El Paso, Texas – When Blackstone Division 52 District Manager Vanessa Polanco needed to hire someone with military and leadership experience she called Deana Garcia at Fort Bliss to ask if she could recommend someone. Garcia, who is in charge of a hiring fair at Fort Bliss, did not hesitate, her husband, Staff Sgt. David Garcia, had just retired. “I said, hey, I know somebody, my husband,” she said. “He’d been out about a week and hadn’t even filed for unemployment.”
David Garcia is now an account manager with Blackstone and the client is more than satisfied. “It was a smooth transition,” Deana said. “A true success story.”
The phone call was not the first time Polanco and Deana Garcia had collaborated.
The hiring fair at Fort Bliss is held semi-annually and has opened a pipeline between Blackstone and several veterans’ groups that has resulted in dozens of military veterans being hired as guards and supervisors by the award-winning security stalwart.
Polanco began attending the fairs in 2009, the year Blackstone opened its El Paso office. She or a Blackstone representative attends at least one of the two fairs held each year. Polanco said that of the 200 guards currently working for her, approximately 100 are military veterans. The listing even includes some spouses of veterans.
“Vanessa has been attending the hiring fairs for a number of years now,” Deana Garcia said. “She is a strong supporter of our hiring program.”
Polanco said Deana has helped her quite a bit when she’s needed to fill positions. “When I needed an account manager I knew a veteran would be best for the position because of their leadership skills,” Polanco said. “And the client preferred a veteran.”
Noting that Blackstone’s founding President & CEO Dan Swindall is a U.S. Air Force veteran, Polanco said that hiring veterans continues the culture that Blackstone is built upon. Four of Blackstone’s seven district managers in Arizona, Texas and New Mexico are veteran non-commissioned officers.
“Veterans bring structure, leadership, honor and pride,” said Polanco, whose father is also a U.S. Air Force veteran. “They take ownership of everything they do. These are the qualities they bring to Blackstone.”
Polanco supports several veterans’ groups and always tries to make the transition to civilian employment as easy as possible for veterans. “If they need time to find living quarters off base or would like to attend school under the G.I. Bill, we work with them,” she said. “I’ve hired veterans who were living in shelters and when they’d worked long enough to afford an apartment, I’ve given them time to move their belongings.”
Jose Orozco, a representative of the American G.I. Forum, a national non-profit veterans outreach program that assists veterans in finding housing and employers who will hire them based on the skill sets they acquired while serving. He met Polanco at the Fort Bliss hiring fair five years ago and has been sending veterans to her ever since. “Vanessa is an outstanding young lady,” Orozco said. “They’re pretty adamant about supporting our veteran population and have hired quite a few of my veterans. Working with Blackstone has been a good experience because they make it seamless when my veterans come to them. They do their best to get my veterans on board.”
Orozco said this is significant because some of the veterans he recommends to Blackstone are homeless, have physical disabilities or are dealing with PTSD. “I give Blackstone a heads up and they try to accommodate my veterans with assignments that won’t make their conditions an issue.”
Andres Larregui is a veteran employment liaison for the Texas Veterans’ Commission, which advocates for veterans and advises them on medical claims, education opportunities and employment. His job is to connect employers with veteran job seekers.
Larregui heard about Blackstone from Orozco after meeting him at a hiring fair at Fort Bliss. Larregui has referred veterans to Blackstone for the past two years. “I have an account with Blackstone on the Sales Force website. “I’ve been able to place several veterans with Blackstone from the Sales Force website and several others by referring them to Emilia Lopez in the Blackstone office,” he said.
Polanco said working with veterans is a two-way street. She said she was tutored by a fellow district manager on how to talk to veterans. Polanco also said that a recent hire is teaching her military language. “He stops by once a day and gives me a new word of the day to learn and he tells me to use it during the course of the day. This is a two-way street because I am learning too,” she said. “I’ll do anything for them because they served our country and they deserve it. My clients enjoy working with veterans and this gets Blackstone recognition.”
Blackstone Executive Vice President Jeanne Croft, whose late father is a veteran, praised Polanco and the El Paso office for their initiative in illustrating Blackstone’s support of veterans. “The effort of Vanessa and her staff is indicative of Blackstone’s dedication to its hiring initiative,” Croft said. “We are very proud of what El Paso and the rest of the company is doing to support veterans.”