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Crane Learning and Employment Center for Disabled Veterans

Published: 2009-10-20 - Updated: 2021-06-06
Author: Crane Learning and Employment Center for Veterans with Disabilities | Contact: ojrv.org

Synopsis: The Crane Learning and Employment Center for Veterans with Disabilities provides education and training for disabled veterans. CLEC is gaining national recognition and has grown into a national model as a veterans program that brings together all available resources and does not send veterans down several paths to seek assistance. While many other programs offer career assistance and other support for veterans, the complete range of services offered through CLEC is not replicated in Indiana or through any other program in the nation.

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Imagine signing up to serve your country, fulfilling a desire to preserve freedom and protect those things you hold most dear. Now imagine that your mission ends with terrible consequences - the loss of your right arm. Your service to your country has ended, but what will you do now

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This is the exact question Steven Clark, a native of Indiana, faced after shrapnel from an IED hit his right arm while he patrolled the streets in Iraq as a gunner on a HMMWV during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But for Clark, his mission did not end with his debilitating injury. In fact, as he was transported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to begin his rehabilitation, he began to imagine a new mission - to continue serving his country, help other disabled veterans and somehow do this all back home in southern Indiana. Today, with a lot of perseverance, a little luck and the help of a disabled veterans program called CLEC, Clark has found a new path, and is a Hoosier once again.

The Crane Learning and Employment Center for Veterans with Disabilities (CLEC) provides education and on-the-job training for disabled veterans. And, while many other programs offer career assistance and other support for veterans, the complete range of services offered through CLEC is not replicated in Indiana or through any other program in the nation.

CLEC coordinates medical care, housing, transportation and workforce education, as well as provides employment placement for each participant. For two years after his discharge, Clark navigated through various positions related to veterans affairs, including serving as the director of the Army Materiel Command's program, "Always a Soldier," serving as an adviser to the Pentagon to create awareness about disabled veterans and working in Louisville, Ky., as a virtual employee of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Then, one day, the missing piece of the puzzle fell into place," Clark said. "My father heard about this new disabled veterans program called CLEC at the naval installation near my hometown, NSWC Crane, and after just one call, I knew that my mission to get back home was going to be possible."

Now, through the opportunities and resources provided by CLEC, Clark is working toward his master's degree in security management from the American Military University and has a job as an industrial security specialist at NSWC Crane.

Director of veterans programs at NSWC Crane, Larry McRoberts, came up with concept for the program that grew to become CLEC and calls it a central pipeline of resources for disabled veterans.

"CLEC is designed to cut out the proverbial red tape, and take away the need to go to several different organizations to get help. We recognized that offering a job to a disabled veteran wasn't enough - the veterans and their families needed a program that assists them every step of the way - from figuring out where to live if they have to move, to how to sign-up for classes at a college. It even helps their spouses find employment," said McRoberts.

McRoberts, a Naval veteran who worked for more than 20 years in Radar Systems at NSWC Crane, saw the profound need to develop a program that would really make a difference for our disabled veterans.

Created as a pilot program in 2007 through the combined efforts of Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Crane Technology Inc., U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the Lilly Endowment, CLEC is moving into phase two in fall 2009. During phase two, with major follow on support from the Lilly Endowment, CLEC will demonstrate it is a permanent, independent program.

CLEC is gaining national recognition and has grown into a national model as a veterans program that brings together all available resources and does not send veterans down several paths to seek assistance. It has been endorsed by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and is even garnering attention outside the Navy.

"What I see in CLEC is a real model of cooperation that shows how both public and private organizations can respond to injured veterans," said Mike Brinck, senior staff member of the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "To my knowledge, there is nothing else like CLEC in any other branch of the military or for the Department of Defense. It transcends military lines and has proven successful in transitioning veterans from military to civilian life."

Key to its success is CLEC's commitment to assess each disabled veteran's unique situation, and develop a road map specific to their needs. CLEC director Jim Schonberger, a retired naval commander and disabled veteran, describes the process as veteran-centric.

"Each person that comes into our program has a unique set of circumstances that brought them to this point in their lives," Schonberger said. "We take into consideration everything that will affect the disabled veteran's success - from continuing their education to ensuring that they have transportation to work or care for their children. One impassable hurdle could be the deciding factor in making it or not - so we don't let hurdles get in the way."

Another CLEC participant, Melissa Russell, served in the Indiana National Guard for eight years and was in-theater in Iraq for one year. She now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After coming home from Iraq, Russell found herself working as many as five jobs at any given time just to support her family.

"That lifestyle just wasn't working for my family," Russell said. "I heard about CLEC through my local veterans affairs office and now I have a job, I'm going to school and most importantly, I can slow down a little and have more time with my family. CLEC gives me a sense of relief, and I feel like I'm still supporting those people in combat."

Russell, who works as a logistics management specialist at NSWC Crane, shares the sentiment of other CLEC participants who want to support those men and women still in active duty.

"We find that all of those entering CLEC have a strong desire to keep supporting the military," Schonberger said. "They want to work in jobs that will still make an impact for the Warfighter, so using NSWC Crane as a home base for their employment makes matching the right job with the right disabled veteran possible."

As the primary employer for CLEC participants, NSWC Crane is a major catalyst for the program. A Navy leader in developing technical solutions for the Warfighter, the Command has a wide range of jobs available for a variety of skills sets - from engineering and scientific positions to technicians and administrative roles. Veterans have a viable career path at NSWC Crane.

To date, more than 30 disabled veterans have been placed in jobs through the CLEC program, and participation is expected to reach 50 veterans by the end of 2009. CLEC is looking at other sites throughout Indiana to expand the program, as well as additional private and government partners to provide even more job opportunities.

"We don't let anyone fall through the cracks, and we make sure that not one of our veterans feels like they are alone in trying to figure out the bureaucracies of re-entering the workforce," McRoberts said.

Jobless and facing financial ruin after returning from his tour in Iraq, Cody Walton, who is now a team leader in the small arms division at NSWC Crane, put it best: "CLEC saved me."

Primary Information Source(s):

Crane Learning and Employment Center for Disabled Veterans | Crane Learning and Employment Center for Veterans with Disabilities (ojrv.org). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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Cite This Page (APA): Crane Learning and Employment Center for Veterans with Disabilities. (2009, October 20). Crane Learning and Employment Center for Disabled Veterans. Disabled World. Retrieved September 20, 2021 from www.disabled-world.com/news/veterans/clec-disabled-veterans.php