San Diego, the Next Epicenter of Growth for Operation Warfighter

Walt Myhre joined the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy as the Operation Warfighter Coordinator in San Diego, California.

Walt Myhre joined the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy as the Operation Warfighter Coordinator in San Diego, California.

As an Air Force training instructor for 11 years, Walter Myhre provided counsel and guidance to thousands of Airmen. Later, as a Recovery Care Coordinator, he discovered a new sense of reward while working with wounded, ill, and injured Service members from U.S. Special Operations Command.

“Your perspective on everything changes once you’ve had the opportunity to witness the sacrifices made by Service members and their families,” Myhre says. “They have such incredible dedication and optimism, working with them is life-changing.”

This past August, Myhre joined the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy as the Operation Warfighter Coordinator in San Diego, California.

From Fixing Airplanes to Counseling Service Members
Myhre started in the Air Force at age 17 as an aircraft mechanic on the B-52 G-model airframes. After 14 years of mechanic positions, he transitioned into military training at Lackland Air Force Base. As a military training instructor, Wing Career Assistance Advisor, Functional Manager for the Air Force Career Assistance Advisor Program, and finally as Training Superintendent for the 321st Training Squadron, Myhre counseled thousands of Airmen on their job responsibilities and future career plans.

“I believe this training experience will be valuable in Operation Warfighter,” Myhre said. “Contrary to popular belief, training instructors are much more than people yelling and screaming at folks. They’re counselors, guidance instructors, and family to a lot of people from varied backgrounds. Sometimes the campaign hat has to come off so you can help people deal with the realities of life.”

Understanding the Recovery and Reintegration Processes
In 2010, immediately after retiring from 25 years in the Air Force, Myhre began work as a Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC) in San Antonio.

His work as a SOCOM RCC was rewarding, challenging, and inspiring. He was often the first person to greet patients from U.S. Special Operations Command when they arrived directly from theatre. Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio is the primary facility for polytrauma and burn patients, so Myhre assisted many Service members and families as they dealt with the grief, concern, and uncertainty that accompany a traumatic injury.

He was also there with them as they began to consider choices for their new career path.

“Service members go through the Medical Evaluation Board process and the Physical Evaluation Board process, and then I’ve seen the question hit them in the face: ‘What am I going to do?’” Myhre says. “They say, ‘I’m 26, I’m damaged goods, I’ve got a minimal retirement and some VA benefits, but what am I going to contribute?’”

Helping Recovering Service Members Make a Valuable Contribution
Experiences like that have convinced Myhre that a Service member’s sense of contribution is vitally important to their recovery and wellness.

“The people we work with are high-quality people who contribute to a team, but then suddenly they’re in the position of fighting alone. I don’t think a Service member completes the cycle of recovery until they feel value-added again,” he said. “The quicker we can help them feel like they’re part of a team and contributing–in a military or civilian setting–the better off they and their families will be.”

Myhre said he is excited to put his experience with career advisement and his understanding of the recovery process to good use as he helps Service members find meaningful internship experience through Operation Warfighter.

Growing the Program in San Diego
As Operation Warfighter continues to expand across the country, Myrhe will be focusing his efforts on internship placements for recovering Service members at Naval Medical Center San Diego (Balboa) and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Critical to his success will be collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs and their VetSuccess program, which assists veterans in preparing for and finding employment, and has strong roots in the San Diego area.

“I can see there’s a rich pool of government agencies with potential internships, and I’ll have to work hard to get as many as possible on board,” Myhre said. “That’s going to be one of my prime targets, making sure we’ve got spaces for all the interested Service members.”

“To me, the most valuable thing we can provide a Service member is an opportunity and a path to get into position and contribute again. Operation Warfighter is the vehicle to do that,” he said.