Fort Riley Launches Warrior Internship Network
May 15, 2008
For wounded warriors who may not stay in the military, after recovering from their injuries, one thing that weighs heavily on their minds, is what kind of work they’ll be able to do, once they become civilians. It’s something that’s a huge worry to many of them, because often, they’ve spent much of their adult life in the military and their jobs skills sometimes don’t transfer well into the civilian workplace. Programs such as this, set the Soldiers transitioning into civilian life, allow the transitioning Soldier the opportunity to succeed and excel.
At Fort Riley, Kansas, it’s been recognized that this can be a problem and officials there have taken their Warrior Transition Unit one step further, by partnering with the Junction City, Kansas based Welcome Home to Heroes Foundation to create the Warrior Internship Network. Soldiers who participate in the program are placed as interns within approved businesses, in order to gain experience in different vocations and provide them with practical job skills that can aid them in obtaining employment once they’re out of the military.
“The WIN provides a mutally positive opportunity for the Soldiers and the community,” said Col. Lee Merritt, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Riley. “This is Fort Riley stepping out to do right by our injured and ill Soldiers, and this benefits the Greater Fort Riley community, by putting valuable Soldier skills, experience and discipline assets into the local business community.”
Soldiers who are interested in the program, are screened to determine the types of jobs that they’re capable of doing, as well as to determine what types of jobs that they might be interested in. Through the WIN program, there are a vast number of options available to the Soldier. They might chose to learn the construction trade, learn mechanics, not only on cars, but planes and motorcycles. They may decide that they’d be interested in becoming a massage therapist or perhaps work as a deejay at one of the local radio stations. Business from many different fields are participating in the program.
“The workplaces and the Soldiers have to be mutually right for each other,” said Tom Kelly, guidance counselor for the Warrior Transition Brigade’s Soldier and Family Assistance Center. “The businesses must be safe, ergonomically sound and provide a positive work experience based upon a good match with a Soldier-intern.”
One Soldier participating in the program, Sgt. John Iaukea was trained as a tank mechanic in the Army. He was able to utilize his analytical and mechanical skills in a job at Geary Community Hospital. He feels that the program is the best thing the Army has done for him, as he’s able to fill his days with productive and meaningful work, instead of sitting around worrying about his injuries and whether his decreased physical abilities would affect being able to get a job.
This is a great opportunity for the young men and women who are part of the Warrior Transition Units. I think it’s fantastic that the military is putting forth the effort they are to ensure that our wounded warriors are able to either stay in the military, or more easily transition into the civilian workforce. This is a program that should have been in place many years ago.