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Employers see JBLM Airmen's skills on display

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:57PM June 26th, 2014

Dozens of Airmen got the chance to be on the other side of the interview table with employers like Starbucks and Microsoft June 20 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Hire America’s Heroes holds this reverse job fair annually to show employers the skills service members have, and how those skills translate to the civilian sector.

“We brought them on base and showed them a day-in-the-life of these Airmen,” said Andrea Nelson, program manager at HAH. “This helps both employers and service members to speak each other’s languages.”

During the employers’ visit on McChord Field, they ate lunch at the fire department, sat through a panel about best practices for hiring veterans and, the highlight of the afternoon, got to talk one-on-one with Airmen about their jobs.

Many jobs, or Air Force Specialty Codes, were represented at the fair; each with its own table and staffed with Airman to answer employers’ questions.

To make it easier for civilians to translate military job titles into civilian ones, signs were posted with Air Force job classifications like security forces instead saying “law enforcement” and engineers instead saying “construction.”

Afternoon sun shined past a C-17 on display for the afternoon’s guests and into the open hangar, where the reverse fair was held, as employers visited each table.

They asked Airmen about their jobs and what it takes to do them; even going as far to offer a few jobs and do on-the-spot interviews.

Several employers looking for nuclear and general-business security asked Airmen, like Tech Sgt. Avriel Campell, of the 627th Security Forces Squadron, if they would be interested in a job.

Although Campbell plans to open a gym after her service, she said that about 15 percent of the Airmen in her unit are exiting the military.

“Others (in her unit) would be interested in jobs like these,” Avriel said. “It’s what we do and what we know; it would be an easy transfer.”

Although some employers offered careers that fit military jobs exactly, many others didn’t. But one sergeant at the fair said what matters is the character that is developed when someone has been a member of the military.

“A lot doesn’t transfer, but what does are the qualities that you gain,” said Staff Sgt. Make Strelow, with the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron.

His fellow Airman, Staff Sgt. Joe Fernandez, also with the 22nd STS, went on to list some of those qualities and skills: leadership, mission planning, coordinating and networking, technical skills and physical skills.

And the employers present said they agreed.

“It’s overwhelming the logistics and precision that’s needed (in most careers), which many corporations lack,” said John Phillips, vice president of talent acquisition at Starbucks. “School doesn’t train people for that complexity, but that won’t overwhelm people in the forces; there’s not a lot of room for error in the military.”