By Ethan Rouen, contributor
FORTUNE -- In their first year as Wharton MBA students, military veterans Aaron Perrine and Joe Kistler attended a recruiting event at Morgan Stanley with about 40 other vets enrolled at top business schools.
They didn't think the event could get any better when chairman of the board and former CEO John Mack joined them for breakfast, but then Mack announced that he had a special guest who would like to talk to the students. In walked General Stanley McChrystal.
"Everyone is on their feet in half a second," says Perrine, 33, who is working as a summer associate at McKinsey. "It showed that these employers are serious. They are trying to get veterans in the door early."
For veterans in top tier business schools, this experience is not unique. Overall, the unemployment rate for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was 11.5% in 2010, higher than the national overage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that statistic belies the fact that, for the first time in several generations, employers are seeing an increase in young applicants who know how to handle pressure and have the kind of management experience it often takes decades to acquire.
"We have plenty of veterans who are 27 who have had 100 direct reports in a combat situation," says Perrine, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Nobody coming from the private sector has had that kind of experience, and especially in those high pressure situations."
In the last few years, many of the most desirable employers in banking, consulting and technology have gone out of their way to attract these servicemen and women, according to campus veterans organizations and some employers, inviting them to celebrity-packed recruiting events, hosting veterans-only events on campus, and creating affinity groups that allow employees who served in the military to reach out to prospectives. More
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