The Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program quarterly hiring fair offered Soldiers in transition from active-duty service to civilian life employment opportunities. More than 15 local employers offering two or more positions for immediate hire attended the fair at the Fort Jackson Education Center Feb. 18."The nice thing about all the employers here today," said Carolyn Andrews, transition services manager. "They are family friendly as well."Not only were Soldiers in transition, or those coming into their transition window, in attendance at the hiring fair, Family members of active-duty service members also attended the fair to gain employment with local and national companies."We are here to hire the best and brightest to become the future of Lexington County's Sherriff's Department," said Sgt. Dan Rusinyak, a department recruiter. "We are looking for skills as well as honesty, integrity, courage and determination in a candidate, very similar to the Army's core values."Rusinyak has been a deputy for many years but also serves his community as a Master at Arms (military police) for the U.S. Navy Reserve. He said roughly 33% of the department is made up of military veterans as well as National Guard and Reserve Soldiers. He also said that Lexington County Sherriff's Department is one of a few nationally-accredited departments that offers the county state of the art training, funding and prestige."Lexington County is great to work for and live," Rusinyak said. "Our agency allows you to grow and offers a lot of upward mobility."While becoming a member of the Lexington County Sherriff's Department requires additional schooling and training for Soldiers outside of a military police occupational specialty, they are encouraged to attend a hiring fair to establish contact with local employers such as the Sherriff's Department to gain an understanding of the schooling and training needed to gain employment after transitioning from active-duty."We always encourage Soldiers to attend SFL-TAP events early (more than a year from ETS) to gain this knowledge," Andrews said. "Come soon, look soon and often because things change frequently so prepare, prepare, prepare."Many of the representatives at the hiring fair held military experience through active-duty, National Guard and Reserve component personnel.One local company sent Mark Smith to represent a veteran-owned heating and air conditioning company."I was an F-16 mechanic at Shaw Air Force Base before I transitioned," Smith said. "I didn't know having a technician come to my home would turn into a job opportunity, but it did."After 15 years, Smith transitioned from active-duty to civilian service in mid-2018 and decided to stay local. Though he attended the SFL-TAP program at Shaw Air Force Base, it took him some time to figure out what his next step would be after becoming a civilian again. The technician who provided services on his home heating system helped connect him with the company he worked for after learning of Smith's aviation mechanic background.Smith now attends installation hiring fairs not only to promote his company's hiring program but also to connect with transitioning Soldiers who may have fears about rejoining the civilian population."I think that when (a Soldier) hears my story it gives them a sense of open understanding of how things can be (after transitioning)," Smith said. "I think when they can see someone doing this after transitioning and being successful, I hope it helps relieve some of those fears."All Soldiers who will transition from active-duty service will need to attend several SFL-TAP programs within a year of their exit date. Andrews encourages attending program events earlier than the one year mark to ensure a smoother and more successful transition."The sooner the better," Andrews said. "If you find out you need additional training or skills, there is time to prepare."Many programs available to transitioning Soldiers may go unknown if Soldiers wait too long to begin SFL-TAP. Programs and information such as learning how to begin using Post 911 G.I. Bill and benefits, special financial loans for veterans who wish to open and operate their own small business, Training in Industry programs, internships and the Troops to Teachers program are a few opportunities available to transitioning Soldiers in addition to the classes offered during SFL-TAP.Future hiring fairs will be available to Soldiers and their Families quarterly according to Andrews. The next hiring fair is scheduled for June 2020."We are trying to do this event quarterly," Andrews said. "(These events are) so important and we have the support of partner agencies and employers like those here today. It's a win-win for everybody."For more information about upcoming hiring fairs or classes, contact the Fort Jackson Education Center at 751-4109 or visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/JacksonSFLTAP/ for more information on upcoming events, classes and job opportunities.