ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Chief Master Sgt. Nathaniel Baker is preparing for a major change in his life, but he’s not worried about it.
His father served 27 years in the Air Force, so he grew up a military brat. Baker himself is just two weeks shy of his 29th year in the Air Force and has lived all over the world.
In another year he will retire and plans to enter the civilian work force. On Wednesday at Robins Air Force Base, along with many other veterans, he was getting a head start on his future by attending a job fair targeted for military personnel seeking civilian jobs.
It will be a big change in culture, but Baker isn’t worried about it.
“I’ve been transitioning pretty much my entire life,” said Baker, superintendent of the 54th Combat Communications Squadron. “I feel like I can adjust to any situation pretty quickly.”
For many military personnel, there are some challenges when it comes to entering the civilian workplace. Vicki Washington, director of civilianjobs.com, which sponsored the fair, had the same experience herself when she retired after 24 years in the Army. She realized, for instance, how much the military has its own language. No one knew what she was talking about when she referred to her “AO.” In military speak, that’s “area of operations.”
“You have to learn to speak to people not like they are your fellow soldier but in terms everyone can understand,” she said.
While there are some challenges, she said, the ability to adapt is ingrained in the minds of everyone who serves in the military, and most make the transition well. Employers value the characteristics of people who have served, she said.
“One of the key things I hear time and time again from employers is that they know what they can expect from a service member, someone who doesn’t spend time watching the clock but is actually working,” she said. “Employers like the fact that service members tend to be extremely loyal, and what employer wouldn’t want that?”
Civilianjobs.com is a private company that specializes in helping military personnel find civilian jobs. That includes active-duty members retiring or leaving the service early and retirees. They travel to bases throughout the country hosting job fairs.
This is the first time they have had the fair on base at Robins. That’s because last year, when they held it at the Museum of Aviation, word got out to the community and 1,205 people showed up. While the fair is open to everyone, it is primarily intended for military and their family members, so this year they had it on the base to limit the attendees and make it easier for military members to talk to employers. On Thursday 220 people attended.
There were 16 employers there, including industries, colleges and others.
Brian Braggs was there representing the Ultimate Medical Academy. It specializes in helping former military members enter the medical profession. He was there both to recruit students and to fill jobs at the school. He said the school values employees with military experience.
“They are disciplined, they follow directions, they are punctual and they understand ‘team,’ ” he said.