By Kalene Lozick, Fort Riley Public AffairsJanuary 16, 2018
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- As a program, USO Pathfinder at Fort Riley is designed so each of its representatives, called scouts, will stay with the transitioning Soldier a year prior to leaving the military and continue with them until they are successful in the civilian world, approximately a year after they've left.
"We opened our doors and had a ribbon cutting in November 2016," said Crystal Bryant-Kearns, site manager USO Pathfinder. "We just completed our first full calendar year from January 2017 to December 2017. We served 845 transitioning service members this year. Of those, 175 were hired and 56 were enrolled in college."
As a whole, USO Pathfinder has 13 sites across the U.S. Among the 13, Fort Riley is ranked on top.
"Fort Riley is the top producer across the entire enterprise (of USO) within the nation -- and that is 13 sites we have so we feel really proud of that," Bryant-Kearns said. "Eventually we would like to be supporting every transitioning service member -- that is our target."
Each month, Fort Riley transitions about 300 service members out of the Army. The USO Pathfinder program reaches out to one-third of them.
"When you look at 300 transitioning service members, we would love to serve all of them, but at this point we are serving about a third of them," she said. "If you look at the 45 we were doing per month (at the beginning), we are now serving 90 to 100 per month … That is based on current data."
Of those transitioning service members USO Pathfinder serves, Bryant-Kearns said many of them are still in the service and some have to transition into civilian life.
"When I first started it was not USO Pathfinder yet, it was RP/6 (Rally Point 6)," George Alexander, transitioned Soldier June in 2017, said.
He was a part of the first group that went through USO Pathfinders. The biggest take away from the program, he said, was the stress relief.
Rally Point 6 was the original name for USO Pathfinder. The approach of the program remained the same, a place where transitioning Soldiers can come to get questions answered.
"From having problems with your chain of command to figuring stuff out with (Department of Veterans Affairs) loans, how to get your medical records, what happens if you don't pick your medical records up and how to re-request your medical records," Alexander said.
He laughed when he mentioned what happened when someone don't pick up their medical records because John Verschage, senior scout at USO Pathfinder and Alexander's fellow scout, walked him through the process.
"It's the one-on-one contact," Verschage said.
Sgt. Taylor Roberson, Company B, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, said when he was out at field, he had a question for Verschage and within minutes got a response from him.
"I can call up anyone in the office and ask about a regulation and they can tell me on the spot," Roberson said. "If they don't know it, they say give me five minutes and they get back to me."
Bryant-Kearns said these events happen because relationships are built based on the scouts caring for each Soldier.
"One word to describe it is relationships," she said. "We have and develop relationships. We have a relationship with every single one of our clients and every single one of our partners. We know everyone we are working with."
Relationships also help maintain network bonds. The USO Pathfinder maintains 200 partnerships with organizations across the U.S.
"There are 200 partners across this region that have come together to ask how can we support the transitioning service members and we have bridged the gap for them," she said.
The USO Pathfinders is another resource hub available to transitioning service members and their families. As a USO program, many people recognize the name across the nation.
As one of many programs at Fort Riley for transitioning Soldiers, USO Pathfinders is an additional resource Soldiers can use alongside to Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program.
"We are the forces behind the forces and on their path forward we got their back," she said. "That is our tagline. 'On your path forward we have your back,' we really mean that. We essentially want to help them no matter what they are going through, no matter what they are doing and we want them to know (they) can come in here any time have a seat, a cup of coffee and tell us about what's going on in their life."