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.