WESTMINSTER — For hire: diligent employee with experience working under skies blackened by oil fires and filled with enemy bullets and rockets.
That's the kind of resume Carroll employers are likely to see as area service personnel return from the Persian Gulf war, U.S. Representative Beverly B. Byron, D-6th, said Monday.
Local employers would do well to give returning gulf war soldiersstrong consideration for job openings in their companies, the congresswoman said.
"They are the ones you in the business community aregoing to be looking to hire," Byron told the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.
The seven-term congresswoman was the keynote speaker at the Chamber's general membership dinner at the Quality Inn.
Speaking to 73 people, Byron also expressed concern about the more than 220,000 Army Reserve and National Guard personnel who were deployed in the war against Iraq. Many still are serving in the gulf, while their lives and careers back in the United States hang in an uneasy limbo.
Despite the Army's informal "first in, first out" policy for post-war redeployment, Byron said remaining tasks in the Middle East are better left to full-time active-duty personnel.
Byron said she has obtained from the Defense Department a redeployment schedule that will give reserve personnel and their families a better idea of when they should be expected home.
"We should be making sure that the Guard and Reserves are the first ones coming home," the congresswoman said during her 20-minute address. "They need to get back into their communities and back to their jobs."
Byron also discussed the upcoming defense budget process. She is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairwoman of the Military Personnel and Compensation subcommittee. As such, Byron will preside over the reshaping of some 42 percent of the defense budget.
The task takes on burgeoning importance in light of calls for reduction of the all-volunteer forcebecause of the subsiding threat from the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies.
Last year, the Defense Department's request of $306 billion was pared to $287 billion by the Armed Services Committee, Byron said. About 100,000 personnel were trimmed, she said.
This year, the defense request will be about $291 billion, and Byron said that and another 100,000 personnel are to be cut.
Defense Secretary Dick Cheney has ordered "heavier cuts in the Guard and Reserve" than in active duty personnel, Byron said, adding that's where she andthe defense secretary don't see eye-to-eye.
"I can't see doing that," she said. "I don't think we're going to be doing it as much as he (Cheney) wants to do it."
Instead, Byron said she would press for across-the-board cuts in military personnel, with as much reductionin active duty forces as in Guard and Reserve personnel.
"Now is not the time to say, 'Thank you very much, good bye, take off your uniform,' " she said.
Byron said she remains uneasy about force reductions in general because the military has become the last viable option for some citizens seeking career training and education money.
"The easiest way (to reduce costs) is to eliminate people, to take people out of the service," she said. "That's something that troubles me."