NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For those who like to feel protected and to sleep well at night, be assured, the family of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Reserve and Manpower Affairs, Juan Garcia III are on the job.
His father was an attack plane pilot, strapping on an A-7 "Corsair" II and then taking off for heavily defended enemy airspace during the Vietnam War, compiling 400 carrier landings over the course of his career. Secretary Garcia served aboard the USS Constellation in the Persian Gulf. His younger brother Mike is a patrol pilot, en route to his next assignment aboard the USS Carl Vinson.
For those who think "Top Gun" and the exploits of Tom Cruise as Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell when reading about Navy pilots, Secretary Garcia's father's bandit handle was "Greaser." Mike goes by "Weekend." (Showing the love, my cousin, a former Stealth pilot, flew the F-117A as "Jake the Snake.")
In a Memorial Day weekend exclusive for TheStreet, Secretary Garcia was interviewed in his office in the E-Ring of the Pentagon about the changes under way in the United States Armed Forces and the role of the reservist in American society.
With a background in corporate law, Secretary Garcia knows very well the support from civilian employers that is needed for a robust military, especially for the reserve programs which take workers away from their jobs for extended periods. "What many people don't realize," Garcia stressed, "is that over the course of the last 14 years, companies like General Electric (GE), Sears (SHLD), Verizon (VZ), CSX (CSX) and Walmart (WMT) have not only held positions for their mobilized reservists, many have made up the pay differential when they were on active duty, a true form of patriotism well beyond the legal requirement, or 'call of duty'."
At present, one in every five employees for CSX served in the military. Verizon ranks as the third most military friendly employee. General Electric has a high percentage of veterans in its workforce, too. Sears is nearly doubling the number of veterans it hires this year from 3500 in 2012. Through its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment, Walmart will hire any qualified veteran who has been honorably discharged within the past year.
It is not only corporate America that is doing its part; the Ivy League has opened up to the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for the first time in 40 years, since Vietnam War protests resulted in their closure.
"Naval ROTC is back in the Ivy League," proclaimed Garcia, who, like his wife, is a classmate of President Obama's from Harvard Law School. Also holding an Master's Degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Garcia attributes much of the return of Navy ROTC to Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University. "She has a background in military history as a Civil War scholar and has been wonderful to work with," Garcia remarked. "We place a great value in having Ivy League graduates in the officer corps, as we want every willing and qualified American to share in both the burden and the honor of defending her."
As proof of the acceptance on Ivy League campuses, Secretary Garcia proudly pointed out that a Navy ROTC midshipman was just elected as president of the student body at Yale University.
When asked the most notable accomplishments during his tenure in office which started back in 2009, without hesitation he responded the Bin Laden Raid which featured the legendary Seal Team Six of the United States Navy. Next were the great advances made in combat medical care, with many reservist medical professionals playing a critical role. "It used to be 'The Golden Hour' in military medicine when you wanted to get to the wounded. Now it is 'The Platinum 15 Minutes'," he explained.
Just how important is that extra forty-five minutes in saving the life of a wounded member of the American military?
Garcia leaned forward to emphasize that, "We have made stunning advances in military medicine. In World War II, out of every 100 combat-wounded personnel, about one-third survived. That was improved to nearly two-thirds by Vietnam. Today 94 percent survive. We are bringing Americans home alive that in any previous conflict would have returned in flag-draped coffins."
That's the "great, even historic news," according to Secretary Garcia.
But the challenge that comes with it, he furthered, is how to reintegrate a cadre of wounded heroes back into American life. In other words, Garcia declares: How to ensure that an improvised explosive device, a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) don't become the "Agent Orange" of this generation. According to Garcia, experts tell him that the key to that successful reintegration is, in a word, a job.
"That sense of self-reliance, independence and self-worth is essential to reintegration. We are working with the GEs, the Sears, the Wal-Marts, the Verizons and others in corporate America to make sure that veterans can re-enter the workforce. There are many advantages, especially in maturity, responsibility and technology training for the employer" said Garcia.
May 28 and 29, the Department of the Navy will hold their 4th Annual Wounded Warrior Hiring Conference, in Raleigh, N.C., where over 60 companies from the "Research Triangle" and other areas have registered to learn about best hiring practices, and to take part in a Wounded Warrior Hiring Workshop. The average age of those who served is in the early 20s. Garcia extols how their proven leadership, potential for long tenure, mastery of the latest technology and undaunted resiliency makes them model hires for any employer.
What does Secretary Garcia foresee as the greatest challenges ahead for the reserve forces?
"After the longest sustained combat operations in U.S. history, we are transitioning to a peacetime footing. But even as defense budgets get leaner, the need for the sustained forward presence that the Navy provides is not shrinking," says Garcia. As an example, he brought up April of 2011, when the Department of the Navy simultaneously provided massive support (16 ships and 2,000 Marines on the ground) to Japan in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.
At the same time, Garcia noted that, "...the United States was leading 'Operation Odyssey Dawn' off the coast of Libya to prevent a madman from slaughtering thousands of his own people, heading up the international task force to thwart pirates and ensure the free flow of commerce around the Horn of Africa, conducting a massive humanitarian exercise with allied partners in the Caribbean and, obviously, continuing the fight in Afghanistan." If there were any doubts, Garcia advises that, "Only one Navy in the world has that kind of global span and reach."
For the future, Garcia summarizes how vital the reserve component is for America's national security by declaring that, "There may be a reduction in DoD forces and budgets, but not in the operational tempo of the U.S. Navy."
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.