BY MARSHALL FUKUKI – PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – When disabled veteran Angelo McDuffie Jr. was hired by Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, the Wounded Warrior soon found he had more than just a steady paycheck. “I feel like this is my family. I love this job,” he said of his coworkers and new career. “There are lots of challenges … (but) I can go to any person and everyone here helps me to learn.”
A retired Navy master-at-arms petty officer first class, McDuffie was one of eight Wounded Warriors brought onboard by the Shipyard last year. He started work in June as a security specialist in the Security Office.
Navy Region Hawaii EEO Specialist Lacy Lynn is the Wounded Warrior coordinator for the Navy in Hawaii. The term Wounded Warrior, she explained, generally refers to active-duty or former military personnel with a 30 percent or more service-connected disability. The Wounded Warrior program is the overall combination of recovery, educational, training, and vocational rehabilitation programs that support hiring of disabled veterans.
McDuffie is a Gulf War veteran who served during operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom. During Desert Storm, he was a crewmember aboard air-cushioned vehicles transporting U.S. Marines to landing positions under enemy fire.
“You could hear the gunfire and the bombs. You could see the smoke,” he recalled.
McDuffie’s injuries weren’t from enemy fire but were sustained during his 20 years in uniform, mainly as a small arms instructor and military police officer. His final tour was at Naval Station Pearl Harbor before he retired at the end of 2009.
After leaving the Navy, McDuffie kept in touch with a Veterans Administration counselor who told him about a security specialist position at the Shipyard.
McDuffie qualified for the job and six months after retiring from the Navy, he reported to the Shipyard as the antiterrorism/force protection officer and operations security program manager.
One of his frequent duties is giving foreign travel briefings to Shipyard workers headed overseas. That means informing them of terrorist, criminal and other threats, precautions to take and situations to avoid. “You don’t get the fun stuff when you come to see me,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not here to scare people, just inform them of what they need to know for their safety.
“I didn’t think I’d like (giving the briefings,) but I enjoy informing them so they can enjoy their trip and come back safely.”
Last November, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus reaffirmed the Navy’s commitment to recognizing and appreciating the sacrifices of wounded, ill and injured service members and their families. “Over 140,000 veterans of operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom are unemployed or underemployed,” he noted. “A critical element of (Navy) support … is assisting Wounded Warriors transitioning out of active service prepare for and find meaningful post-service careers.”
Commander Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), said disabled veterans “bring a unique dynamic to our team and understand first-hand the requirements and stress of combat.” NAVSEA’s goal in 2011 for hiring Wounded Warriors, he said, “is 365, one for every day of the year.”
Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is a field activity of NAVSEA and a full-service naval shipyard and regional maintenance center for the U.S. Navy’s surface ships and submarines. It is the largest industrial employer in the state of Hawaii with a combined civilian and military workforce of about 4,900 and an operating budget of $563 million.
Strategically located in the mid-Pacific, the Shipyard is about a week of steam time closer to potential major regional contingencies in East Asia than sites on the West Coast.
For more information on the Shipyard, visit www.navsea.navy.mil/shipyards/pearl
Marshall Fukuki is with Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard Public Affairs