'Enhancement Day' serves as career bridge for soldiers

A special "Soldier Enhancement Day" will be held Sunday at the National Guard Armory in Medford. The event, primarily a career fair, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1701 S. Pacific Highway.

More than 600 soldiers, including both Guard and active duty personnel, are expected to attend. The public also is welcome. Organized by the Oregon National Guard Reintegration Team, the event will bring together more than 25 employers as well as college and university representatives.

There also will be experts on post-traumatic stress disorder, representatives of the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs and more than 25 veteran service organizations on hand to address many of the diverse issues soldiers and their families face.

"This will be an outstanding opportunity for soldiers to see what kind of careers and resources are available to them and their families," explained Sgt. 1st Class Vinni Jacques, team manager. "Our goal is to help soldiers help themselves."

The team was created in 2004 to help soldiers with everything from employment to referrals for counseling and consulting to help get them back on their feet after their combat tours.

"I think this has been the best thing we have done for our soldiers of anything in the National Guard in 35 years," said Col. Scott McCrae, team director. "If I didn't believe in it, I wouldn't be doing it."

In a related event, the roughly 140 local citizen soldiers with the 1/186th Infantry Battalion who returned from Afghanistan early in July will each be given an engraved Buck knife on Saturday by local residents Jan Jennings and Debbie Hicks. The soldiers will be given the knives when they check in at the armory.

The two women raised some $9,800 this past summer to purchase the knives, which were discounted by Buck Knives Inc. based in Post Falls, Idaho. Each knife normally sells for $140 each.

The knives will be engraved with the unit identification, country and date of service on the blade. The unit insignia will be on the handle.

"We wanted to welcome them home and thank them for their service," Hicks said, noting that local businesses have donated balloons and a carnation corsage for each soldier. "We're glad they are all home safe."

Members of the 1/186th volunteered in June 2006 to augment the 41st Brigade Combat Team based in Tigard, which was being deployed to Afghanistan for a year. About 850 members of the Oregon Guard were stationed there to train army and police units.

The 1/186th has units in Medford, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls and Roseburg.

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