By Media Relations Staff
At the Port Authority’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) headquarters in Jersey City, a new internship program is helping smooth the transition for veterans making the often challenging move from military to civilian life.
Israel Estrada and Jannia Manigault, Marine Corps veterans, and former Navy corpsman Kadeem Short are the inaugural class of OEM’s Veterans Internship Program (VIP), under the direction of OEM Director Gerard McCarty and Special Assistant Chuck Aaron. Launched in August, the pilot program not only recognizes the special skills veterans possess, but applies their professional strengths and experience to helping build emergency response strategies for the benefit of PA customers, employees and assets.
“This environment really supports our interns, which is key,” said McCarty, who also served in the Marines. “The transition to civilian life is something we feel very strongly about helping them achieve.”
Internship requirements are that participants must commit at least 16 hours a week on average to the program, while continuing their studies fulltime at a college or university. The OEM curriculum includes intensive training in active shooter and other responsive drills hosted by the Port Authority, as well as emergency management operations, strategic preparedness and hazard mitigation.
Estrada worked for a non-profit organization in Pasadena, CA. before heading east to pursue a master’s degree in in Emergency Management at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. Short is studying Homeland Security and Emergency Management at Post University in Connecticut and will start his master’s program next summer. He most recently was based at the Naval Station in Portsmouth, Va.
Manigault, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 for a tour of duty, is close to earning a bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security from St. John’s University and intends to pursue a master’s in Business Analytics. Like her VIP colleagues, she is receiving an extensive education in the ways OEM plans and conducts its operations.
“I may have not known what I was getting into when I started this internship, but if I continue on this path I know that it will indeed be a rewarding experience for me on a professional and personal level,” she said. “I get to continue helping people in some way, while learning to become more knowledgeable in my field.”
Said Estrada: “There’s so much to learn here. We have access to a level of training that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to get. The great benefit of working at the Port Authority is the level of training, discipline and planning we receive.”
“It means a lot, that they’re taking the initiative for veterans,” added Short. “Working here is a great opportunity for all of us, to get the kind of experience we need.”
Aaron is a Marine veteran who conducted tours of Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught infantry officers at the military training facility in Quantico, Va., before joining the OEM. Overseeing the internship program, he said, is a source of daily inspiration.
“We work for them. They don’t work for us,” Aaron said. “We’re here to get them what they need.”