ARLINGTON, Va. – On a brisk Wednesday morning in March, a gray blanket of clouds covered the bustling festivities within the USO Warrior and Family Center at the Fort Belvoir Soldier Recovery Unit in Virginia.
March kicked off the first of three Career and Education Festival events, with the other two happening in June and November of this year. Several recovering Soldiers excitedly approached employer booths set up by public- and private-sector agencies in search of the best talent offered by U.S. Army Soldiers. This is an important initiative that focuses on transitioning wounded, ill and injured Soldiers to sustainable jobs after their military service.
Theda Franklin, a senior transition coordinator at the SRU, said this event brings her joy to see these individuals figuring out their next steps after recovery.
“We once had a service member who only thought she could do one thing in life,” she mentioned. “However, as she visited the booths, she realized her capability of doing a wide range of tasks under multiple agencies.”
Franklin said she loves assisting the Soldiers in broadening their horizons and constantly encourages them to step out of their comfort zones. Whether it’s helping them spruce up their résumés or dressing for success, she and other committed coordinators are ready to provide a smooth transition into civilian life.
After the Soldiers move into new positions, they can always stay in contact with their transition coordinators. This is crucial because sometimes the job may be too difficult, didn’t meet expectations or just isn’t a good fit for them.
“If they are struggling or need something,” Franklin added, “then we are here to assist and navigate them through the next phase.”
Staff Sgt. Christa Hopple joined the SRU during the summer of 2021 and currently interns with the Army in the area of logistics. She stated the SRU helped her expand her skill sets and this gave her a boost in confidence. Hopple is also working on her second internship with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“Everyone [at the SRU] has really come together to help us out in order to transition us from a Soldier to a civilian,” she said. “The SRU has definitely shown me that the skills I’ve taken from the Army can also be used in the federal government.”
Josie Boone, deputy director of the Hopper Information Services Center in the Office of Naval Intelligence, loved how the career event turned out. She and her team manage all submitted applications in the system. In addition to that, she offers the Soldiers guidance in their job searches. Boone ultimately appreciates the opportunity the festival offers her in helping others in need.
“We’re glad to be here to help the Soldiers and to support whatever they may need in their future careers,” she said. “We try to encourage them as they move throughout the process in any way possible. There are plenty of open positions for anyone interested.”
Sgt. Patrick Barker spent some time in South Korea where he sustained a serious injury. He decided to move to Virginia with his family in August 2021 to begin the recovery process at Fort Belvoir.
After completing most of his recovery at the SRU, Barker revealed that his biggest fear at the time was leaving without an opportunity for a career. Fort Belvoir quickly quelled his concerns by connecting him with the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency in Quantico, Virginia. He loves the variety the position offers.
“I’m not just learning or doing one thing, and that’s the best thing about this internship,” Barker said.
Maj. TraMel Perry arrived at the SRU two years ago and took advantage of her free time in recovery to work on a degree in software engineering. She began the program in August 2020 and anticipates completion in August of this year.
For over 25 years, she worked as a reservist for logistics and a software engineer in the federal government. Perry gave a lot of credit to the SRU for allowing her the freedom to accomplish her goals.
“The SRU gave me time to sit and reflect, [and] time to heal emotionally and spiritually as well,” she said. “Doing my masters gave me focus for whenever my mind wandered to past traumatic experiences. It also gave me a better view of the future. When I’m done with the Army, I will have a future because I’ve built the foundation to get me where I want to go.”
The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. Visit our website at https://arcp.army.mil