airmen. The Family Support Program completes a circle of personal and professional support that few agencies outside the National Guard possess.”

Haston has made Family Programs a major initiative in the Tennessee Guard and views the investment of its collective efforts as critical to the readiness of the overall force.

Lt. Col. Eric Goslowsky, director of Tennessee Guard Family Support Programs, said, “JCEP is a hallmark initiative in the war to defeat unemployment for all personnel and their families. The ‘grass roots’ techniques used by our coordinators brings the most tangible and marketable skills of our servicemen and women to the forefront, which in turn, makes them the best and often first choice for employers.

“JCEP reaches out to every level of business to bring opportunities to the most remote counties and the larger metro markets. If there is a job available, JCEP will work fervently to fill it with members of our Guard family.”

Comments from service members involved in the program who have shared their success in obtaining employment are highly positive.

 “JCEP is the best! They were with me every step of the way, and I truly believe it is one of the main reasons I was able to eventually land my new job and be able to start my career,” said Spc. Matthew Carney with the 129th Army Band.

“JCEP helped me find employment even while I was away at Advanced Individual Training,” said Pfc. Courtney Atkinson with the 230th Sustainment Brigade. “By the time I returned home, I had an interview and was working by the next week.  Whenever I want to seek a career change or need help I will refer and go back to JCEP.”

“The JCEP team was proactive … they found me. Once registered, they took into account my personal needs and my individual skill sets,” said Spc. Kimberly Martin with the 230th Signal Company.

The majority of personnel participating in the program are between the ages of 21 and 30, with employment primarily obtained in administrative, customer service, government, logistics and manufacturing industries. In certain cases, a greater need for a service or family member may be obtaining an education toward a career field versus moving directly into a job. Marley and his staff work with every member enrolled on an individual basis to determine the best course of action to meet their goals in life.  He also works with companies and educational institutions to present the benefits of hiring or training members based upon their leadership experience, discipline, drug free status and other military specific qualities gained from their service.

JCEP continues to be one very important aspect to the overall goal to assist those who sacrifice so much for their state and nation.  The pride of serving one’s country while also providing for one’s family is key to ensuring our men and women in uniform are prepared to meet the challenges ahead. The Family Support Program is vital to ensure the excellence embodied in the volunteer spirit of Tennessee warriors at home or deployed is maintained. 

Information about the JCEP is located on the Tennessee Military Department’s website at

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