Selfridge Preps to Assist VA Job Fair

  • Published
  • By Capt. Penny Carroll
  • 127th Public Affairs
You need a plan to get a job. And the Michigan Air National Guard developed just such a plan to assist about 200 Guardsmen make a possible employment connection in Detroit this week.

With hundreds of veterans and Guardsmen anticipated to visit Detroit this week for the VA Hiring Fair at Cobo Center, Airmen at Selfridge Air National Guard Base developed a plan to provide short-term lodging for about 200 visiting Guardsmen from surrounding states.

The U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs' VA for Vets Hiring Fair featured 230 employers and 25,000 job openings. More than 7,000 veterans pre-registered for the national event.

Major General Gregory Vadnais, the adjutant general of Michigan, offered to surrounding states' adjutants general that Selfridge Air National Guard Base and the Michigan National Guard had the ability to arrange short term lodging locally for out of area Guardsmen who were unable to find or pay for local lodging.

"As a Guard base, we don't have open and operational lodging facilities; however, Selfridge does have the facility structures from past missions here running lodging, and the capacity to house folks on a short-term basis," said Col Michael Thomas, Selfridge base commander.  "We knew we would be able to meet this challenge and help the Guard in this way."

In less than three weeks, the 127th Wing was able to stand-up various existing facilities on the base for lodging use and postured to support an influx of up to 200 Guardsmen.

"The most difficult thing in this mix was not knowing how many people to expect, whether they'd be coming in by the carload or even busloads, but we prepared to the maximum number of a few hundred," said MSgt James Alves, 127th Services Flight superintendent.

Lt. Brian Blumline, a mechanical engineer with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron, was the project officer responsible for turning an older dormitory facility on the base -- that had most recently been used by the Army a few years ago as an office building -- back into a dormitory.

"Nothing deteriorates a building more than being unoccupied," Blumline explained. "We had our janitorial contractor clean and sanitize the showers, sinks, toilets, and did a general clean of the entire building."

The beddown team replaced light bulbs throughout the 25,000-square-foot building, purged and tested the water lines, replaced 40 shower heads, put trash cans in all 82 rooms, and placed cots throughout the building. Services Flight representatives created a welcome packet for the expected visitors that included base map, emergency numbers, safety brief. They also
sorted approximately 250 room keys, and installed an emergency phone and printer to help visiting vets in being prepared for interviewing and resume preparation.

To augment the base's capacity, local hotels also donated rooms that could house about half of the expected visitors for Selfridge. The hotels would be used first in the plan, placing later arriving veterans in the dormitory.

"We really want to thank the local hospitality community which donated rooms for as many as seventy occupants all week long: Holiday Inn Express, Hyatt,Comfort Inn, LaQuinta, Staybridge Suites, and Towne Place," Alves said. "We know these facilities receive lots of visitors to the area and their donation to veterans for this purpose is both gracious and patriotic."

Only a handful of Guardsmen presented to Selfridge for the free rooms during the Veterans Hiring Fair, but all the hard work in preparing for the beddown isn't lost after this one-time event, Blumline said.

"We won't be setting up this dormitory as any sort of an active facility," Blumline said. "However, it is good to know that it's available in case of natural disaster, where the Guard would have to house displaced people, and this was a good short-notice "dry-run" for that scenario."

Selfridge Air National Guard Base is about 20 miles north of Detroit. The 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard is the host unit at the more than 3,000-acre military installation. Home to units from every component of the U.S. Armed Forces, Selfridge is one of the oldest and most complex military airfields in the nation.