Preparing for a post-military career can start well before separation from service, even if recovering from a serious injury or illness.
Operation Warfighter (OWF) is a DPD federal internship program that matches seriously ill or injured service members with internship opportunities, allowing them to develop new skills and prepare for the transition to civilian life during their recovery and rehabilitation.
The transition process for ill and injured service members is often lined with additional hurdles. Navigating medical appointments and participating in physical therapy are among the many steps that come during recovery and rehabilitation. However, for many, there are day-to-day struggles that can sometimes eclipse everything else that’s happening as part of the transition process. OWF exists to provide the customized, flexible and personal support these service members need.
Since 2006, more than 9,000 service members have been placed in federal internships through OWF. For these service members, OWF has been an opportunity to improve skills, enhance personal marketability, build professional networks and increase career options. The OWF model demonstrates to service members that the skills obtained in the military are transferable to civilian employment while enabling federal employers to familiarize themselves better with the skill sets of service members and benefit from their considerable talent and dedication.
The Benefits of Internships
Studies have found those who participate in internships before joining the civilian workforce are more likely to learn about their career options and their professional likes and dislikes. This process helps interns to more quickly and efficiently identify a career path, which can lead to a more stable career trajectory.
Timothy Baker, the director of acquisition for DOD’s Joint Staff J7 Directorate, has led the charge to build their internship program through OWF. “As anyone who has been in uniform knows, transition is a very scary proposition,” said Baker. “You thought you were going to be a service member for many years and all of the sudden you have to do something different. We see interns emerge from OWF having developed new and marketable skills that significantly help in their search to find meaningful and steady careers in a difficult job market.”
For OWF interns, the experience can be transformative. More than 90 percent of recent OWF participants who completed post-program evaluations indicated their internship was an important part of their recovery process. More than 95 percent reported they would recommend OWF to another service member in transition.
“OWF is a great program and working with my agency of choice helped me confirm my decision for my post military career in the agriculture field,” according to a service member who recently completed an internship with the Department of Agriculture. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to focus on my transition thanks to OWF.”
Participating in OWF
Service members interested in participating in OWF should be aware of two primary considerations:
Currently, the top five agencies supporting OWF internships are Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Agriculture. However, OWF’s 10 regional coordinators have relationships with many other agencies and offices throughout the United States. OWF Regional Coordinators work with service members to match them with their desired internship. Nearly 80 percent of service members are placed in an internship with their desired agency.