The military's loss may be your gain . As the armed services continue to downsize over the next three years, nearly a million military personnel will be discharged, and many will be looking for jobs in the private sector. Moreover, the government will in most cases foot their relocation bills. Should you tap this pool of potential employees? We spoke to several small-company managers (not all former military folks) who hire veterans because --

( They're easily trained. Steve Warner, operations manager of Kyle Technologies, in Laurel, Md., has hired 15 veterans over the past year and a half -- about half his total staff. The rapidly growing company, which sends crews of technicians around the country to treat floors with a chemical that prevents slipping, needed employees who could absorb training quickly, train others, and then hit the road in self-managed teams. "I needed people with a short learning curve and the ability to work independently," says Warner. CEO Marc Mathys, who was initially ambivalent about Warner's strategy, is now sold on recruiting from the military. "Turnover has gone down, and the esprit de corps of the teams is up," he says.

( They're skilled. "We wanted to find high-caliber workers, but we had literally given up on the local market," says Keith Armstrong, CEO of Power Ignition Industrial Equipment, a 10-employee Houston company that sells and services industrial air compressors. "We did preemployment testing and found that people didn't even have basic skills." Using an agency that specializes in job placement for veterans, he recruited two former navy machinists who had the skills he was looking for. "They had to learn a whole new set of civilian skills, like customer service," says Armstrong, "but at least we weren't starting from zero." He has since hired three more veterans.

( They're goal oriented. When Jay Jabas was looking for someone to spearhead his company's bid for ISO 9000 registration, he looked to people from the military because "they have some decent training and they're used to being goal oriented." His company, MJR Industries, a $13-million manufacturer of food-service equipment, had the added challenge of being situated in Menominee, Mich. "It's very difficult for people to come up here," says Jabas. "We were growing, and we were running out of employees." The drawback of hiring veterans, says Jabas, is that "they're not used to operating in an unstructured environment, and they often don't understand market orientation and customer service. If you get over that hurdle, you'll have good people."

If you're interested in recruiting from the military, call the Defense Outplacement Referral System (800-727-3677), a service that provides companies with veterans' rÈsumÈs and allows you to post job openings on an electronic bulletin board that reaches more than 300 military sites. Or you might try working with a placement firm that specializes in former military personnel, such as Hire Quality, which is headquartered in Chicago (312-281-7317).