When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Transatlantic Division discovered its section managers in the Transatlantic Afghanistan District were spending up to 60% of their time on hiring civilian employees, the division decided to step in.
Developed in 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Contingency Recruitment Cell was created to relieve the constant hiring burden for civilian employees in Afghanistan. Since then, the UCRC has hired more than 900 civilians.
Initially known as the Afghan Recruitment Cell, the group’s name was changed in 2014 to reflect a broader mission as the cell began staffing for Kuwait, Iraq and other locations in the Middle East. They even participated in a pilot project to develop a recruitment cell process in Japan and have been asked to be available to assist in locating candidates for Korea.
Jill Altemose, the Transatlantic Division’s human resources strategic advisor was tasked with standing up the UCRC, she said the division staffed the cell with reemployed annuitants on a part-time schedule. The UCRC staff works remotely, scattered throughout the U.S., but have constant contact through email and telephone.
“We didn’t want to use permanent employees because the UCRC was started on a trial basis,” Altemose said. “The [reemployed annuitants] were easy to bring on board and it’s easier to let them go if we don’t have work for them.”
Altemose said the [reemployed annuitants] already knew the Corps’ processes and understood the needs of the organization, so they require minimal training.
“They easily had 100 years of experience with USACE,” she said.
UCRC team members communicate with section managers in weekly meetings to discuss hiring needs. Then they review resumes and set up interviews with the candidates.
Lawrence Robinson, a civil engineer and the lead subject matter expert for the UCRC, said employees typically have the choice between six, nine or 12-month tours, so there is constant turnover.
“Because tours can be so short, hiring is constant,” he said. “And before hiring, candidates are required to get a passport, a security clearance and pass a physical. If any of those factors don’t work out, we have to start the hiring process over with a new candidate.”
The team reunited at the Transatlantic Division’s office in Winchester, Va., Sept. 24 for an IT refresh – they received new computers and took the opportunity to meet for some training. The division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Robert D. Carlson, presented team members with coins in recognition of their efforts.
“We’ve been working together on an intermittent basis since 2011,” Robinson said. “But we haven’t all been in one place since then. Many of us hadn’t seen each other since 2011.”
Robinson took the position only 18 months after he retired from USACE. Though he never expected to come back and work intermittently for more than four years after retirement, he says the flexible nature of the work along with the satisfaction from seeing the results of his effort, keeps him inspired.
“We all work part-time, so we’re not shackled to a computer,” he said. “So if somebody wants to take a week off to play golf, we all cover down for each other. And the work is very mission-focused; I can see the results of the work that I do. That’s very satisfying.”