Troops, spouses fill job fair amid looming cutbacks

March 23, 2014

Military spouses who follow troops on the Defense Department's Bedouin path through bases around the globe have traditionally had difficulty securing work.

And with military job security plunging along with Pentagon spending, the pressure to get jobs has never been higher.

"It was a bombshell in January when we found out they were cutting 25,000 people," said Desarie Evelo, wife of an airman who's planning to leave the service this summer because of the cuts.

"I've spent the last week working on my resume."

Evelo and hundreds of others darted through a job fair for military spouses at Peterson Air Force Base this month vying for attention from off-base employers.

The event, conducted as part of a partnership between the Pentagon and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, drew 39 employers and more than 300 job-seekers.

A plan to cut $900 billion from Pentagon spending over the next decade and cut military rosters by more than 100,000 troops was on the minds of most participants.

"Especially with the situation we're going through right now, we need to connect our community partners and employers with our spouses and veterans," said Rhonda Sargent, an employment expert with Peterson's Airman and Family Readiness Center.

There's good news on the hiring front. The economy outside military bases has continued a slow but steady improvement since the 2009 recession.

And troops and military spouses have attractive skills that employers want in their firms.

"I think they have great experience," said Ashley Vegel, a recruiter for TCF Bank who was looking to fill several openings.

Unlike some of their civilian counterparts, military and spouse job-seekers know how to survive stress, she said.

"They are experienced at working through deployments," Vegel said. "They are very reliable employees as well."

State agencies also came to the job fair to court spouses and troops. Colorado State Patrol trooper Maurice Harris said he finds some his best law enforcement candidates on bases.

"They're used to serving that higher calling," he said.

That doesn't make military job applicants less nervous about entering the corporate world.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Amos came to the fair looking for an information technology job, and said he's worried about having to pick out his daily attire after career in uniform.

"I've been in it for 18 years," he said.

But with his medical retirement looming, he's ready for the switch and was eyeing Verizon as his next stop.

"That's what I'm hoping for," he said.

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