Nearly 21 years in the Army taught Mike Crowe a few things about how to connect with Service members, and that’s a skill he’s putting to good use as Operation Warfighter’s newest Regional Coordinator, covering Fort Carson, Colo. and the surrounding area.
Mike joined the Army seven days after his high school graduation in 1990. He started as an infantryman, then attended airborne school and deployed to Saudi Arabia with the 82nd Airborne as part of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. After a one year assignment in Korea, Mike came back as a squad leader with the 101st Airborne, but his wife came down with a back condition and the family relocated to Fort Gordon, Georgia for her treatment.
“That was hard for me,” Mike said. “It was always job first, but now it needed to be family first.”
The reassignment did open a door, however, for Mike to pursue a career change. Once his wife recovered, it was back to Fort Bragg were Mike earned his Green Beret before being assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson in 1999.
But, it wasn’t all smooth sailing from there. In 2006, Mike was involved in a parachute accident during training, breaking his pelvis. His recovery took about a year. So when Mike talks to Service members about how to best use a long recovery time, he speaks from experience.
“I use myself as an example all the time,” Mike said. “If I had known about OWF then, that would have been a perfect opportunity to get out there, get some experience and beef up my resume.”
The opportunity to become familiar with the civilian job market is one of the biggest benefits of OWF, Mike said, and is the thing he stresses most to recovering Service members.
“There’s a big difference between military life and civilian life,” Mike said. “You need what I call ‘civlian survival skills.’ And the more civilian survival skills you can develop while you’re still in uniform, the more beneficial that will be for you later on.”
The chance to try out different types of jobs and career fields is another benefit of OWF, Mike said. But perhaps the biggest benefit is the way participation in OWF can contribute positively to a Service member’s recovery.
“You’re out there and you’re doing something new and hopefully you’re excited about it,” Mike said. “And when you’re excited, you’re happy. And when you’re happy your mind is off your aches and ailments and that really contributes to what I call healthy healing.”
To help the program grow in the Fort Carson area, Mike is collaborating with all the nearby Federal agencies, as well as with representatives from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) who help place Service members in permanent, full-time employment once their transition from the military is complete.
Mike is also trying to bring the tight-knit care and concern he experienced in the Special Forces to a wider group of recovering Service members. And that includes reminding Service members that, even if their military careers are over and life is not unfolding the way they might have hoped, the possibilities in front of them are endless.
“When I talk to these Service members I tell them, ‘The world is your oyster,’” Mike said. “You just gotta dream.”