- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) - After 28 years each in the U.S. Army, Master Sgt. David Gidden and Master Sgt. Frederick Johnson are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory.

Later this year, they will retire from the military and drive through the gate at Fort Riley into civilian life, where they will need to secure jobs to financially support themselves and their families, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1F3TTSv ) reported.

“The challenge is going from military to civilian life,” Johnson, a maintenance supervisor who hails from St. Louis, Missouri, and served three tours in Iraq, said. “We don’t have a lot of workforce experience.”

Gidden, a former DeKalb, Texas, resident whose specialty is logistics and warehouse services, said he is concerned about uprooting his family and facing an unknown future. Gidden served one tour in Afghanistan and three tours in Iraq.

“It hasn’t been easy,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve had to do something like this.”

Johnson and Gidden were among the 580 wounded, ill, injured and transitioning armed services members, veterans and their spouses, family members and primary caregivers checking out the 91 employer booths at a Department of Defense Hiring Heroes Career Fair in late April at the Riley Conference Center at Fort Riley.

Vendors ranged from law enforcement and governmental agencies to universities/public school districts to such private sector employers as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Westar, Dillons, Koch Industries, Walmart, Hilton and Starbucks.

“This job fair has been very productive,” Johnson said, explaining how he was able to hand his resume to potential employers and learn about websites where he could apply for jobs.

Fort Riley officials said 76 job offers were made during the career fair, and based on employer evaluations, another 191 job offers were expected to be made in the coming months.

The fair was one of several career and hiring events that have been scheduled this year at the military base to help soldiers who are transitioning from active-duty service to civilian employment.

Other events have included a transition seminar sponsored by Orion International, which recruits former military members for a variety of well-known employers; a recruitment and hiring session hosted by Ingram Marine Group, which provides logistical services on the nation’s waterways; and employer days featuring Uber, which uses a mobile app to connect riders and drivers, Werner Enterprises Transportation and Logistics, a global trucking company, and Johnson & Johnson, a multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer.

More military members may be looking for jobs in the coming months as a result of a federal law, known as sequestration, that forces the military to shrink the Army from 490,000 to 450,000 troops by 2020.

Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth are among the installations that could be facing forced reductions. Military officials are expected to announce the cuts in June.

Sgt. 1st Class Andrea Gasper, an Army reservist who was wounded while supporting a medical hospital in Kuwait and brought to Fort Riley to heal, was studying materials laid out on tables during the Hiring Heroes Career Fair. She said she was “trying to get ideas” for her future.

“I have a goal to go back to college,” said Gasper, who currently works in a management position at a microbiology lab. “I’m looking at energy efficiency and environmental - I’ll be in the geology realm - and I’m seeing what these jobs require.”

Even though they may not have a college degree, Gasper said transitioning military members have a variety of marketable job skills: specialized training, multicultural awareness, multitasking abilities, management and leadership skills, discipline, flexibility, team-building skills and resiliency.

“Veterans bring intangibles any employer would be happy to have,” said Russell Murphy, a recruiter for Defense Contract Management Agency, based at Fort Lee, Virginia. “We’ve seen some outstanding applications that should marry up with (our) opportunities. I’m guardedly optimistic they should be selected.”

Karen Hannah, program manager for the Department of Defense’s Hiring Heroes Career Fair, said the organization will follow up with job seekers in 60 days to see if they were hired or in need of more assistance. The organization also contacts vendors to gauge their recruiting and hiring success.

Since its first job fair in April 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the program has organized 70 career fairs and assisted more than 26,000 job seekers.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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