FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — For many Soldiers, securing a successful career after serving in the Army starts with the opportunities they take advantage of as they begin to transition out of the military. One of the major resources that prepares Soldiers is the Army Career Skills Program.
The program provides transitioning Soldiers the opportunity to participate in employment-skills training, on-the-job training, pre-apprenticeships and internships with a high probability of employment in high-demand and highly-skilled jobs — all while the service member retains their pay and allowances, said Requisha Cannon, CSP installation administrator for Fort Leonard Wood.
“Service members should definitely take this seriously,” she said. “It’s a perfect opportunity to set themselves up for success as they transition out of the military.”
The CSP provides structured opportunities, in addition to allowing some flexibility to meet the service member’s needs, Cannon said.
“There are about 200 established programs throughout the country for service members to pick from, but if a service member is not finding an opportunity that immediately matches their need, they can actually build their own internship,” she said.
If a Soldier does not find any programs that suit their needs in the CSP — and they don’t want to set up their own internship — Cannon said the Department of Defense also offers a similar program called SkillBridge.
“To date, they have over 3,500 opportunities available,” she said. “There’s something for every skill set.”
With both CSP and SkillBridge, service members can opt for internships on or near their home installation, or anywhere else in the country, Cannon said. Either way, the program lasts 180 days, and is aligned with the service member’s expiration — term of service, or ETS, date to make employment offers and start dates easier to schedule.
“However, if a service member is being medically retired, they are in a very unique situation, where they are not limited to that 180-day mark,” she said. “They have the option to do a longer CSP with their command’s approval, or they can do more than one internship.”
Capt. Elton Wright is an Army engineer, who went through the medical review board process and is transitioning out of the Army after serving for about six years. He looked through the established internships on offer and decided instead to reach out to a colleague at the Directorate of Public Works at Fort Leonard Wood. He will complete the program in March, and he said the skills he developed during his time in the CSP are already coming in handy — Wright said he has a couple of job prospects with energy companies back in his hometown of Washington, D.C.
“The CSP was an amazing opportunity,” he said. “Being an intern, the expectation is just to learn and develop, and one of the huge assets for me was learning to use a drafting software that, for engineering firms, engineering departments, is a desired skill.”
April Pehoski was medically retired as a sergeant first class in November, after 13 years of service.
In the Army, Pehoski was a geospatial engineer, and she was able to complete her internship with the U.S. Geological Survey in Rolla, Missouri, where she has now been working since January.
Pehoski said after hearing a little about the CSP, she was hooked.
“All I was seeing was money on the table,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m getting that money.’ In my field, in geospatial engineering, a lot of us are geared toward the three-letter agencies — the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or the National Security Agency, the CIA — because we have a clearance. That gets you in the door, but not everyone wants to do that — stay in that type of environment. When my husband and I looked at what was available for me in the CSP, and the USGS came up, I was like, ‘That is a winner.’ It’s a government job, but it lets you see if this is something you want to do in the civilian world.”
For Staff Sgt. Allen Huerta, who has been a combat medic in the Army a little more than 10 years, his internship at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital — with its large civilian Tricare beneficiary population — was an opportunity to learn how to translate his qualifications and experience into something a civilian would understand after he decided it was time to try something new.
“Military medicine and civilian medicine are completely different,” he said. “I’ve been interviewing for jobs lately, and that stood out. Some of my experience, I tried to make it make sense, but some of the stuff they see I did at the hospital here helped connect the dots.”
Cannon said there are no costs to the service member — only benefits.
“Employers are looking to provide training at no cost to the service member,” she said. “A lot of times, they are looking to employ afterward, so they are upskilling that service member and making sure that they are trained and prepared. There are some programs that even offer credentialing. Even if a service member is not hired by that employer, sometimes they’re connected with some of that employer’s partners, so it’s a really great opportunity.”
For more information on the CSP, or any other programs available to transitioning service members at Fort Leonard Wood, call 573-596-0719.