Desperate basewives |

Desperate basewives

Laura Cianci

Area employers seeking qualified, dedicated and professional workers needn’t look farther than the U.S. Naval Air Station Fallon, says Captain W. Scott Ryder, the commanding officer of the station.

He’s has made finding jobs for military spouses a priority.

“Wives and husbands trying to follow their spouses around have a heck of a time finding a job or maintaining a career,” Ryder said.

The base has about 40 to 50 spouses mostly female looking for work at any given time.

“They are quite often well-educated and very professional,” said Ryder. “What you’re getting when you hire a naval spouse is someone who is very likely to be quite dedicated to their job, with some college education if not a degree and someone who is patriotic.”

One drawback prospective employers face is the itinerant nature of this particular labor pool. Spouses move every two to four years.

However, Ryder doesn’t view that as a barrier to employment and career development. He sees distant or remote employment as a way for spouses to work and even launch and maintain careers.

“It is almost the perfect setup for a military spouse who wants to have a career alongside the military member,” he said.

For many spouses, teaching, nursing and banking jobs are the most attractive because positions are often available while they move from base to base.

Ryder’s wife, Linda, chose teaching as a profession because she could teach wherever he moved. She is currently a teacher at Lahontan Elementary School in Fallon. But each time the couple moves, Ryder said, she is forced to start over.

The moves make it difficult to build a long-lasting career.

“They are pretty much starting over every two or three years, and that’s a shame,” Ryder said.

Even with the assistance of the base Fleet and Family Support Center, whose services include helping spouses find positions, many qualified spouses remain unemployed for long periods of time.

Before Catherine Dodge arrived at the air station in Fallon with her husband two years ago, she processed home loans for five years out of a home office on the base where she was living.

She could not find the same kind of employment in Fallon because it’s a small town in which many companies are family owned and fill positions with family members.

Unemployed for more than a year, Dodge became an ombudsman for the commander, a base volunteer and went back to school.

About six months ago she began working for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. As an information specialist, she helps dependents of military personnel tackle problems from pay issues to emergency leave.

Ryder, meanwhile, was approached by Debbie Kleppel, the head of the two-year-old Military Spouse Corporate Career Network a non-profit group headed by a former military spouse actively recruiting corporate sponsors nationwide to help find employment for military spouses.

As part of that group’s work, Ryder hosted John McArthur Jr., president of Johnny Mac’s Sporting Goods, Inc. based in St. Louis, to talk about the possibility of hiring one or two spouses as sales people for the line here. No decision has yet been made.

“They (the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network) and the command are doing the right steps now,” Dodge said, “They are doing some wonderful things, but it isn’t going to happen overnight.”