Injured Soldier obtains internship with National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency through the Army Recovery Care Program

By MaryTherese GriffinMay 22, 2024

When it comes to the SRU, you will come out better than you went in
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo courtesy Staff Sgt. Michael Smith)

Staff Sgt Michael Smith on deployment in August 2022 in the Middle East. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)
When it comes to the SRU, you will come out better than you went in
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo courtesy Michael Smith)

NYPD Officer Michael Smith and his children and grandson. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)
When it comes to the SRU, you will come out better than you went in
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo courtesy Staff Sgt Michael Smith)

CSM Garth Newell, Staff Sgt Michael Smith, and Col Joseph Messina. (Photo Credit: Courtesy)

FALLS CHURCH, Va.- Staff Sgt. Michael Smith has spent fourteen years as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear specialist. He’s worked worldwide, decontaminating equipment and personnel as a Reservist. “I was born and raised in Harlem; my family is from Brooklyn. Back home, I was an NYPD traffic officer,” said the 56-year-old.

He injured his thumb on a deployment to Kuwait in March of 2022. It might not sound like much, and Smith didn’t think it was until it affected his work. “I had my injury on profile but went back to work only I learned I couldn’t do what I was supposed to.”

For the next several months, he did many things to solve for X, doing what he could to contribute to the mission. “Mostly, I learned to utilize the other four fingers on my right hand because I am right-handed. What drew my attention to the injury was accidentally banging it in the simplest of ways; it felt like a lightning bolt that shot into my hand.”

He went on sick call and eventually had an MRI. He said the MRI revealed the severity of his injury.

“I was waiting for the doc to tell me about it, thinking it was an easy fix, but when they showed me the MRI and told me I had to go home, I was upset- I didn’t want to leave.”

The ligaments were torn, and surgery was needed. “In Oct 2022, I arrived at the Fort Belvoir SRU- I had surgery in Jan 2023. I do have 70-80% use of my thumb again. There are a few things I can't do, like cook or hold something heavy.”

Smith is facing a medical board because of this and other medical issues and is working on programs within the SRU to help him with a new career. “I knew within a week of getting here to the FT Belvoir SRU that I like it here and don’t want to be anywhere else. I love being close to DC. My education level is that I have a high school diploma. My transition coordinator, Mr. James Coleman, talked about accreditation and that I needed some marketable skills. I acquired my IT certificates and got the right clearance. As of January, I was accepted into an internship program!”

Smith is interning with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and hopes to secure an IT job. “I had no how much the SRU would help me, especially going through medical retirement. It’s scary. I am approaching the sunset of my life, and I have 15, maybe 20 years to contribute to agencies out there. I want an opportunity to share my skills from the military and my IT talent with the world. I’m ready!”

Smith is thankful he sought help within the SRU and hopes others will take every opportunity available, regardless of the outcome of their recovery journey. “You will come out better than what you went in. It's up to the individual Soldier to maximize the opportunity.”