By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
Soldiers, veterans and military spouses arrived by the busload Wednesday during Fort Hood's Army Career and Alumni Program job fair.
An estimated 2,500 job seekers streamed into Club Hood, bused in from satellite parking lots, to meet 145 representatives from various fields, including defense contracting, law enforcement, health care and higher education, in addition to government agencies.
Spc. Edward Griswold, 404th Aviation Support Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, said he already had a job offer from an oil company, but was looking for other post-Army opportunities at the fair.
Griswold couldn't escape what ACAP director Bob Oakes called a growing presence at the job fair, when California-based Airstreams Renewables Inc. offered him a chance to apply for a free, two-week training program that was all but guaranteed to land him a job on a rig in South Texas or Oklahoma.
Airstream Vice President of Sales and Placement Grant Johnston said that about half of the company's trainees are veterans, and that ex-soldiers who have spent long hours in the heat and sand make ideal candidates for rig workers.
The company's training is funded by state and government grants, to fill high-need drilling and wind turbine positions, he said.
Griswold, a 26-year-old mechanic, had been thinking about leaving the Army, he said, but decided to separate when he learned that his Army job was no longer available to him as a re-enlistment option. He wasn't interested in other Army jobs available to him.
Although defense budget cuts are looming, Oakes said the Army is always adjusting its job quotas; mechanic positions happen to be on the chopping block this year.
ACAP, which helps separating soldiers and family members find civilian employment, hosts two major job fairs annually. Oakes, a retired Air Force colonel, said that though more employers have attended past fairs, most Wednesday were looking to hire - not just collect resumes.
That hasn't always been the case in the past few years, he said.
About 700 soldiers leave the Army through Fort Hood each month, on average, Oakes said. He guessed that about half of the fair's visitors would receive a job offer following the event.
Rebecca Albert, a representative with BAE Systems, a McLean, Va.-based defense contractor, said the company is always hiring and has about 1,600 open positions in various fields.
No matter their backgrounds, she said, soldiers can make great employees because of their flexibility and self-discipline.
A San Antonio-based officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that while government agencies don't necessarily give preference to those who have served, military service can be a foot in the door.
Sgt. Sierra Bibbs, 57th Signal Battalion, 3rd Signal Brigade, said she was looking for a civilian job similar to her logistics and maintenance position to help her work her way through college.
She joined the military more than seven years ago to go to school, she said, and now she'll finally be able to do that.
"It doesn't make me nervous at all," Bibbs, 26, said of the job market. "I've been saving up."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.