Warrior Games Army Track and Field Coach: “We will Dominate!”

SPC Christopher Weber, assigned to the Fort Drum Warrior Transition Unit, competes in the 100-meter men’s open with a strong finish during the first WTC track and field clinic at Fort Belvoir's Pullen Field.

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom
Recently, more than 40 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans traveled across the country to participate in the first WTC track and field  clinic in preparation for the 2012 Warrior Games.

During the three-day clinic held February 9-11  at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Walter Reed National Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, coaches gave the athletes a baseline on how to perform their best during track and field as they competed to become one of the 50 athletes representing the Army in the 2012 Warrior Games, April 30 – May 5, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“Track and field  athletes must have the best-timed performances for the track events,” said Warrior Games Army track and field coach, retired LTC Sue Bozgoz. “Athletes competing in track must have the capacity factor [X-factor], meaning we want the runners who possess sufficient speed and endurance.”

“Athletes should be able to start, run the bends, straights, and pass the baton well,” she added. “They also need to possess a high degree of competitiveness.”

On the first day, competing athletes gathered at Fort Belvoir’s Pullen Field for a few administrative details, then divided into two groups. The first group assembled for the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 1500-meter dash events while the second group met on the field and demonstrated their ability to throw the shot put and discus.

Along with Bozgoz, members from her International Running Team, I Run for God (IR4G), an AW2 Community Support Networkorganization that helps AW2 Soldiers and Veterans in adaptive sports and recreational services, were at the clinic to help assess the athletes’ current levels of fitness, provide additional one-on-one training, and to pace and time the runners.

Eighteen wounded, ill, and injured, Soldiers and Veterans participated in the track portion of WTC’s first track and field clinic at Fort Belvoir's Pullen Field and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

“The coaches are great,” said

SPC Christopher Weber, a Soldier assigned to the Fort Drum Warrior Transition Unit, who sustained injuries to his back and left elbow during a dismounted patrol in Afghanistan. “They have given some great advice on how to train for track and field.”

Although the training, excitement, and camaraderie of the athletes seemed to overshadow the chilly temperature of 33°F, some Soldiers and Veterans were no strangers to training in cold weather.

“I have always enjoyed running and competed in track during high school,” said Weber who deals with the average Fort Drum daily high temperature below 37°F, he did not have difficulty competing at Fort Belvoir on a cold, sunny, and breezy day. “I want to win gold for the Army, so I plan to train five days a week, running short distances, and focus on running activities that increase my speed and endurance.”

“This clinic was inspiring. Everyone worked together as a team,” said Weber, who hopes to also be selected for the Army’s swimming team. “This was a great way to compete and meet new people.”

At Warrior Games, athletes from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations will compete for the gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

However, to qualify for the Warrior Games Army field team, athletes must throw either the shot put or discus the farthest distance.

“We have some phenomenal talent on the field team,” said retired CPT Millie Daniels, coach for the field events. “It will be really tough to narrow the team down to the top athletes for discus and shot put.”

In addition to track and field training events, athletes learned how to train the body for optimal performance by focusing on nutrition, physical fitness planning, mental toughness, spiritual, family, socialization, and teamwork.

“Are we going to win the most medals in track and field?” Bozgoz asked. “If we strategically place the right athletes in the right events, we will not only win the most medals, we will dominate!”

AW2 Veteran Trains for Warrior Games Gold

AW2 Veteran retired SFC Marcia Morris-Roberts (center) warms up with other shot putters and athletes at the Army’s Warrior Games track and field clinic hosted by WTC at Fort Belvoir on February 9.

Dressed in black sweats on a chilly February morning, retired SFC Marcia Morris-Roberts warmed up with more than 40 other Army athletes on  Fort Belvoir’s Pullen Field. As a medically retired AW2 Veteran she is vying for a spot on the Army’s track and field team to compete at the 2012 Warrior Games.

The Warrior Games is an annual all-service athletic competition for wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers. The event will take place at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Morris-Roberts hopes to build off of last year’s silver medal win in the sitting shot put event.  “Warrior Games is a great outlet,” she remarked, “It keeps you motivated, and I think it’s been very instrumental in my recovery.”

Her journey to the Warrior Games began in 2010 when she lost her left leg below the knee as a result of frostbite.

It was during her recovery that she learned about the 2011 Warrior Games, and represented the Army last year in both swimming and field events. Her participation led her to seek out other adaptive reconditioning activities such as racquetball and rollerblading. Now she is back once more to challenge herself and other wounded, ill, and injured athletes.

After a round of practice shots, Morris-Roberts slid off the metal bleacher  as the next athlete to throw. Her long sweats and smooth movement made her injuries virtually invisible, but that is not the way she likes it.

“I don’t like wearing pants because I have a lot of cool patches on my [prosthetic] leg,” she said. “I’m happy and I’m proud of myself, I couldn’t get any better than I am right now.”

One of her goals is to not only compete for herself, but to provide inspiration and motivation to other wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers.  Her infectious smile and can-do attitude will certainly bolster her teammates through the hard work ahead of this year’s competition.

As Morris-Roberts continues her journey back to Colorado Springs seeking Warrior Games gold it is easy to see her enthusiasm for the future and those who have helped her on the way. “We had a great team of people that banded together like brothers and sisters,” she concluded, “I owe it all to them because they never let me quit.”

Sometimes You Have to Strip Off Your Uniform to Get Personal

By LTC Danny Dudek, WTC G-3 Operations

LTC Daniel Dudek, WTC G-3 Operations, applied to be on the 2012 Warrior Games Army swimming team. Dudek is one of more than 25 other wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who participated in the swimming clinic to earn a spot on the Army's 2012 Warrior Games swimming team. Photo credit: SSG Emily Anderson

Today I get to ignore all the routine emails and work at the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) and do something I truly love.  I get to compete for a slot as one of 50 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers on the U.S.  Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team.  I’m sure the competition is going to be tough, but I’ve been waiting two years to finally have the opportunity to get involved on a personal level.

This is going to be a great year for the Army and I’m sure we’ll show the Marines how dominant we can be. In addition to my role as one of these dominating Soldier athletes, I’ll also try to have some fun swimming and cycling for the WTC.   First I need to make the team, and this weekend will show if I have a shot  at one of those 50  slots.

As with many tasks in a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), working with wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers can be a challenge. I always enjoy sharing my experiences with Soldiers who are hard-headed and struggle to participate in Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) events. These events include having a daily job or task in addition to medical appointments, making a complete plan during a CTP scrimmage, and actively communicating in an honest and open way with their nurse case manager and squad leader.

I’ve seen these very same Soldiers turn around in a positive way after competing or participating in adaptive sports and reconditioning programs. It may be a kayak trip with a local adaptive sports organization, a winter sport camp with the great people at Disabled Sport USA, a cycling event with Ride to Recovery, or something as simple as participating in daily WTU adaptive reconditioning events.

For me, it is about remaining competitive. Though I’m either in a wheelchair or on crutches, all the barriers keeping me from getting out there and participating in sporting events are illusions, there are always ways to make it work. I can’t wait to get out there.

Stand by to hear if I make the team and get to represent the Army in the 2012 Warrior Games in April and May in Colorado Springs.

Being Confident in Your Abilities

Mark A. Campbell, Guest Blogger
Editors Note: Mark A. Campbell serves as the WTU Master Trainer/WTC Liaison for the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness- Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP). He joined CSF-PREP in 2007, and serves as a subject matter expert in applying mental skills training to the areas of injury, illness, and adaptive sports. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

Confidence is a topic that I get asked about quite a bit, especially in regards to injury and illness. It is one of the foundational lessons in our Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) Performance Education Model, and is a lesson I continue to learn from and apply to my own life. Confidence refers to “a sense of certainty about your ability that allows you to bypass conscious thought (analysis, judgment, criticism) and execute fully and without hesitation.”Confident people develop strategies that allow them to deliberately focus their minds on thoughts and memories that create energy, enthusiasm, and optimism.

Looking at the six domains represented in the Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP), it is most likely true that we are all very confident about certain aspects of our lives. I am also certain that we all have areas in which we could be more confident. Perhaps you have complete confidence about your relationships with Family members, but would like to build more regarding your physical self.

Injuries and illnesses can definitely affect our levels of confidence. These can create major changes in our lives, and afford us opportunities to view things differently. That is not necessarily a negative thing. Retired SSG Ryan Kelly once said, “An injury doesn’t change who you are, it’s a time to define who you are going to be.” Building confidence in a new situation can be accomplished through a number of steps.

1. Maximize Your Strengths.

This seems like an easy concept, right? When is the last time that you sat down and truly took a good look at yourself, making a list of the things that you are really good at? If I had to take a guess, based on the thousands of people I have tried this with, it wouldn’t have been any time recently (if at all). We are not conditioned to think in this way. Think back to when you were a child. If you were like me, you heard one phrase quite often, “Go to your room and don’t come out until you think about what you’ve done wrong.” This is a common thought process in our society. Looking at our weaknesses can be a good thing, because it helps us to address what we need to work on, and builds our levels of competence. Confidence, however, requires us to look at those things that we are good at. Sit down with a piece of paper and list all six CTP domains (Physical, Career, Emotional, Social, Family, and Spiritual), then begin listing strengths that you possess in each one. If it is a slow process at first, that is ok. Try listing one strength every day for a month. Go to your room and don’t come out until you think about what you’ve done….right.

2. Using Self-Talk

The way we communicate with ourselves is very important in the process of building confidence. Self-talk is an ongoing stream of thoughts that run through your head every day. These automatic thoughts can be very effective, or ineffective, in how we view our levels of confidence about a situation. Think about a recent performance and how you used self-talk to either set yourself up for success or failure. I met with a friend last week who has recently experienced a serious physical injury. The way he talked about himself and his situation really caught my attention. It turns out that he was setting the stage for his current situation with a consistent theme of “I can’t do this.” He was judging himself rather harshly on challenges in one of the domains. After looking at a variety of strengths that he possessed, in each of the domains, he began to see himself a bit differently. I had him take a few of those strengths and build them into our conversation. The tone changed dramatically, and he began to focus more on what he could do, instead of what he couldn’t. Re-visit your lists of strengths periodically and build them into how you speak to yourself.

Experiencing an injury or illness puts us in unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory. It can also provide us a unique opportunity to appreciate what we have. To see this opportunity requires a deep curiosity. This is where looking at our self-talk and our strengths come in. With an open and curious mind, these strengths will surface and confidence will build.

To find out more about mental skills, an overview of the program, and additional resources, go to the CSF-PREP website.

WTB Fort Knox and CB-WTU-IL Soldiers Win Big at Super Bowl Weekend Events

More than 40 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members from the Fort Knox Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) and Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Illinois (CBWTU-IL) pose with NFL players (Chris Gronkowski and Dan Gronkowski) during the NFL Salute to Service at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Edinburgh, Indiana.

LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC STRATCOM       
During Super Bowl weekend, more than 40 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members from the Fort Knox Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) and Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit—Illinois (CBWTU-IL) were invited to take part in two events: the Salute to Service at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, in Edinburgh, Indiana, and the National Football League Charities Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic in Indianapolis.

The trip kicked off on Thursday, February 2, as Soldiers traveled to Camp Atterbury for the NFL Salute to Service where they mingled with NFL players and got autographs and photos with NFL players and Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders.

The next day, Soldiers traveled to Indianapolis where they took part in the NFL Experience, an interactive professional football theme park with participatory games, displays, entertainment, and autograph sessions.

Wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers from the Fort Knox Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) and Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit-Illinois (CBWTU-IL) pose with actor and NFL player Fred Williamson during the NFL National Football League Charities Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic in Indianapolis. (L) SFC Scott Strate, SSG Phillip Mooney, SPC John Blinkenstaff)

The highlight of Super Bowl weekend was the NFL Legends Super Bowl Celebrity Bowling Classic which took place at the Woodland Bowling Center on Saturday.

The bowling classic, an NFL fan favorite, features about 50 current and retired NFL players. Participants range from professional Football Hall of Fame members, to star-studded celebrities, corporate philanthropists, business owners, and local citizens. The Bowling Classic was full of fun, food, and friendly competition.  As guests of honor, the wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and cadre from the WTB and CBWTU-IL were invited to share the stage with the players during the opening ceremony. Surrounded by a multitude of NFL greats and celebrities, they were recognized for their service and contributions to the country. The Soldiers also enjoyed an up-close and personal experience bowling with NFL greats and other celebrities. In teams of four, the Soldiers played alongside Joe DeLamielleure, actor and NFL player, Fred “the Hammer” Williamson, and actress Sandra Taylor. Each Soldier played two games with their celebrity team captains and met a host of NFL legends.

“This is a great experience.” said SSG Lani Balama. “It’s not often an individual gets to meet more than one NFL player from more than one team in one location.”

On August 18, 2011, during a dismounted patrol in Afghanistan, Balama was wounded when he took shrapnel to both legs and his left elbow after a hand grenade landed approximately four inches from his left foot.  He hopes to return to his unit soon and to perform all of his assigned duties. Balama currently works as a mentor at the Ft. Knox WTB and has orders to become a squad leader. This position will enable him to continue his treatments and assist other Soldiers who are in recovery.

CBWTU-IL cadre member SFC Anthony Costa shared his thoughts about the trip as well. “This is a great opportunity to meet the stars and talk to a lot of different people. To see NFL players and all of these organizations come out and support the military is really great. Being able to share our stories and experiences is big. Everyone’s endearing attitude toward us and what Soldiers everywhere have done has been the highlight of my day.”

CBWTU-IL is a remote care unit, allowing Soldiers to recover in their hometowns, close to the support systems of their Families and communities.  It serves Soldiers from Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa. Costa served for 18 years and worked with the CBWTU-IL for four years.

Coach Charlie Hatcher, host of Sports Inside and Out, produced a live radio broadcast during the bowling classic.

These pre-Super Bowl events were a touchdown with the Soldiers.


Thanks for A Dog Named “Ike” – An Opportunity for More Independence for AW2 Veteran Christopher Paiser

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate
As an AW2 Advocate, I work with many Soldiers who face significant challenges after sustaining physical and emotional combat injuries, and have the courage to face their challenges and improve their quality of life. One such individual is AW2 Veteran Christopher Paiser. Paiser epitomizes what courage and rising above anything that is thrown against you are all about. His experience also emphasizes that there are many good people in this world who will go out of their way to assist Veterans like Chris.

Paiser deployed to Iraq with the Army National Guard 2nd/108th Infantry out of Morrisonville, NY, as a fire-team leader with 17 years of experience. In 2004, he took his fire team to the Post Exchange (PX) on their day off.  The facility came under rocket fire. He was hit with shrapnel and severely damaged his right eye.

He was medevaced to Baghdad, where doctors removed the shrapnel and then transferred him to Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) in Germany and the United States. Despite a belief that his sight would return in at least one eye, he didn’t regain vision in either. This was, as one might imagine, a very tough time for Chris and his family.

In a recent Press Republican article, Paiser discussed the depression following his injury saying, “I didn’t want to get off the couch or out of bed, and my wife (Mary) would say, ‘You didn’t come home in a box. Move.’”   Paiser went to a rehab center for the blind in Connecticut and learned to use a mobility cane and through these experiences he “was regaining some independence.”

At this point, AW2 connected Paiser with Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind, an AW2 Community Support Network organization that trains guide dogs for the blind, and Ike, a 2-year-old black Labrador. With this new addition to his Family , Paiser found an even greater sense of freedom and independence as Ike helped him find his way without relying on someone else’s guidance.

From my experience with Chris, it is clear that Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind is a great resource to assist blind AW2 Veterans like Paiser with finding the courage and perseverance to rise above any challenge on their path to independence. With companions like Ike, Chris and other sight-impaired Veterans can enjoy more freedom to engage in outside activities with Family and community resources.

Paiser recently spoke at an American Legion Veterans Day remembrance ceremony and continues on his way to greater independence.

February 2, 2012: Celebrating 111 years of Army Nursing

“Embrace the Past – Engage the Present – Envision the Future”

The history of the Army Nurse Corps began in 1899 when the Surgeon General used lessons learned from the Spanish-American War to articulate the need for a reserve force of Army nurses to meet wartime shortages.

Since that time, Army nurses have been serving the nation’s Soldiers on battlefields across the world.  They have endured the same hardships and dangers as our Soldiers on the front lines and earned the deep respect, gratitude, and trust of the American people.

As our Soldiers stand on point for our nation, defending freedom across the globe, they can rest assured that the Army Nurse Corps will continue to selflessly tend to our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers both on and off the battlefield.   As the Army transforms to meet the requirements of today’s battlefields, Army nurses will continue to consistently provide the quality of care our Soldiers expect and deserve.

“In her keynote address at the MHS conference, LTG Horoho asked that all healthcare professionals focus beyond patient visits and focus on improving health.” said COL Suzanne Scott, WTC Command Nurse, speaking on the role of nurses in the WTU triad of care. “Nurse case managers in our WTUs do just that.  We are there to help guide our Soldiers and their families through the transition process so that they can effectively move from point of illness or injury back to health and even greater; self determination.”

Scott continued, “Nurse case managers are at the forefront of influencing patient lives. Today is a great day to celebrate both our accomplishments and our goals for the future. The words of the 1944 Nurse Corps Song written by Private HY Zaret still rings true today for nursing and for case management:

‘We march along with faith undaunted,

Beside our gallant fighting men.

Whenever they are sick or wounded,

We march them back to health again.

As long as healing hands are wanted,

You’ll find the nurses of the Corps.

On ship or plane, on transport train,

At home or on a far off shore;

With loyal heart we do our part,

For the Army and the Army Nurse Corps.’

The Army Nurse Corps continues to care for the thousands of Soldiers recovering at Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) throughout the Army, and the Warrior Transition Command commends their tireless efforts to help them heal.


Project Odyssey: Making a Difference in the Lives of Wounded, Ill, and Injured Soldiers

SGT Victor Mendez, of Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe’s Alpha Company, climbs the rock wall at the St. Wendel Rock Climbing Park while participating in Project Odyssey on January 24, in St. Wendel Germany. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Mattice)

Last week, wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers from Warrior Transition Battalion – Europe’s Alpha Company had the opportunity to experience Project Odyssey at the Hambachtal Activity Center and Resort in Oberhambach, Germany.

Project Odyssey, conceptually founded on the Homeric epic of a war weary Greek general and the obstacles he faced returning from the Trojan wars, is an outdoor, rehabilitative retreat organized and charitably funded by Veterans and other members of the American public actively advocating for and supporting our men and women in uniform.

The power of this type of outdoor experience is best seen through the eyes of participants.  Speaking as a member of this particular retreat, one Alpha Company Soldier describes how these activities can influence the healing process at a deeper level.

“Injuries are not just ‘I have lost an arm or a leg.’ It’s more than that. There are injuries you can’t see that we deal with on a daily basis,” said Sgt. Ruben Bustos of A. Co. WTB-E. “This project takes you away from the stressors and puts you in the position of a caregiver through the team building exercises.”

The ability for such a retreat to take place and impact recovering Soldiers so far from home speaks to the deep need of grateful, caring Americans to reach out and do something positive for our country’s wounded, ill, and injured service members.

The Warrior Transition Command shares responsibility with Warrior Transition Unit leadership and others for ensuring wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families are aware of the resources and programs available to provide assistance.  Many of these organizations have committed to joining the Army Wounded Warrior Community Support Network (CSN).  We encourage all Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) and others that support wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families to join the CSN.

For more information on how you or your organization can become part of the Community Support Network, go to http://www.wtc.army.mil/aw2/community_support/index.html 


Keys to a New Future for AW2 Veteran Kevin Snow and Family

AW2 Veteran Kevin Snow and his Family receive a standing ovation and ceremonial keys to their new home before the Giants-Redskins game at MetLife stadium in New Jersey on December 19, 2012.

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate
As an AW2 Advocate, I am always humbled by the generosity of so many people who reach out to our AW2 Soldiers and Families in need, provide them with the resources to enhance their lives, and give them the opportunity for a better future in their path to independence.

One such Soldier and Family that received a great opportunity for a better future is AW2 Soldier Kevin Snow and his Family of five. On October 11, 2007, Snow, a Purple Heart recipient, was deployed with A Battery, 2nd of the 32nd Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Liberty, Iraq. While deployed, his FOB was subjected to a mortar attack with rounds landing five meters away from Snow.  He sustained shrapnel injuries and subsequently suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Snow Family has faced a myriad of challenges progressing through Snow’s recovery with PTSD and TBI. His Family was supporting him every step of the way through many hurdles and in-patient hospitalizations, especially his wife, Adrienne. The Snows have five children, including two special needs children, and were struggling to find an affordable house for their Family after leaving their last residence.

Mrs. Snow, while researching housing availability, contacted the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF), of San Antonio, Texas, regarding their Homes 4 Wounded Heroes program. The program awards mortgage-free homes to wounded heroes injured during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The homes are targeted toward Families who have severe and/or unique circumstances due to their injuries received while serving our country. In addition to the home, the Families receive three years of Family and financial mentoring. After several interviews with the MWSF, the Snow Family was approved for a mortgage-free home located in Atlantic County, New Jersey, donated by Chase Bank, at no expense to the Family. Snow said that the entire process took about four months. This was just the beginning. More was to come for Snow and his Family.

On December 19, Snow and his Family’s service was recognized at an NFL football game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium, in New Jersey, courtesy of the MWSF. The foundation also provided travel and hotel accommodations for Snow and his Family.  During the game, the Family received ceremonial keys for their new home, a standing ovation from the crowd, and a meet and greet with many of the NFL officials and sponsors present at the game. Snow commented to me “it’s great what ordinary Americans do in stepping up to assist wounded Soldiers like me, and I am so thankful to them.”

The Family is of course very excited about the new move. The Snow Family will be moving into their new home in Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County, New Jersey, in the February or March time frame in 2012.   They are looking forward to having a permanent home big enough for their large Family and the stability and peace of mind that brings. The Snow’s are also receiving support from other Veterans who are providing resources to cover their moving expenses, a real plus for a large Family  and again, showing the generosity of so many to our AW2 Families.  Snow, in talking about the experience, stated that “we were in a dire situation, had nowhere to turn and this organization opened up the door and gave us a new start which I am very thankful for.” Snow has attended many AW2 outreach activities and has spoken to groups on behalf of other AW2 Soldiers.

AW2 Soldiers who may be interested in looking at the programs provided by the Military Warriors Support Foundation can go to their web page at http://www.militarywarriors.org/programs

WTU Soldiers Gain Experience from Department of Defense Operation Warfighter Internship Program

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
The mahogany rectangle framed the picture of the doctor’s family easily distracted MSG Mary Moore’s attention – two children similar to her own. Turning her attention back to the doctor explaining the next steps to fighting cancer diagnosis, all Moore could think of was her children.

“I found out when I was going through the deployment process with my unit I had breast cancer,” said Moore, who  was assigned to the Fort Meade Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) and is now in remission and beginning the process of retiring from the Army and transitioning into the civilian workforce.

“I have two young children. What do I do now?” Moore asked herself  shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer and receiving more devastating news.

“On top of me having breast cancer, I lost my husband while he was deployed in Iraq,” Moore said. “We were married for 16 years. It set my family back like you wouldn’t believe.”

While assigned to the WTU, one of 29 units established to provide personal support to wounded, ill and injured Soldiers who require at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical management, Moore learned about Operation Warfighter (OWF), a Department of Defense internship program for wounded, ill and injured service members transitioning from the military into the civilian workforce.

“My squad leader told me about OWF,” Moore said. “I was told I could get an internship and if I decided to transfer out of the Army it’s a good way to network.”

After contacting OWF Moore caught the break she was looking for.  “One agency contacted me and I interviewed,” she said. “I was able to work in the software engineering program. I learned a lot while I was there. It was a good opportunity to use my leadership skills.”

Started in 2004, OWF represents an opportunity for transitioning service members to increase their employment readiness by building their resumes, exploring employment interests, developing job skills, benefiting from both formal and on-the-job training opportunities, and gaining valuable Federal government work experience that will help prepare them for the future.

“Soldiers in a WTU are encouraged to start or continue a college program to work towards a degree,” Adams said. “If the Soldier already has a degree then they volunteer to work either on- or off-post.”

“Usually if the Soldier is transitioning out of the Army we want them to explore a new career to build experiences that bridge their military career to civilian work,” she added. “We want to prepare the Soldiers for permanent employment.”

Servicemembers must be certified as medically cleared by their chain of command before they are able to participate in the program. Once medically cleared, the service member works with an OWF coordinator to identify and secure an internship opportunity.

“It’s a good opportunity for networking and meeting people  who can help you somewhere down the line,” said SGT Don Rhoda, a Ft. Meade WTU Soldier who also participated in the OWF program.

While deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, Rhoda, an infantryman directly exposed to improvised explosive devices more than 30 times, was diagnosed with a torn rotator and traumatic brain injury.

“I have to find something else to do their give me some experience that I can market,” said Rhoda. “OWF helped take somebody like me that doesn’t have a lot of popular skills and helped me realize the skills that I have are marketable.”

“You’re going to have a lot of offers from different agencies. Make sure you do your homework because it’s your choice. It’s not the other way around, you choose,” Rhoda added. “Make sure you make the right choice.”

According to the Military Homefront website, OWF has placed more than 2,000 service members in internships with more than 105 different Federal agencies and sub-components. These internships help wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers explore potential career and education paths as they weigh transition options.

When asked about her future and how OWF has helped her take a new path, Moore summed it up saying “Sometimes you find yourself in a position to try something different than what you’ve been doing all your life in the military. OWF is just one of the doors open for you, and I really appreciate it.”

For more information or if you have questions about OWF, find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/OperationWarfighter.

Write a blog for WTC

Warriors in Transition can submit a blog by e-mailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.