CALLING ALL SERVICE-MINDED CITIZENS: YOUR GOVERNMENT NEEDS YOU
By Alex Harrington, Executive Director
When I look back at more than 27 combined years of military and public service, I cannot believe that it has been that long. It seems like those years sped by swiftly and unnoticeably like drinking a chilled glass of lemonade on a sweltering day. As soon as you start sipping, you wonder how you've reached that last drop so quickly.
While those years of service have sped by, however, I've been fortunate to serve in six countries and five departments under the Executive Branch: working with men and women in the military and law enforcement, while building partnerships with local and state representatives, diplomats, foreign dignitaries, and local, national, and international media.
Without a doubt, my time as a Marine and civil servant for this great nation of ours brought with it amazing adventures and challenges. And yet, I didn’t start off with altruistic intent.
I'll be candid with you. I joined the Marine Corps on a dare!
However, during my time as a Marine, I had the privilege of experiencing moments—both pleasant and not so pleasant—that will always remain with me, especially from my time serving in the Persian Gulf War (1990-1991). In fact, my Brigade was one of the first units deployed and landed on the ground in the Persian Gulf within 96 hours after Iraq sacked Kuwait.
Now, I have a new calling … and one that is not propped up on a dare. I have a calling to help those who aspire to find their own calling in public, national, military, or other federal services, to contribute for the public good.
Government Needs That 'Certain Kind of Person'
Max Stier, President and CEO of Partnership for Public Service, aptly stated "...good government starts with good people."
And we need good people in government. We need good people to take on the toughest challenges on our collective behalf. We need good people who are committed to change, mission-focused; who will be dedicated to facing and overcoming obstacles along the road to success.
So, for those of you who have a calling and want to serve in either public, national, military, or other types of federal service, step up–help us change and meet both national and international challenges head on! Because today, unlike any other time in our history, we need dedicated service- and civic-minded citizens, like you, to serve our country…to serve our states…to serve our communities…and to serve ALL citizens, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Moreover, we need your help to protect our U.S. Constitution.
Good government starts with good people.
Let me be clear: the government today needs service- and civic-minded citizens. The types of individuals that Presidents George Washington and John F. Kennedy called for in their own time of need. "It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defen[s]e of it" (Washington’s Sentiments on a Peace Establishment, 1 May 1783).
"...my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country” (President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961, Washington, D.C.)
While the government needs that certain kind of person to serve in public, national, military, or other types of federal service, there are benefits of service for not only our country, but also for you.
Benefits of Service: For Our Country
Strengthening our American democracy
When service- and civic-minded citizens join the government’s ranks in public, national, military, or other types of federal service to work as federal law enforcement agents, AmeriCorps volunteers, non-commissioned officers, or merchant marines, together they strengthen our American democracy by keeping us safe and responding to emergencies, designing high-impact social programs, protecting our country from adversaries, and importing goods and exporting raw materials across the seas.
Providing Services, Research, and Protection
And by participating in the service of our nation, you will be part of thousands who touch every American through a wide variety of services, research, and protection. In fact, your impact could be felt through "printing and minting our money, keeping drugs off the streets everywhere, facilitating trade and travel, as well as regulating immigration. Your role could also be collecting taxes and duties or perhaps conserving and revitalizing unproductive land, bringing broadband into rural and low-income homes, enforcing federal laws, and administering Social Security" (Biography of an Ideal: A History of the Federal Civil Service, 2012).
Among the ranks of government service, we have many employees who’ve worked tirelessly to help Americans. Take Dr. C. Mark Eakin, for instance–an Oceanographer, Satellite Oceanography & Climatology Division and Coordinator of the Coral Reef Watch, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Commerce. Dr. Eakin "led the development of a satellite-based monitoring system that provides accurate forecasts and early warnings to environmental officials worldwide at a time when rising ocean temperatures threaten the health of coral reefs." Then there's Lisa J. Jones, Program Manager, CDFI Bond Guarantee Program, Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, Department of the Treasury. Jones "helped low-income communities gain access to investment capital to fund health-care centers, charter schools, daycare centers, housing, small business development, and commercial real estate projects."
Possessing a higher educated workforce
Another significant benefit that the government has over other industries in the U.S. labor is a higher educated workforce. Since the 1970s, occupations throughout the government have shifted from clerical and administrative to more professional and knowledge-based, resulting in a more educated workforce. In 2018, 47.7% of federal workers possessed bachelor’s and advanced degrees, compared to 41% in the private sector. In fact, more than 577,000 federal employees possess a bachelor’s degree.
Benefits of Service: For you
For those of you who are thinking of public, national, military, or other types of federal service, there are many tangible and intangible benefits of serving for the government as well.
Let’s begin with the tangible benefits …
Health, retirement and other benefits. In most cases, the government provides a first-class benefits package for its employees and service members. If you decide to join the military, you will receive one of the best healthcare benefits: TRICARE. In public service, federal employees have access to the FederalFederal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, which consists of a wide selection of health plans in the country.
Opportunity to make a difference. By serving in public, national, military, or other types of federal service, you will have an opportunity to make a difference and influence America’s future. In fact, you will be actively involved in protecting the U.S. Constitution.
Diverse career field opportunities. There are abundant diverse career field opportunities with a wide array of federal missions. Among the biggest benefits of serving in the federal government are interesting work and challenging opportunities, as well as higher responsibility and autonomy found in many fields of service. Essentially, the federal government represents a career for nearly every interest, including yours.
Training and professional development. Depending on the type of service, the environment, and your career field, you may be eligible for training programs, development opportunities, and even certifications or traditional college courses. As mentioned before, the Federal workforce is overall a better educated workforce, and there are many opportunities for professional development. While the military has its own unique development and training schools for its service members, many agencies use what we call an Individual Development Plan (IDP) for employees to plan their training and development in both the long and short term.
As For the Intangible Benefits …
Service gives back to you. One thing about service is that it gives back to you. It gives you a sense of purpose because you're focusing on a mission and challenge. I can personally attest to this. In my previous blog (The Stewardship Principle: Working for the American Public, April 1, 2022), I mentioned that after the 9/11 attack I tried to re-enlist back in the Marine Corps, though unfortunately my age made it impossible for me to wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor again. But the longing to serve my country continued to burn within me. Then, by a fortuitous opportunity, I accepted a position as a public affairs officer at U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan. Since then, I've had many moments to part of missions and challenges in the federal government. And I hope that you can too!
Service helps you become a leader. There will be moments in federal service that will call upon your leadership, and if you are just starting off in your career there will be chances to develop your leadership skills. Moreover, federal service will help you build your teamwork and technical skills because of the nature of the environment. It’s not like the private sector where you have one position, and you’re paid a salary to do a particular function. On the contrary, federal service will draw on your resources and skills to tackle a wide variety of problems.
Service exposes you to diverse groups. You will be exposed to a diverse group of people from different backgrounds. I personally became a better American by living and working overseas and learning from my fellow foreign nationals about their unique culture and customs.
Service unlocks your true potential. The federal service environment will help you unlock your potential to grow and learn new skills. In fact, it gives you many opportunities to participate in training, as well as learn new roles through on-the-job-training. When it comes to growth, professionally and personally, the federal service environment is among the best places to grow.
The government today needs service- and civic-minded citizens. And if you join and serve in public, national, military, or in another federal occupation, you will be part of thousands who contribute for the good of the public.