By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
CULVER CITY, Calif., July 11, 2011 — Calling the final stop of their whirlwind West Coast tour the”seriously most important,” .Great Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Catherine, visited with military spouses and veterans and helped to shine a light on the importance of troop and family support at a hiring fair here yesterday
The royal newlyweds — also a military couple — received a resounding cheer as they entered Stage 15 of Sony Pictures Studios here, where a crowd of more than 1,500 veterans and military spouses and 160 employers had gathered for the Mission Serve: Hiring Our Heroes Los Angeles hiring fair.
The fair, co-sponsored by ServiceNation: Mission Serve, the U.S. and Los Angeles Chambers of Commerce, and the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, is the largest of about a hundred such events slated to take place across the nation over the next year to help spouses and veterans find jobs.
During brief remarks to the crowd and framed by a backdrop of stories-high British and U.S. flags, the Duke of Cambridge called the hiring fair “brilliant.” This event “is about men and women who of their own free will choose to put their life on the line for their country,” said the prince, who is a search and rescue pilot in the Royal Air Force.
“They are the front line of a remarkable relationship between the U.K. the U.S. and Canada which has safeguarded our freedoms for a century,” he added.
But it’s also about more than men and women in uniform, he noted. “It is about our other halves,” he said, “the half that makes the loved one’s duty and sacrifice possible and worthwhile. It is about you.”
After his remarks and with hundreds of cameras and cell phones snapping their picture, the duke and duchess stepped off stage to greet people, then helped to create care packages for military children whose parents are preparing to deploy.
The glimpse of the royal couple was an added bonus for the assembly of spouses and veterans whose primary purpose here was to find employment. Once the duke and duchess were out of sight, the spouses and veterans rushed back over to line back up at employer booths, waiting for an opportunity to hand off a resume or gather information about a prospective job.
In turn, the employers, ranging from superstores to video game creators, greeted the spouses and veterans enthusiastically, gathering resumes and handing out packets with company information and lists of job openings.
Officer Julian Canales of the Los Angeles Police Department said veterans, in particular, are a perfect fit for his line of work. “Military personnel have the easiest time fitting into a paramilitary organization; they understand rank structure, how to take orders and work different hours and shifts,” he said.
Overall, veterans and spouses have the 21st-century skills that match well with today’s workforce, said Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.
“They are strong, vibrant, resilient, loyal and committed to doing a great job,” Gordon said as he walked among the rows of booths.
Gordon said he was witnessing firsthand employers’ enthusiasm for hiring from the military community. “At the end of the day, it’s about jobs,” he said.
Ross Cohen, director of Service Nation: Mission Serve, a civilian-military initiative — and a military veteran himself — called veterans and military spouses “civic assets” who possess an “extraordinary set of skills and experiences.”
Military members have management skills that should be coveted by companies, he said, citing military officers as examples. A Marine Corps or Army captain manages a 120-member team and tens of millions of dollars in equipment, he said, and spouses have organization and management skills and experience that’s employed by senior executives in nonprofit organizations and private-sector companies.
“And we all know how to operate under very tight deadlines and challenging environments,” Cohen said. “Employers need resourceful and reliable employees, and veterans and military families are just that. We are ready to serve and we are ready to work.”
The bottom line, he added, is that companies, nonprofit organizations and government agencies “should be recruiting veterans and military spouses, not because it is the right thing to do for the country, but because it is good for business.”
Job seeker and Marine Corps spouse Lori Brosius hoped to turn her experience into a job as she navigated the hiring fair, resumes in hand. She and her husband were preparing for their fourth move in four years, she said, and she was hoping to score some part-time work in community outreach or corporate philanthropy as she returned to school for her master’s degree in social work.
Continuity is her biggest challenge, she noted.
“If you’re not working for a big national corporation, it can be really hard to pick up and go to a new place,” she explained. “I’ve worked at a new place every time we moved.”
Added to that is the challenge of finding an employer willing to hire someone who will most likely have to pick up and move again in a few years, Brosius said. “[Spouses] learn to be flexible and very good at our jobs, and we learn quickly — we have to. It’s taught me a lot about adaptability.”
Brosius said she was impressed by the number and variety of employers at the fair.
“This is totally unprecedented,” she said. “It’s nice to be recognized as military spouses — nice to see the private sector come out and say, ‘Thank you, and we are willing to give you opportunities.'”
Melissa Burton, an Air Force veteran and now an Air Force spouse, said she would like to bring her education and Air Force experience to bear.
“It’s a great thing to find companies willing to work with us,” said Burton, who recently earned her master of business administration degree and whose husband is stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. “I lived in Okinawa for a few years, and it was hard; it took me about a year to find a job. I’m looking forward to what this day will bring me.”
Marine Corps spouse Kelly Cotton said military spouses are like everyone else.
“We have goals and aspirations and careers we want to seek,” she said. “I think this is awesome.”