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March 29, 2012
By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Laura Bailey didn't expect to represent the thousands of spouses affiliated with Fort Carson March 21 at the Military Spouse Employment Program Pikes Peak Regional Induction and Signing Ceremony held at the Elkhorn Conference Center.

"It's not exactly what I thought," she said. "They needed an Army spouse and asked me, so I accepted."

Bailey joined commanders from local installations, including Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert L. Gordon III, signing the "Statement of Support" between the armed forces and corporate partners.

The signing marked an important step in expanding the MSEP, which began June 29 as an effort to increase employment opportunities for military spouses who often have trouble finding jobs because of their spouses' military commitments.

Military spouses face a disproportionate unemployment rate of 26 percent and a 25-percent wage gap compared to their civilian counterparts, according to the MSEP website.

"I spent a lot of time trying to find a job with my degree, but every time it came up that my husband was in the Army, that was it," said Bailey, who has a degree in paralegal.

Bailey said she searched for work for four years, working in restaurants in the meantime, until she was hired by Lowe's Home Improvement.

"I'm finally making more than $2 an hour," she said, adding that she finds time to do freelance paralegal work.

"Military spouses possess awesome attributes," Anderson said during the ceremony. "They're dependable, reliable and resilient."

Anderson said that signing the statement of support would increase employment opportunities for spouses.

Representatives from 37 companies signed the statement of support, pledging to increase employment opportunities for military spouses, provide career promotion opportunities and ensure pay equity.

"It's a giant step in recognizing military spouses," Anderson said.

"It takes a partnership to bring skill and talent together," said Gordon, a Colorado Springs native who added that he was delighted with the partnership occurring between the military and Pikes Peak community.

"I spent 26 years in the Army. I was the son of a military spouse. I'm married to a military spouse. I get it," he said.

Gordon said that since the start of the employment program, more than 346,000 jobs have been listed on the program's website:

More companies have pledged to hire military spouses and another signing ceremony will take place in May.