COL Joseph Messina, Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander, right, listens to Community Leaders' Forum keynote speaker, Jeff McKay, chair, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, at the Officers' Club, Feb. 22. McKay pointed to the hiring challenges on Fort Belvoir reflects the 150,000 job openings in Fairfax County.
Fort Belvoir struggling to fill job openings
Fort Belvoir is struggling to fill job openings that have caused it to close two gates, even as it tries to expand outreach to the surrounding community following the COVID-19 pandemic. During a community leaders’ forum Feb. 22 on the installation, Col. Joseph Messina, the garrison commander, noted the installation’s success with readiness, business operations and resiliency but emphasized its struggle with filling job openings for positions pertaining to base operations.
“We have a real hard time with hiring and retaining talent. It’s going to outside agencies and elsewhere in the community,” Messina said. “I’m always looking for ways to build this team up.”
Despite having extensive partnerships and being one of the largest employers in Fairfax County, the base has struggled to match wages offered throughout the rest of the county, leading locals to seek employment elsewhere.
“We are invested in this community and one of the things that I'm interested in is ways to make that investment more worthwhile for everybody,” Messina said. “Nobody in the room is more cognizant of the unemployment rate in this area and Fairfax County, which I think you can take much pride in. Unfortunately, that is a detriment to our ability to hire folks.”
Base operations have taken a hit from the lack of staff, with the closing of the Lieber and Walker gates as a result.
“We’re significantly short-staffed on the gate guards, we are somewhere between 44% and 46% of our authorized strength for the gate, so right before the holidays, I made the decision to close Walker gate and I don’t foresee that opening here in the near future,” Messina said.
With plans for upcoming outreach programs, youth sports, a SpringFest, a summer concert series and more, Belvoir wants to strengthen its relationship with the surrounding community to fill the job vacancies needed to perform basic base operations so civilians can continue to be brought on base.
Speaking during the event, Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chair Jeffrey McKay, noted that the base has long been a big part of the community.
“This base is where I grew up, this is where we came for everything,” McKay said. “We know that there are opportunities around Fairfax County that depend on what part of the county you’re in, and that’s work we have to continue to do as partners to build up this part of the county and the success of Fort Belvoir.”
About three-quarters of Fort Belvoir’s tenant population is non-Army. Over 17,000 Department of Defense civilians work on the installation, along with over 1,000 contractors. Messina noted the importance of community presence on base and added that the partnership with the military generates economic benefits and cost savings, strategic regional collaboration, efficiencies and improved government and community relationships.
Belvoir officials intend to continue providing opportunities to strengthen the relationship between the base and surrounding area to engage the community.
“What is it that we can do on the base and off the base with our partners to build a resilient community? Because that’s really what I see here, one of the finest communities in Northern Virginia,” Messina added.
To see what jobs are available on the installation, go to Garrison Job Openings :: FORT BELVOIR (army.mil)
By Cameron Delean, InsideNoVa