Charlotte braces for veterans coming home from Afghanistan

by: Allison Latos Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - More than 20,000 troops will be coming home from Afghanistan by the end of the year and Charlotte is bracing for a huge surge in veterans.

Lt. Col. Mike Krueger spent 21 years in the United States Air Force as a command control officer.

He spent most of his service supervising jobs like mobile radar in Italy and Korea.

"Sometimes I managed operators who actually sat on the scope and talked to airplanes and controlled the war," said Krueger.

Krueger is one of thousands of veterans in need of a job

He is experiencing challenges with companies understanding how his expertise could help them.

"We didn't know how difficult it was going to be to get past Charlotte not being military savvy, as far as companies being able to look at my resume and talk about my skills, and to be able to understand what all that meant," he said.

Mecklenburg County Director of Veterans Services Jim Prosser said the number of Charlotte veterans will grow significantly with troops coming home from Afghanistan, the federal sequestration and other cuts across the military.

"They are projecting anywhere from 6,000-7,000 veterans coming back to Mecklenburg County alone in the next 18 months," said Prosser.

"That's 7,000 who had well-paid jobs with benefits who will be looking for employment," said Blake Bourne, with Charlotte Bridge Home.

The organization partners with Charlotte Works to help veterans land civilian jobs at Charlotte companies, especially when it comes to explaining their experience.

"It's pretty easy just to hire a veteran but we try to actually find out where they fit and the best roles for them," said Bourne.  

So far, 25 businesses have committed to an alliance to bring veterans on board.

Krueger hopes that he's soon one of them.

Charlotte Bridge Home will be holding a  summit to connect veterans to community resources in September, then another gathering for businesses interested in employing troops in October.

Dates for those events have not been set.