By Rhonda AppleSeptember 14, 2012
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's Community Center, Bldg. 405, was buzzing with activity Sept. 10. Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen from the joint base, Pentagon and other area installations dropped by to chat with a few dozen important people -- employers. Some active duty servicemembers and veterans came in civilian attire, dressed to impress.
The event, a joint-partners effort, was hosted by the Army Career and Alumni Program, Army Community Service, and Virginia Employment Commission. It drew more than 200 people, from the die-hard, serious job-searching, retirement-eligible Soldiers, to a few servicemembers unsure of their future. Excitement filled the air as federal and civilian job recruiters and human resources representatives from more than 34 employers, manned their tables, decorated with slick marketing brochures and advertising specialties.
"I only work with servicemembers and military transition service, and we've been working with ACAP because we facilitate a program that's being used by the Army," said Yashika Neaves, an Army veteran and the Virginia Employment Commission's local veteran employment representative.
Neaves said the VEC's main goal is to target veterans. "We want them to know we're here for them." "We're just trying to provide servicemembers with an easier way to find employment. This career fair will give them some options," said Neaves.
Of the 32 employers representing 41 total vendor's tables, Neaves said, "We only invited employers here who were hiring and could offer jobs to vets and their Family members."
The other nine vendor's tables were manned by ACAP, and ACS service providers, including the Military Spouse Employment, Army Family Advocacy and Information Referral programs.
"We hope to accomplish bridging relationships with organizations as resources for the community," said Carla Moss, ACS information and referral program manager.
Maj. Mel Turner with the Pentagon A-10/Strategic Deterrence office was experiencing his first job fair. "I'm approaching retirement, so I came to seek a bit of guidance and gather information," he said. Seny Assefa, director of admissions, Court Reporting Institute of Arlington, brought Ronald Sears, an advanced student to the career fair, who was undaunted by the passers-by and stares, as he worked meticulously demonstrating stenographer work, transcribing court documents.
Across the aisle, Nick Baucom, a Marine veteran and owner of Two Marines Moving Company, and Tyler Ridlon, a sales representative for the company and veteran Marine, were enthusiastically representing their company.
"Inspired by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's veterans hiring initiative, Hiring Our Heroes, I decided to piggy-back off that and am committed to hiring 50 veterans in 50 days," said Baucom. "We're hiring one vet daily, until the 50th is hired, Veteran's Day, Nov. 11."
Baucom, an infantryman, served in the Marine Corps for four years, including a deployment to Iraq. "This is a great company to start as a transition to a career in another industry," he said.
Ridlon agreed, "I wish when I was active duty, I was more in tune to what services were available to me before I transitioned out of the Marines." Ridlon said working for the moving company was a great job for transition from the military while attending college.
Other veterans represented companies at the job fair. TSA agent Darrett Tomax, a career Air Force veteran said he spent 20 years in the service. Fellow employee, Dean Cummings, lead transportation security officer, said he spent five years in the Army. "I wanted to stay in government service," said Cummings, who served as a communications specialist and recruiter before he ended five years of obligated service to the Army as a sergeant first class.
"We're looking for patriotism, a qualified and proven work record," said Tomax. "Veterans are better employees because they come out of service with these skills."
Both Tomax and Cummings spoke with about 100 people during the career fair. Roy Hastick of Elevate America spent the four hours speaking with people about self-paced online courses available free of charge to veterans. He shared a table with Alicia Thomas-Moore, a former VEC employee, who said she initiated the career fair idea.
"I've been at my new job, the Department of Employment Services at American Job Center Northwest," said Thomas-Moore. "We offer employment services to veterans."
Approaching Hastick and Thomas-Moore, Army Staff Sgt. Joel Chung said he was job seeking full-time. "I'm with the Pentagon Acquisitions Logistics and Technical branch as a mobilized reservist," he said. Chung, who spent 15 years on active duty before affiliating with the Army reserve, said he wanted to start looking for his next career opportunity before retiring. "This isn't my first job fair; however, this is a good one -- I am leaving with a few leads today," he said.
Chung advised job seekers to come prepared with resumes when talking with recruiters at hiring fairs. Sharing Chung's job-seeking philosophy was Marine Lt. Jasmin Garcia, who has been assisting the chaplain at Quantico Marine Base. "This is not my first job fair," said the young Marine officer, who came in interview-ready business dress clothes.
"I've done a lot of networking today," she said. Garcia said she would like to work with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "I definitely plan a career in law enforcement."