OREGON CITY, Ore. - All hands were on deck at a community college here Nov. 19, as the U.S. Navy Reserve showed its commitment to taking care of Sailors by partnering with the Oregon National Guard for the largest joint service career and benefits fair of its kind.
The Navy's Northwest Region Reserve Component and the Oregon National Guard's new Joint Transition Assistance Program joined other partners at the event which included Oregon's first "Hiring Heroes Job Fair" sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
According to the Oregon National Guard's Joint Transition Assistance Program Manager, Craig Snitker, the event was groundbreaking as it was the first of its kind involving multiple branches of the service and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In attendance were 80 hiring employers, and more than 75 service providers, prepared to link veterans with resources and service providers.
The Hiring our Heroes event was held in conjunction with a Post-Deployment Family Readiness Conference for the Naval Reserve. Members from all branches of the service attended the event.
The partnership between the Navy Reserve and the Oregon National Guard's JTAP was evident at the event where Sailors and Soldiers made up the majority of participants.
U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps Rear Adm. Paula Brown, and Command Master Chief Martin Aguiar, Navy Region Northwest Reserve Component Command, joined Brig. Gen. Eric Bush, assistant adjutant general, Oregon National Guard, and Oregon's State command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Brunk Conley, at the event.
"This is a big deal, we have an admiral and command master chief at this landmark event," Conley said.
Conley recognized employers and service providers at the event before recalling an education specialist that made him aware of a $250 a month education benefit that helped his family 30 years ago.
"I had a wife, two kids, insurance, and I paid for my third kid with a visa card. Do you think that $250 made a huge difference in my life?" Conley asked.
"Somebody might have the opportunity to hire someone here today and that person may not remember you 30 years from now," he said. "But you will have a huge impact on one of those young lives, and their children."
His presentation to employers was followed by Tonja Pardo, assistant director for the Department of Labor Veteran's Employment and Training Service, who helped organize the event and brought the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on as a sponsor.
When Pardo asked employers who was ready to hire a veteran, the crowd of employers erupted with a standing ovation.
"Be a hero. Offer a job," Pardo said.
Aguiar said it was the first time there has been a joint operation with the Navy Reserve that included a job fair, employer and spouse recognition, family reintegration, and many other resources all rolled into one.
"This is by far the best reintegration event I've been involved with and it's all due to the joint aspect that the Oregon National Guard and Navy Reserve bring to the fight," Aguiar said.
Dorian Hunt with Transportation Security Association said her company was at the event ready to hire because veterans make great employees.
"They are tried and true, they stay the course and focus on the mission," Hunt said. "After a recent initial assessment for our company—of the over 400 that passed—over 50 percent were vets."
Many service members, veterans and families who attended the event were surprised by the scope of resources available in one place.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jeff Leslie, who deployed in 2009, said he and his wife Shannon wanted to see what was available at the job fair. They were both impressed with what they found at the event.
"It is pretty awesome to see how much support there is in the community. It has been tough to find employment," Leslie said. "I wish I would have done this before I left. This is a great resource for us."
Commanding Officer Bruce Bosworth of the Portland Navy Operational Support Center, said his unit has more than 430 Navy Reservist assigned in 17 units that often return as individuals. His association with the Oregon National Guard JTAP team opens access to more local and state services, he said.
According to Bosworth, the Oregon National Guard's reintegration team is a good partner because they expanded into a JTAP to reach out to other branches of the service in Oregon, which does not have an active military post for any branch of the service.
"This has a positive and direct benefit on Navy Reserve mission readiness," he said.
Bosworth's command met with members of the Oregon National Guard and the Oregon Reintegration Team last year to develop a plan for taking care of Sailors in the region.
"We discussed ways to better support and to provide information to Oregon's Navy reservists," he said.
Bosworth added that it is important for returning and deploying families to be aware of resources and supporting agencies for reintegration.
"We are partnering with the Oregon National Guard because of their closeness to the community. Navy resources are primarily in the Seattle area," Bosworth added.
Brown explained that a partnership with the Oregon National Guard makes sense because it is all about helping Sailors, and the National Guard has the ability to access community resources.
"You see the National Guard everywhere here in Oregon, but you don't always see the Navy," she said.
The Oregon National Guard is maintaining its status as one the top reintegration teams in the nation thanks to Oregon's visionary concepts and close relationships with service providers across the state, said JTAP plans and operations reintegration manager, Master Sgt. Vince Jacques.
"We have merged our reintegration team and career transition assistance program in a joint transition assistance program and are taking things to a new level," Jacques said, explaining his relationship with the service providers at the event.
"I look forward to working with these people," he said. "It's like a family reunion."
The Navy Reserve has now become a part of that team.
Retired Chief Petty Officer Pete Pringle, who recently joined the JTAP team, left the Navy in June 2010 after 22 years of service. Pringle was working at the Navy Reserve facility in Portland when he was asked to be a part of the JTAP team, in an effort to reach out to sailors.
"I am talking with all the same people I worked with in Portland when I was on active duty," Pringle said. "They all know me. I'm in the same spot and am able to reach out. They still think of me as a chief in the Navy."
Pringle said he was excited to see more than 200 sailors and their families benefiting from the event.
"I would love to have two of these a year," he said. This is an awesome time to be involved with Oregon's Joint Transition Assistance Program."
Pringle said his main concern is linking service members with employment, education and health benefits because throughout his career he wasn't always happy with the resources available to Sailors.
"This job is all about taking care of sailors, and all service members, by pointing them in the right direction. I'm learning about new resources every day. It's amazing how many people are out there who want to help," he said.
Bosworth said that having Pringle on the JTAP team is a great resource because it helps him accomplish his mission.
"It is my responsibility to deliver important information and it helps us achieve the mission of the Navy Reserve which is 'Ready now. Anytime, anywhere," he said.