By Lisa MedranoMay 12, 2008
FORT RILEY, Kan. (Army News Service, May 12, 2008) - While Army installations around the country have improved services and dedicated additional staff to taking care of wounded warriors, officials at Fort Riley are going a step further with an internship program for Soldiers in the post's Warrior Transition Battalion.
Fort Riley's WTB and supporting medical units have partnered with the Junction City, Kan.-based Welcome Home to Heroes Foundation to develop the ground-breaking Warrior Internship Network.
Soldiers in the WIN program are placed as non-paid interns within approved businesses to experience different vocations and give them practical experience in securing employment.
"The WIN provides a mutually positive opportunity for the Soldiers and the community," said Col. Lee Merritt, commander, WTB, Fort Riley. "This is Fort Riley stepping out to do right by our injured and ill Soldiers, and this benefits the Greater Fort Riley Community by putting valuable Soldier skills, experience and discipline assets into the local business community."
Soldiers interested in the WIN program are first screened to determine not only the types of jobs they're capable of doing, but also for the type of job they would enjoy doing.
"The workplaces and the Soldiers have to be mutually right for each other," said Tom Kelly, guidance counselor for the WTB's Soldier and Family Assistance Center. "The businesses must be safe, ergonomically sound and provide a positive work experience based upon a good match with a Soldier-intern."
Soldiers have a vast array of internship options through the WIN program. They may head to one of the many construction sites around this post with a swelling population. Soldiers may turn a wrench working on cars, motorcycles or airplanes. They might learn the art of massage therapy or work as a deejay at a local radio station.
Sgt. John Iaukea was trained as a tank mechanic and uses his analytical and mechanical skills at Geary Community Hospital. "This is the best thing the Army has ever done," he said, adding that filling his days with productive, meaningful work is much better than dwelling on his injuries and reduced physical abilities.
The WIN is different from the Army Career and Alumni Program in that Soldiers employ their skills in resume writing and interviewing and actually go to work. The program is meant to reduce the level of uncertainty and stress associated with exiting the military.
First Lt. Mike Stewart considers the WIN program invaluable for young Soldiers whose only work experience is the U.S. Army.
"They have the opportunity to explore other career fields and make career adjustments, and still have the Army to fall back on," he said.
(Lisa Medrano works for the Irwin Army Community Hospital Public Affairs Office)