Hundreds of soldiers, military spouses and veterans gathered at Club Stewart on Thursday to link with 65 local, national and international employers for a hiring fair and veteran service-organization expo.
The “Hiring Our Heroes” event followed a two-day transition summit that allowed job-seekers to hear and take part in panel discussions and workshops intended to prepare them for civilian employment.
Among the many government, military and business representatives attending the summit was Col. Adam Rocke, director of the Army’s Soldier for Life Program.
“(Soldier for Life) has been around for about 2 ½ years,” Rocke said. “The bottom line is that we want to provide you with the resources for a successful reintegration back into the civilian community.”
Rocke explained that as the Army downsizes to meet new strength levels established by the Department of Defense, Army leaders like his boss, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno, want to ensure transitioning soldiers are ready to return to the civilian workforce.
Each panel member, whether government agency or private business, began his comments by noting that he too was a veteran, including retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Bean, Fort Stewart transition-service manager; Jim O’Donnell, director of military and veteran recruiting for JPMorgan Chase; and retired Marine Col. Charles Delaney, military relations manager — Capital Region for Lockheed Martin.
O’Donnell said his company’s partners hired about 90,000 veterans during the last quarter. Delaney said 40 percent of Lockheed Martin’s new hires have been veterans and noted that a quarter of their overall workforce are veterans.
JPMorgan Chase and Lockheed Martin were among the employers at the hiring fair. Local governments, including Hinesville and Glenn County’s board of commissioners, took part in the job expo, as did several educational institutions like Armstrong State University, Savannah Technical College and Universal Technical Institute.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Frankie Rodriguez said he was interested in Savannah Tech’s Troops to Truckers’ program and is studying to get his commercial driver’s license.
“I’ve been in the Army for 24 years, going on 25,” said Rodriguez. “Most of my experience is in operations, plans and training. But throughout my military career, I’ve certified (to drive) all types of military vehicles. I heard about the Troops to Trucks program and took advantage of it. I want to get my CDL and maybe get some experience with the trucking industry … Maybe I can get a job as a driver or as a dispatcher.”
Rodriguez was talking with Matthew Larson, military recruiter for Schneider Trucking, about available opportunities in trucking. He hopes to have his CDL before retiring then find a trucking-related job that allows him to move his family to Florida.
Throughout the transition summit, government and business leaders emphasized their desire to hire veterans was in gratitude for their service but also for the skills they bring to any organization. One panel member, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Mulryan, 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, said one of the most important qualities of veterans is working as part of a team.
“We’re also problem solvers at every level,” Mulryan said. “We have cooks who can set up stations and feed hundreds of soldiers, and all you have to do is give them a task and intent. They figure it out. We have critical thinkers. We have educated soldiers. When you talk about technical savvy — everything from operating communication systems to firing systems — it’s these people who are operating them.”