More than 200 transitioning Soldiers now have solid civilian job offers following a hiring fair, which capped off the Soldier for Life -- Transition Assistance Program Summit May 5 and 6.

The summit, which included forums and panel discussions for leaders, employers and separating service members and their spouses, was held through a partnership between Fort Leonard Wood, its inter-agency partners and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes.

The event was held as part of the Army's new model to ensure that Soldiers, retired Soldiers, veterans and Families leave military service "career ready" and find an established network to connect them with employment, education and health resources for successful reintegration into civilian society.

"Soldier for Life is a four-phased process designed to ensure Soldiers start strong, serve strong, reintegrate strong and remain Army strong," said Col. Andrew Herbst, Fort Leonard Wood Garrison commander, who moderated the summit.

Lt. Col. Robert Hensley,
Office of the Chief of Staff, Army Soldier for Life Program, central region director, added, "Whether a Soldier is serving for three years or 20-plus years, we want them to be a member of the Army Family for the rest of their life. Soldier for Life is a mindset that starts with us. It's a process and not an event. No matter what phase a Soldier or Family member is in, there is something for you in education and employment assistance."

Hensley said that, as members of active-duty, Reserve or National Guard, transition out of the Army, gainful employment is the most important thing that will allow for successful reintegration into civilian life.

The summit culminated in a hiring fair held at Nutter Field House the afternoon of May 6, where 515 job seekers, 126 employers and 23 academic institutions participated in the event.

According to Michael Martin, Directorate of Human Resources, Military Personnel Division chief, participating employers accepted 728 resumes, conducted 749 job interviews and made 229 job offers.

"Nearly 150 national employers through Hiring Our Heroes, vetted by the Army, all came to the installation with jobs to offer our Soldiers and separating service members and spouses," Martin said.

He added that more than 50 percent of job seekers in attendance left the event with a firm job offer from an employer.

"These (summits) are taking place at most Army installations this year," Martin said. "There are around 2,000 Fort Leonard Wood service members who will potentially transition from the military within the next two years due to expiration term of service or retirement; the enlisted Soldier will separate from the Army unless he re-enlists."

"These conferences are very important because with the Army drawing down, the population of transitioning service members is going to increase," Martin said. "Under the SFL concept, 'once a Soldier' means 'always a Soldier,' and taking care of Soldiers doesn't just include during the time they serve; it also means preparing them for life after their active service ends."