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Veterans at USAID: Continuing to Serve America and the World

The United States Agency for International Development is expanding its hiring of veterans and has been helped by an Executive Order from President Obama, which supported more employment resources for veterans at the Agency and across the federal government.

In 1978, I was “roaming” the North Atlantic on a guided missile destroyer (USS Luce DDG-38) as a young Naval Officer. During my four years with the Navy, I saw much of what the military’s finest branch had to offer – first as an electronic warfare officer, then as a damage control officer in the engineering department and finally, as the ship’s navigator.

My military service gave me countless gifts that I have used throughout my professional and personal life. I made lifelong friendships; got accepted to a top business school on the strength of my military career; and gained leadership experience and skills I have used my entire professional life.

It instilled in me a deep sense of commitment and service to our country. Most recently I was asked to serve President Obama’s Administration as the Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade (EGAT) at the U.S. Agency for International Development. At USAID, I have made it a top priority for my bureau to hire, develop, and retain our nation’s finest. Military service – my first experience serving our country – helps me fully appreciate the sacrifices and lives of veterans both as warriors and women and men, heroes in our midst – heroes who always deserve, and often need, jobs.

Eric Postel while serving in the Navy

Eric Postel, Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade at USAID, while serving in the Navy. November 10, 2011. (by Eric Postel/USAID)

We recently brought on board Dane Thomas who is retired Air Force. He is currently in our office of Professional Development Administrative Management (PDAM) working on personnel matters for EGAT. We also brought on board Jan Louis Argilagos, a six-year Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He is currently supporting USAID’s Water and Global Climate Change coordinators, and assisting with communications, research and strategic planning for EGAT’s water and climate change teams. Fellow veteran and former Army Chris Holmes serves as the Agency’s Water Coordinator. Joel Van Essen, currently on active duty with the U.S. Navy and on loan to USAID, is helping to develop USAID’s water strategy. He is engaged with senior leadership to focus on practical resolutions to water issues in the Horn of Africa.

These are just a few examples within this one USAID bureau of the amazing brave men and women who are in our midst helping us to further USAID’s mission.

If you work at USAID, you probably know other people working in your office or bureau who are veterans. If you’re a veteran looking for employment, you might just know a fellow vet working at USAID. For a small agency, there are quite a few of us. In fiscal year 2009, we hired 27 veterans in the Civil and Foreign Service combined; in 2010, we hired 42.

But we can and are doing better.

And thanks to the President’s Executive Order 13518, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government, we now have a Veterans Employment Program Manager in the Office Human Resources, Dennis Hicklin. With his assistance, USAID hired 65 veterans in Fiscal Year 2011.

Dennis, himself a Navy man, also has more than 20 years of service in human resource roles from staffing to managing outreach and recruitment initiatives, as well as various diversity and intern programs for the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Food and Nutrition Service, Veterans Health Administration, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Air Force.

Dennis is one of those amazing veteran hires, working hard to bring more of the talent and skills of our courageous women and men into the agency. While internally he serves as an advocate to promote Veterans’ recruitment, hiring, and retention within the Agency, collaborating with hiring managers to broadly promote career opportunities and hiring of veterans for position vacancies.  Externally he serves as a counselor to veterans and transitioning military service personnel seeking career opportunities and works to establish and maintain relationships with veteran groups at colleges and universities for recruitment of Veterans into entry-level employment and student programs such as SCEP and STEP.

To fellow managers at USAID, I urge you to reach out to Dennis. He can provide technical guidance and assistance on how to use those special hiring authorities, transition assistance and employment programs, and recruitment incentives, to attract veteran talent to those positions you’re just itching to fill.

To my fellow veterans who are seeking employment, attend one of Dennis’ workshops or information sessions on working at USAID, offered at the USAID Library on a quarterly basis. Check out for more information. Get involved with the veterans affinity group by emailing to submit an inquiry.

As a young man on the missile destroyer, I didn’t imagine I’d have the opportunity to both see the world and serve my country again. I’m so glad I have that opportunity again at USAID.

Veterans have served and sacrificed in defense of our Nation. When they complete their service, we must do everything in our power to assist them in re-entering civilian life and finding employment. Government as well as private employers should play a prominent role in helping veterans who may be struggling to find jobs. As one of the Nation’s leading employers, the Federal Government is in need of highly skilled individuals to meet agency staffing needs and to support mission objectives. Our veterans, who have benefited from training and development during their military service, possess a wide variety of skills and experiences, as well as the motivation for public service that will help fulfill Federal agencies’ staffing needs. It is therefore the policy of my Administration to enhance recruitment of and promote employment opportunities for veterans within the executive branch, consistent with merit system principles and veterans’ preferences prescribed by law. The Federal Government will thereby help lead by example in promoting veterans’ employment.

- President Obama Executive Order 13518: Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government. November 9, 2009.


Eric Postel is the Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade at USAID, and served in the United States Navy.

This item also appears on the USAID website.