Patten and Dubey Find the Right Fit Through Operation Warfighter


While on deployment to El Salvador in May 2017, Navy AE2 Sarah Patten took a utility vehicle for a routine trip to the base’s security gate. Unfortunately, the trip went from routine to harrowing when her utility vehicle hit a barrier and crashed. The accident damaged the right side of her face, including a skull fracture, and caused blindness in her right eye. After being hospitalized and enduring a twelve-hour surgery, Patten recovered in San Antonio, Texas. “I was losing my mind trying to figure out the next step,” said Patten, referring to her time spent in recovery.

The commanding officer at Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy’s Wounded Warrior Program, told her about the Operation Warfighter Federal Internship Program – OWF for short – and the Education and Employment Initiative, known as E2I. For Patten, OWF would end up providing an internship opportunity, and E2I would provide the educational and career development support she needed to transition into the civilian workforce.

When she was able, Patten began an internship with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency of the Department of Labor. Patten credits the internship with developing her workplace and organizational skills. Her OWF coordinator checks in with Patten every two-to-three weeks to see how she is doing, making sure the internship continues to be a good fit.

In preparing for transition, Patten is pursuing a core leadership opportunity with a government contracting company. She is also working on her Federal Aviation Administration certification for repairing airplanes, which was a passion of hers when she entered the military.

“They’ve been very helpful with mock interviews, building my resume, working with my schedule, and more,” she said, speaking about those who have supported her recovery and transition preparation.

“Operation Warfighter has been fantastic with the opportunities I’ve been given,” Patten says. “I would tell service members to make sure they are using every opportunity provided to them to really make the most of this program.”

“I wanted direction in my life, and it just so happened there was a presentation by the National Guard.”

Army  Staff Sgt. Peter Dubey, now retired, always thought about pursuing a career in radiology. However, he became a mortar man in the infantry, and later worked in military intelligence.

During his military service, Dubey was diagnosed with a tumor in his leg. Despite multiple successful surgeries, the tumor kept returning, with the most recent diagnosis in 2016. The outlook for Dubey’s military career looked grim, and once again, he was looking for direction.

While he was assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Dubey learned about OWF. Though Dubey had planned to join the National Security Agency, he learned about an opportunity with the Drug Enforcement Administration that piqued his interest.

“The DEA has allowed me to make an immediate impact on the community, and they have helped me achieve personal and professional growth,” he says, noting how accommodating they were with his rehab appointments and school schedule. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Intelligence Studies.

His OWF coordinator recognized Dubey’s go-getter personality and knew he’d be a great fit at the DEA. Dubey frequently contacts his supervisor and OWF coordinator, discussing his progress both in and out of the workplace.

“Operation Warfighter really helps soldiers,” Dubey says of the program. “They will work with you to find something that fits.”

For many, a career serving the nation in uniform is the perfect fit, fulfilling a sense of duty to one’s country, as well as providing a means to achieve personal goals. However, a traumatic injury or illness can force service members to seek a new way to accomplish those goals—or set new ones. For Patten and Dubey, OWF and other supporting resources have helped them transition into the civilian sector.