By Stephanie Ingersoll, Fort Campbell CourierSeptember 12, 2019
FORT CAMPBELL. Ky. -- After nearly 10 years in the Army, Sgt. Kimberley Alexis was looking for her next mission.
With mortician training, logistics experience and two combat tours to her credit, she went to the Fort Campbell Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program in hopes of landing a job before she transitions out of the Army in November.
A job fair hosted by SFL-TAP led her to what she was looking for, even if she didn't know it at the time.
"For a lot of us, the Army is all we know," said Alexis, Alpha Company, 626th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
With the guidance of SFL-TAP staff, Alexis attended four job fairs, including a large one held each quarter that attracts more than 100 employers over two days.
"The job fairs put (employers) under one roof," Alexis said. "It's kind of like being a worm on a hook. They are all around you and you can go around the room without pressure."
At one of the job fairs in March, she interviewed with a company looking for a logistics specialist and it went so well she had a second interview at the company's headquarters. She would have landed that job but she couldn't start immediately. That company delivered her resume to a Nashville-based pharmaceutical company and she was offered a job there instead.
The job fair was a success, even if the company where she is starting soon wasn't there.
"Without the job fairs, a lot of employers wouldn't know individuals are here, willing and able to work," Alexis said.
The mother of two will soon be in charge of making sure all the drugs the company needs to destroy are disposed of properly, something her logistics training has prepared her to do.
Other Soldiers hoping to have the same success will get their chance to meet and talk with 130 employers at the next quarterly job fair Sept. 18-19 at Cole Park Commons. The first day will focus on national and international employers and the second day will have employers from local and regional companies.
Employers will range from the Central Intelligence Agency, police agencies from Knoxville, Nashville, Clarksville and all across Tennessee and Kentucky, the U.S. Government, banks, delivery companies, welding businesses and schools needing teachers. A complete list is available at the Fort Campbell Soldier for Life Center.
Because Fort Campbell has so many Soldiers working and training in such a large variety of fields, the quarterly job fairs draw employers from across the region, and even some in other parts of the nation, said Cory Wingfield, transition services specialist.
Helicopter mechanics are in high demand lately and Fort Campbell is home to aviators, scientists, and people who specialize in everything from computers and robotics to feeding thousands of people.
That's attractive to employers and they are eager to hire the 400 to 500 Soldiers who transition out of Fort Campbell each month, Wingfield said.
Many who leave the Army while stationed at Fort Campbell fall in love with the area and decide to stay, joining the estimated 76,000 veterans who already live in the region.
They become patrol officers, engineers, painters and business owners in Clarksville, Hopkinsville and counties across Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Many get college degrees, technical certificates and training geared to meet the needs of nearby industries.
Those classes and skills are designed to keep them from being unemployed or even homeless, said Wingfield, who knows what unemployment feels like all too well.
After he retired from the Army in Hawaii in 2016, his wife was stationed at Fort Campbell.
Even with a master's degree, it took Wingfield a year to find a job with the state of Tennessee.
He wasn't there long before Wingfield encountered a friend he had served with who helped him land a job as a career counselor at Fort Campbell. Now he gets to help others find jobs by encouraging transitioning Soldiers like Alexis and helping them get in touch with companies that would be a good match for them.
Other services available on Fort Campbell include:
•Fort Campbell Career Center and Campus offers assistance such as workshops, transition planning, classes on interview techniques and seminars in addition to weekly job fairs and quarterly job fairs.
•Career Skills Program offers pre-separation job training for high demand jobs in fields such as manufacturing, technology, plumbing, corporate internships, welding, hospitality and fiber optics.
•Quarterly job fairs hosted by SFL-TAP are held each September, December, March and June. The quarterly job fairs are also open to the public.
Wingfield also recruits prospective employers at other job fairs. He had hoped to get U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on board as a prospective employer when they approached him instead. They want to recruit at Fort Campbell soon, but that development is so recent they won't yet be included in the September job fair. But they will have a bigger presence in the next month or two, he said.
New companies are taking more interest in what Soldiers and veterans have to offer, Wingfield said.
Seeing success stories, such as Alexis, makes Wingfield happy. He doesn't find Soldiers jobs, but he points them in the right direction if they're willing to do their part.