By Drew McComber
My name is Drew McComber and I am a medically retired SSG from Walter Reed. It has been less than six months since I became a civilian, but the transition from ACUs to suit and tie was nearly painless. Why? Because early on in my time at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, I recognized that my life as an infantry grunt was ending, and I needed to make a serious change. I felt a sense of accomplishment in the small fact that I came to terms with such reality, but the far more daunting task was determining how I was going to make such change after I hung my boots up.
It all starts with a question. What do I want to do when I leave this place? It seems easy enough to answer. However, for me, having to decide on a complete change of lifestyle after seven years turned out to be much more challenging than I anticipated. My occupational therapist and transition coordinator began working with me, and reviewing what options were available. They sent me to several different job fairs and work conferences to see what was out there. I really found that working for the government might be interesting. It seemed to be one of the best ways to serve my country, and get a nicer paycheck in the process. I started looking at all the places I could intern and get some insight and experience to life outside the Army. Several places came to mind, and I even had my eye on one in particular, but when I talked to their recruiter, I encountered my first major snag: I needed a security clearance.
In reality, this was a snag, but not major. I would say more time consuming than anything. Like everything in life, it is more a matter of finding the right people to help you. I will admit that it took several channels of support to make my clearance happen, but once it did, I was good to go.
For the remaining two years I was going through the retirement process, I interned at three different locations; this was kind of my plan from the beginning because it would broaden my experience base and allow me to see what all was available for someone making a transition. My intern time was a great experience that allowed me to build a robust network of people who were willing to help me in any way I needed it.
To make a three-year story short, my time spent interning and working during my transition definitely paid off. After I retired in September 2012, I already had a job offer waiting for me; it happened to be with the last place I spent nine months as an intern. By making the most out of my time at Walter Reed and not being afraid to try new things, I proved to my company and myself that I would be a value-added member to their team. Today, I am happily employed in a job that I am continuously growing and learning. Thanks to a supportive staff at Walter Reed and a desire to make the most out of all the opportunities available, I find myself on a new career path with unlimited potential and a very rewarding future.