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Job fair brings military veterans, corporate America together

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Veterans of the United States armed forces are used to being recruited.

Before they joined the military, they were recruited by their respective branches of the nation's armed forces.

On Thursday, only a few days before Veterans Day, local veterans found themselves being recruited, again.

This time, it was corporate America seeking their services. Recruit Military, LLC, a 10-year-old firm that helps veterans make the transition from military to civilian life, hosted a job fair at the Georgia International Convention Center.

More than 300 veterans showed up in the first hour of the four-hour job fair. The average number of people who show up to one of Recruit Military's job fairs is 400. The turnout didn't surprise organizers, though, because the area is home to several military bases, such as Fort McPherson, Fort Gillem, Dobbins Air Force Base and the Naval Air Station in Marietta.

"Atlanta is probably one of our biggest job-fair sites, simply because of the number of bases in the area, and because there are so many veterans who live in Atlanta," said Larry Slagel, Recruit Military's senior vice-president of career services. "It's the same thing with places like San Diego and Washington D.C."

Recruit Military will have held 45 job fairs across the country by the end of this year. Slagel said the company currently has 104 job fairs planned for 2008. He also said the companies participating in the fairs like hiring military veterans, because the job seekers come out of the armed forces with skills, such as leadership and team building abilities. He said they also know how to work within set timelines.

"They learn intangibles that people don't learn in college," said Slagel, who is, himself, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. "The challenge for companies is finding veterans. They can't just go on a base to recruit people."

There were more than 40 companies at the job fair on Thursday, ranging from the Central Intelligence Agency, to AFLAC, to Wal-Mart. Some of Recruit Military's long-time partners, including Oldcastle Architects and financial services provider, Modern Woodmen of America, were also at the fair.

Mary Scullion, the human resources director for Oldcastle Architectural Products Group, said her company is attracted to military veterans because many of them have learned maintenance, electrical, hydraulics, and leadership skills in the armed forces. She also said the leadership skills are especially attractive to her company, because it is small, and decentralized.

"They have a lot of discipline that they bring to the company," Scullion said. "We need leaders at all levels of our company."

Thacher Emory, an agency manager for Modern Woodmen of America's office in Jonesboro, said military veterans also tend to be tenacious, are used to following directions and are familiar with technical systems. He added that the military experiences of veterans compliment the training offered by his company.

"Military personnel have many of the attributes we look for," Emory said. "We are looking for self-starters, who are self-motivated to run their own businesses. These guys can take something and run with it."

Bennie Harrison, an Atlanta resident and 20-year veteran of the United States Army, said the job fair was an "absolutely great idea." Harrison got out of the army three years ago, and was looking for a human-resources-related job on Thursday. He felt the fair was a good way to let military veterans market their skills, make the transition from military to civilian life and gain some connections in the workforce.

"It's awesome, because the best way to find a job is to network, and know someone at a company," Harrison said.