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Veterans Caucus Chair Backs Legislation to Jumpstart Returning Veterans into Firefighting Careers

State legislation that would provide returning Iraq, Afghanistan and other veterans exclusive opportunities to become state-certified firefighters has received the endorsement of the chair of the Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

AB 398, approved by the Assembly and awaiting full Senate approval, would authorize the State Fire Marshall to accept Dept. of Defense certification as an alternative to the basic training and certification standards now required for the position of Firefighter I in the state of California.

Rick Reyes, an Iraq/Afghanistan veteran and chair of the CDP's Veterans Caucus, said the measure would be helpful to veterans coming home to newer job prospects. A report released recently said veterans face a significantly higher unemployment rate than that of non-veterans.

Rick Reyes

Rick Reyes

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"Today's military is a military of families; with 30,000 service members leaving the military and discharging into California each year, it behooves us to find a way to integrate them back into society, as other generations have done for returning veterans," said Reyes.

"It is great to see an attempt to pass legislation, like AB 398, which would alleviate the burden of socioeconomic inequality and allow some of our veterans to become competitive in the civilian job market," Reyes added.

The legislation would recognize the 13 weeks of specialized training members of the military must attain to work in base fire protective services units. The training includes learning to recognize types of fires, what equipment to use to combat them, as well as first aid and rescue procedures.

The California Professional Firefighters (CPF) said the state should recognize the DOD firefighter certification, calling the bill a "pathway" for veterans to continue to their chosen firefighting career when they are no longer in the active military.

Chair of the California Young Democrats Veterans Caucus, Armando Telles, stated, "AB 398 will further enhance the leadership returning to California from our military services and into our state's workforce."