Soldier to Conductor

GWheelo0626 Jul 9, 2014

  1. GWheelo0626

    GWheelo0626 New Member

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    Hello all,

    I am a Soldier of 10 years as well as a bachelors of Science in business management graduate. I am actively pursuing multiple opportunities for Conductor openings. I live in AZ but the three locations I have submitted for so far are Vancouver, WA, Seattle, WA & Denver, CO. My family is fully on board with my decision and my wife 100% supports the life style we will be subjected to as she has lived as an Army wife and was raised as an Army brat. As I currently have a career here in AZ I know it will be a large undertaking to move across the country for a job. I have a few questions for those out there who may be a lot more knowledgable in these areas:
    -What kind of time frame should I expect for hiring from the time I submit my application/resume?
    -Do you have to interview in person or is there an option to interview telephonically? Traveling to hiring events could get costly.
    -What should I expect in the transition from being hired on, to moving, to training to starting up in the position?
    -What is the time frame for training?
    -What are the chances that ill be hired on? (Vancouver-10 positions, Seattle-50 positions & Denver 20 positions)
    -I am a purple heart recipient but do not claim VA disability, will this be held against me as it is a common perception that purple heart recipients are disabled?
    Your help and guidance would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
     
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    From everything I have heard, BNSF has hired a fair number of vets. I would certainly hope they'd not hold your Purple Heart against you. If they did, it sure could be poor PR.

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes.
     
  3. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

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    Curious why you wouldn't claim VA disability?

    Also, many vets that have claimed, and been awarded VA disability benefits work for the RR.
     
  4. USAF_Andrew

    USAF_Andrew TrainBoard Member

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    You should definitely look into your VA disability benefits. I was medically retired this last October, and just completed the Criminal Justice Academy here in South Carolina less than a month ago. Because of my disability rating, I qualified for "Vocational Rehab" benefits that are a completely different pool of funds than the GI Bill. Because of that, I collected BAH while at the academy, and continue to collect it while in my FTO. As for holding your Purple Heart against you, that would probably be pushing criminal on their part. There were several people in my class who are "disabled" vets, including one that was 100% VA rated and a Purple Heart recipient, so barring your hearing being gone or vision being toast, you should have no issues. Good luck, and let us know how it goes.
     
  5. GWheelo0626

    GWheelo0626 New Member

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    USAF_Andrew, currently i am still in the national guard as a soldier and I honestly enjoy still mentoring Soldiers and helping pass on the knowledge i have gained over 4 combat tours and several years in service. IF i claim disability I can no longer be in. As far as my hearing i am very good and as far as my eyes go i would say 20/10 vision should pass, ha-ha. I am very optimistic in my job search just trying not to grow impatient as I know that could be easy to do. I am very hopeful as I honestly feel that going into the railroad could easily be a great move for me as i like being outdoors and being active. I don't mind being away for extended periods as well so it works out. If anyone has good insight on the questions i had asked i would greatly appreciate any and all information your willing to pass on.

    Thanks so much.
     
  6. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

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  7. GWheelo0626

    GWheelo0626 New Member

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    I appreciate the info, in the army if you are deamed disabled you end up with a classification of 3 on your MEDCOM sheet which then will cause you to be med boarded out. I also do not feel i am disabled i am very active and very healthy i simply could get rated if i wanted to. It is also a pride thing for me, like i said i am very capable and healthy so why would i rate myself along with those whom are really disabled. Ill wait till im old and i truely am disabled to start claiming it haha, not saying anyone in their younger years whom are claiming disability is faking just that i feel i do not need it, you know?
     
  8. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

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    Gotcha, however the issue with waiting too long is the VA then claims its no longer service connected...typical government bureaucracy. I'm still fairly active, yet am collecting the VA disability, mostly due to the my career choice not being the best on the body.

    Also, being you served post 9/11, if you get hired on with BNSF, talk to the VA education people, you can use your post 9/11 GI Bill benefits, aka BAH, while being trained. Actually talk to them prior, that way they can get the ball rolling right away.
     
  9. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Can't help on the RR side, but to the issue of disability...The key to the whole thing is documentation. See the docs, get any concerns/symptoms on paper, get a diagnosis in your records. Like anything else with the government, the paper trail is key. I personally got lucky to make it through a career in combat arms with most everything still working fairly well, but realize that the "Hooah" suck-it-up-and-drive-on syndrome struck me at many times and I just lived with things. Don't fall into that, especially if you still have a direct service connection.
     
  10. Ike the BN Freak

    Ike the BN Freak TrainBoard Member

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    Should have said you can receive VA education benefits. They won't pay any tuition, being BNSF is covering all of that in house, but they will pay you the housing allowance.
     
  11. USAF_Andrew

    USAF_Andrew TrainBoard Member

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    Its entirely up to you. Best of luck in any case, but please do look into the education benefits at least. Getting the extra $1400 a month tax free just for going to school is hard to beat. For service connection, I think the Guard time will keep that window open. There are times when I wish I was still in, with my troops, but it is what it is. It got to a point where I wasn't going to be able to go overseas anymore, so I saw the writing on the wall. Never had any issues with being able to perform my duties, stateside or overseas, but the docs wanted to watch me closely because of my missing parts. Luckily the Panama schedule I work with the Sheriff's Office allow plenty of flexibility for appointments. Its kind of funny, my old duty section still calls me from time to time with questions about stuff. I have to be out of date at some point! lol Let us know how things go.
     
  12. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Welcome to Trainboard Andrew. First of all, thank you for your service. I am both a retired railroader and an Army veteran(not a career-1 enlistment only).
    I dont know that the carriers conduct remote interviews since the personnel wonks want to physically eyeball you to see how you react to their questions. If you hire out in Seattle on the BNSF you may or may not be required to be passenger train qualified. BNSF was operating the "Sounder" commuter trains out there but I believe a scab operator is doing it now. What piques my interest is your quote about "missing parts". You will have a physical exam and will have to show some ability in strength and mobility.You will also be vision and hearing tested. IIRC your vision has to be correctible to 20/20 with glasses(if used). You already have a college degree, you might be better off in a non-operational field with the railroad. BNSF is heqdquartered in Ft.Worth TX. As to your National Guard status, I dont know how that will affect your hiring status. The railroad does have attendance guidlines and they really want you 24/7/365. One of my engineer training classmates was in the Guard and was activated for the Iraq thing. He was an E-7 and was gone for several years. I retired(early)in Oct. 2004 and he still hadn't returned. I ran into him last year in a local "Boston Market" while I was picking up some chow for my Frau and self. He was retired from the Guard and back working as a hogger. It was good to see him again. Otherwise I think you have a lot to offer just in your good attitude alone. I know the thought of relocating is a tough nut to crack. And to be completely honest, I don't think the job is really worth it. You can make a lot more money in the trades and live a somewhat normal home life. I had to chase my seniority once(to Galesburg IL) and I came back to Chicago as soon as I could. i went railroading because I needed a job that paid more money than what I was making. In just my first full year of railroading, I doubled the salary of my previous job, and that was at 85% of full scale. Railroading was the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy for me but it wont work for everyone. My wife was also working at the time, and she is a retired school administrator with a graduate degree. We had 2 kids to pay college tuitions for. I hope you can find a solution to your employment quest and I suggest you think long and hard about more viable options. If you do hire out on a railroad, chances are better than 50% that you will be furloughed within a year with no certainty of recall. Bills still need to be payed. If you are in a city away from your usual home, you have no family or friends to fall back on for help.

    My best wishes to you in your career quest.
    Charlie
    retired Locomotive engineer(BNSF Aurora/Chicago IL)
    Vietnam Era Veteran(Army)
     
  13. Spooky

    Spooky TrainBoard Member

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    Welcome to the board! I'll try to answer these questions as best I can.

    1.) The time frame to hear back from the company really just depends on the what terminal you've applied to and how badly they need TY&E (train, yard and engine) personnel. It could also depend on how many applicants / new hires they need to fill a Conductor training class.

    2.) As far as telephonic interviews, not that I'm aware of. When interviewing at select terminals, BNSF will reimburse up to $500 of your travel expenses. The site-specific job description / application on the website should specify this reimbursement option if it is applicable. I flew out to South Dakota from San Diego for my interview.

    3.) The transition from interview, to moving to the job's location to training is entirely up to you. I minimized my moving expenses by leaving some of my things in storage back in California. My wife, two dogs and household essentials are all I brought. During your training, you must make time to study and have an understanding that you will be out on the rails a lot. The learning is very hands-on and must be approached with an open mind in order to succeed. There are tests which must be passed in order to maintain your employment as being a Conductor is now a federally qualified position.

    4.) The training program is generally fifteen weeks, which involve rotating classroom / on the job instruction. If by the end of the program, you need extra training, an additional five weeks on the road are added.

    5.) Chances of being hired on? I cannot say as I do not know. What I do know is that $5,000,000,000 is being invested into our infrastructure to meet the rising demand for our services. This investment covers the hiring of new conductors among other personnel. To maximize your chances of being hired, I would apply many different locations where there are openings for conductors. It may be inconvenient to have to move away from where you intended to be, however a foot in the door is better than a closed one!

    6.) Lastly, it is illegal for anyone to hold your Veteran's status against you as that is a discriminatory practice. There are several "disabled" and non-disabled Veterans in my training class. What is a must is that you can perform the job's duties with reasonable accommodation.

    Hope this helps.

    S
     
  14. GWheelo0626

    GWheelo0626 New Member

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    To update, I was not selected for the Vancouver, WA position. I am still hopeful as i have applied to 2 others and intend to keep applying. I do wish they would give a reason so i know if I am wasting my time.
    As for the VA benefits I have already used a good chunk of my VA Benefits getting my degree and have transferred the rest of them to my wife in order for her to chase her masters.
    In regards to your comments of disability, i have a paper trail of all of my injuries showing they are all service connected but like i said right now i honestly feel like a well oil machine and don't feel like I need to go after disability. If later on life that changes then I have the paper trail.

    I appreciate all of your help and will definitely keep you all apprised of my progress.

    Thanks

    Geoff
     
  15. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    On my earlier post I welcomed Andrew when i should have said "Geoff". My bad!
    however I dont intend to demean Andrew and his informative post.
    Sorry for the error but I still offer my best wishes to both of you gents.

    Railroading is in my blood, my paternal grandfather(who I never knew)was a locomotive engineer and inventor. My dad had been a locomotive fireman in his youth until he suffered a disabling injury and could no longer work as a railroader. I have liked trains and traction since my earliest memories allow. Streetcars fascinated me, trains awed me. It was my childhood fantasy to be the engineer of a streamlined passenger express train. Well that part was fulfilled in a half pint version. The fast streamlined passenger expresses were commuter trains.

    For those who dream of being a railroader, I can say that it is not the "romantic" job that you read about or see in the foamer videos. It is dirty,dangerous,stressful and demanding. You CANNOT lose your attention for one moment. It could be fatal. It is not as financially rewarding as one might think. Railroading is almost exact center of the "blue collar" pay scale. One CAN make money but it requires working a lot of overtime. I put up with it because I was well aware of the challenges and I absolutely NEEDED to earn more money than I was earning at the time. My personal and family situation was able to accomodate my being away a good deal. I have posted stories relevant to that in my thread "Storytime with Charlie" on the "Railfanning Discussions" forum.

    It worked for me, but it doesn't work for a lot of folks. IIRC the attrition rate for railroaders is 50% in 5 years.

    Thanks again for your attention and patience and my best wishes to you.

    Charlie
     
  16. GWheelo0626

    GWheelo0626 New Member

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    Do any of you gentlemen know what they mean by primary recall for conductor? is is on a few of the job postings and it has my interested as to what the difference is between that and a normal job posting.

    Thanks

    Geoff
     
  17. jjc

    jjc New Member

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    Yes, yes you can still be in the National Guard and draw VA disability. I draw 60% and have been in the USAR for 36 years. Standing down this year, retiring - Soldiering is a young mans game.. Not sure who told you that you couldnt be in and draw disability but that is totally wrong. You did your part for God and country son, go get what you deserve. If you need advice, just let me know.
     
  18. jjc

    jjc New Member

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    Not necessarily - it depends on how you and your physician rate yourself on your functional capacity form. Just being rated disabled does not constitute a "3" in your PUHLES.
     

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