JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The Army Career and Education Readiness Program offers Soldiers in transition several resources including internships, vocational training, continuing education and work assignments within the Army.

"Soldiers who are transitioning out of the military have a choice of working on their career or pursuing their education or some type of certification that will help them toward their career as they transition from the military," explained Pam Mandell, Brooke Army Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalion transition coordinator.

"Soldiers who are remaining in the military can work in different organizations throughout Joint Base San Antonio while they are in the WTB."

CER activities are a required component of transition for all eligible WTB Soldiers. To be eligible medical management must conclude a Soldier medically, emotionally and physically ready to participate and the WTB commander determines if the Soldier demonstrates the initiative and self-discipline for CER activities.

Soldiers begin working with members of their CER team during in-processing. These cadre members help the Soldier set career goals and find meaningful CER activities that align with their goals.

Career planning ensures Soldiers' CER activities are providing them with skills and knowledge that will best suit them for their future roles.

Soldiers participating in CER can utilize the Operation Warfighter Initiative, a federal internship program established by the Department of Defense in 2006. The goal of the Initiative is to match service members with opportunities that utilize both their military and non-military skills, creating productive assignments that are beneficial to both the service member and the employer.

"Operation Warfighter is an internship opportunity to get to go work with a federal agency to learn to use the skills you learned in the military, as well as gain extra work experience that is going to look great on your resume," said Erasmo Valles, regional coordinator for Operation Warfighter, during a recent WTB town hall meeting.

"It's going to give you a chance to see a bird's eye view of an agency to see if it's what you would like to do or just to get out of the barracks and acclimatize yourself to the civilian workforce."

Staff Sgt. James Barrett is currently interning as an intelligence research specialist with the Drug Enforcement Administration and is hopeful he will soon be employed there.

"I took some college classes but at the same time while transitioning out [of the Army] I asked the transition coordinator to help me find an internship which would allow me to get some experience with a civilian agency," Barrett said. "I took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me."

Barrett highly encourages his fellow WTB Soldiers to explore the possibilities available to them.
"Most of the people you work with are prior military and they are happy to have us come give whatever assistance we can provide," he said.

Interns work side-by-side with research specialists, explained Henry Gonzalez from the DEA.

"We are not only looking for people with an intelligence background but anyone who has a reconnaissance, law enforcement, or administrative experience," Gonzalez said. "We will train them to get the experience as an intelligence research specialist."

Spc. James Burkett is currently interning with the U.S. Secret Service.

"I will go to my medical appointments half the day and then the other half I'll go to my internship," Burkett said. "I'm also going to school full-time; I will be graduating this December with a Bachelor's degree."

"We are looking for Operation Warfighter interns," said Scarlet Bennett, U.S. Secret Service. "Spc. Burkett has done an excellent job. Part of his duties is to help us with counterfeit currency that comes in. He has also helped with in-town protective security."

Burkett is also hoping to be hired with the U.S. Secret Service. "It's looking more and more favorable," he said.

The representatives from the DEA and the U.S. Secret Service said the hiring process takes time, so it's better to start an internship sooner than later.

"We currently have 13 Soldiers participating in internships through the Operation Warfighter program in several agencies including Homeland Security, human resources, transportation, DEA, Secret Service, U.S. Marshalls and [Defense Finance and Accounting Service]," Mandell said.

"Most of the organizations we work with have hiring authority so they can bring the Soldiers in as interns so they can work their way up once they transition out of the military."