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She served 9 years in the Army. Now she helps veterans find jobs in Yakima County

Since retiring from the military, Judith Kendall has become an integral part of Yakima County as its senior manager of human resources.

It was the military that prepared her for that role, which she has filled for about 28 years.

Kendall grew up in rural Iowa farming town. Her graduating class, which combined the students of her town and another nearby, consisted of 34 students.

There were “not a lot of opportunities back there, so you either went to college and went into debt because you couldn’t afford to pay for it, or you went into the military,” she said. “So that’s what I did.”

Kendall enlisted in the Army in 1982, about a month after graduation, and did basic training and advanced training, specializing in administrative assistance. After that, she was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. She spent four years there working for a colonel before having a permanent change of station, or PCS.

“When you’re getting ready to do PCS … they have an outbound meeting,” she said. “They can tell you what to expect, get all your paperwork in a row, and I can remember I was still fairly young at that point.”

The officials began asking people where they were headed. A large group was being sent to Germany. Others were making their way to Italy. Then they asked if there was anyone left, and Kendall said she realized no one else was raising their hand, so she spoke up.

“I’m going to Turkey?” she remembered saying. “I had no clue what was going on, but that was one of the better assignments I had. I absolutely loved it there.”

In August 1986, Kendall was stationed at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in İzmir, Turkey, along the Aegean Sea. She was part of the NATO operations division, where she worked on highly classified issues — making it hard for her to discuss them in detail. Her tours there took place prior to the Gulf War, ending in early 1989.

“A lot of what our plans entailed had to do with the operations of deployment if equipment was needed or resources were needed — how that was going to be supplied, that kind of stuff,” she said.

Since there was no military base, Kendall experienced the richness of life in Turkey. She visited the city of Troy, or Ephesus, where the Virgin Mary was said to have lived, and traveled to Spain, France, Egypt and the Greek Islands.

At the end of her second tour, Kendall was stationed at Fort Lewis. When she was nearing nine years in the service, she had to decide whether to re-enlist.

“You take that though, then. ‘OK, do I go for it?’ Because if you go over 10 (years), you have gotta go for 20,” she said, laughing.

Kendall decided to retire. About a month prior, she had met her now-husband — a Yakima native who convinced her not to move to the East Coast.

Her experience in the military quickly translated into a job with the Yakima County Auditor’s Office as a secretary. Eventually, after taking a few college courses, she earned an associate degree.

In 1994, Kendall transitioned into human resource recruitment for the county and gradually climbed the management ladder. Today, Kendall runs Yakima’s Human Resources Department where she has been senior manager since 2014.

Part of her job is overseeing recruitment and ensuring the county is meeting federally mandated goals for the hiring of veterans, disabled individuals, minorities and women.

“We’ve been doing a really good job with our hiring in the county,” she said, emphasizing the efforts to recruit veterans.

In Yakima, Kendall coordinates with organizations like WorkSource, the Yakima Valley Veterans Coalition and the Veterans of Foreign Wars to inform veterans of job openings with the county.

In 2017, the county hired 202 employees, nine of whom were veterans — accounting for 4.5% of new hires. The following year, there were 16 veteran hires among 255 employees, making up 6.3% of recruits and nearly hitting the state benchmark of 6.4%.

As of September, 19 of the county’s 197 hires so far this year were veterans, Kendall said — or about 9.6%.

Later this month, the county will receive a regional award for its work hiring veterans under Kendall’s leadership.

She finds that part of her job especially gratifying.

Kendall said in many cases, those who have retired from the service don’t have college degrees, but they do have on-the-job experience that can be translated into the civilian world and used to develop resumes.

“It’s very rewarding. People that go into the service are not going into the service to make a lot of money,” she said. “You don’t make a lot of money in the military. You’re going in because you have the drive and the … moral character that you want to do what is right and you want to serve your country and protect everybody.

“So when they get out, I think that they should be given every opportunity that they can to be re-employed and given worthwhile jobs,” Kendall said. “Something that’s going to be a career for them, not just a paycheck. And that’s what I hope we’re doing here.”

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