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American Homefront

Optimistic Veterans, Reservists Flood Job Fair

About 200 Tampa veterans and military spouses gathered at the Ragan Community Center in Tampa today. They met with potential employers at Hiring Our Heroes, a job fair hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as they searched for opportunities to transition back to civilian life.

Jorge Hoyos is a reservist with the U.S. Air Force. He's held contracting jobs in the past, but is now looking for a job with more stability, and an opportunity for growth.

"I can't be picky," Hoyos says. "I [have to] go with the flow and find what's best out there. I'm very open to the jobs that they're offering here, so I'm not [going to] be closed minded."

Joyos typically serves with the Air Force for one weekend a month, but is currently on his mandatory annual two-week tour.

Airman Jason Acker is a video teleconference technician at MacDill Air Force base. He is about to retire after twenty years of service, both in the U.S. and abroad. This is the first job fair Acker has attended, and would ideally like to work in information technology.

"This is my first job fair," he says. "Just getting out, learning the ropes, and getting my resume out there is accomplishment enough today."

More than 18,000 veterans nationwide have found jobs through Hiring Our Heroes since it's launch in March 2011. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Ernie Lombardi says veterans have a good chance of finding a match.

Most of our employers will come with a minimum of three to five jobs per event," Lombardi says. "So if we've got 40 employers today, we're looking somewhere between 150 and 200 jobs available today."

He says about 250 veterans had pre-registered for the event. Halfway through, more than 150 veterans had shown up.

Captain Tonya Snelling of the Savannah Fire Department says military experience allows veterans to easily transition into jobs in the fire service.

"They're usually fit, and they're ready to work," she says. "They understand the hierarchy and who to answer to and how we manage our fires, as well as how we manage our station life. A level of maturity that comes with them is nice."

Joyos says the fact that Hiring Our Heroes is exclusive to veterans makes it better than job fairs he's been to the past, where he felt he didn't have much of a chance.

"I have high hopes," he says.