Less than a week before Veterans Day, Dalton Utilities joined the United States Army's Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) program, pledging to grant job interviews to soldiers.

The memorandum of understanding was signed Tuesday at Dalton Utilities by Fredrick Parker, a lieutenant colonel and the head of the Army's Atlanta Recruiting Battalion, and Tom Bundros, chief executive officer of Dalton Utilities. In addition, Garrett Brown, who graduated earlier this year from Northwest Whitfield High School, and Tab Seritt, senior at Sonoraville High School, took their oath of enlistment during the ceremony, with both citing benefits like PaYS as reasons for joining the Army.

"There's a family tradition in the Army, but it's the benefits, as well," said Seritt, who has been a member of his school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) since his sophomore year.

"It's a good career path," seconded Brown. "I'll have a job when I come back."

Parker is looking forward to the maturation of Brown and Seritt as they receive Army training, he said. The most proud day he had as a company commander was graduation day for recruits because "they chose to serve our country," he said

PaYS is a strategic partnership between the U.S. Army and a cross section of corporations, companies, and public sector agencies guaranteeing soldiers interviews, Parker said. PaYS is one of the most important, yet least known, programs for Army members.

It also helps attract recruits, said Shaun Glaze, a sergeant in the Army who recruits out of the Dalton office. PaYS is "definitely a good talking point when we (discuss) life after the Army," he said.

"This sets them up for when they get out," as PaYS has a wide variety of partners ranging from the Chattanooga Police Department and Coca-Cola to Shaw Industries and, now, Dalton Utilities, Glaze said.

"It's important to use all the benefits we offer to your advantage," he added.

PaYS is "a win-win for all parties involved," said Dewey L. Moss, a veteran and past commander of American Legion Post 112 in Dalton. Recruits are serving their country while preparing for their future, and the skills they learn in the military can translate directly into the workforce, he said.

The Army provides motivated, committed and highly-skilled individuals, and those qualities are all in demand by employers, Parker said.

The PaYS program began in 2000 as an enlistment incentive for regular Army enlisted soldiers. In October 2002, PaYS expanded to include Army Reserve soldiers, according to the Army. Now, PaYS also includes Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Reserve Component Cadets, ROTC Cadets who incur an active duty commitment, Officer Candidate School, Warrant Officer Flight Training, and the Army National Guard.

Dalton Utilities already employees 25 veterans — more than 8% of its workforce — and it only makes sense for the company to join PaYS, since "some of our strongest hires have been military veterans," Bundros said.

"We always want to support the U.S. military, and (these individuals) have maturity beyond their years, strong work ethics, integrity and can-do attitudes," Bundros said.

Often, the highest hurdle for military reservists is getting released from their companies to serve their duty, Parker said. "It's a testament to Dalton Utilities the company lets (reservists) off to do their duty and return without any hiccups."

By being part of PaYS, Dalton Utilities has a chance to employ "the best and brightest," Moss said. Those who serve in the Army emerge knowing how to work in a team setting to accomplish goals, communicate adroitly, complete missions on time and under budget, follow instructions or lead, and conduct themselves according to a code of ethics.

Employers advertised 7 million open jobs in September across America, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Hiring veterans and making Dalton a community "friendly" to veterans is "good business," Moss said.

"Let's all work to make our community more attractive to veterans," he said.

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