BLACKFOOT — When Sgt. Ike Evans went to Iraq with the 116th Brigade Combat Team last year, he was a semester short of his degree in mechanical engineering at Idaho State University.
"I finished my last semester in Iraq," Evans said. "My wife scanned my diploma and I got a copy in the mail to hang on my wall."
Now Evans and the other members of the Idaho Army National Guard who deployed are home and ready to work.
Those who had jobs have up to 90 days to return to work in the same or equal positions to those they held.
During a Chamber After Hours event on Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart said the Guard leadership has been proactive and has information on the soldiers who need jobs and their particular skill sets.
Evans attended After Hours to learn more about the Hire One Vet initiative that the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and Department of Labor are involved in.
He noted that he has had several phone interviews and two in-person interviews and has another scheduled next week.
Although Evans' skill sets might not fit a company such as Nonpareil, others have those that do. As a result, noted ESGR state vice-chair Cindy Reese, the company has already hired two returned Guardsmen.
"We're always looking for good stable employees," said Nonpareil spokesman Carlos Mercado. "And the Guard has been there forever."
"They are great employees," Gayhart said. "They're not late; they are drug-free; they work as a team."
Dax Broadhead, who works in the Blackfoot office of the Idaho Department of Labor, said he and Gary Townsend are available to help veterans. He said they are ready to help employers see the benefits of participation in the Hire One Vet program. In addition to providing them with quality employees, the program has tax incentives in place.
Gayhart said the soldiers' mission involved doing the various tasks involved in running a large city as they prepared to turn them back to the Iraqis.
"This was a different mission than last time (when the Idaho Army National Guard deployed to Iraq five years ago), but the accomplishments were the same," Gayhart said. "It's pretty awesome what these kids accomplished."
Approximately 120 Idaho soldiers returned to Boise, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and Spokane, Wash., on Tuesday afternoon. About 40 of the 1,700 who deployed remain at Joint Base Lewis McChord attending to medical needs. They will return to Idaho in the coming weeks.