Operation Warfighter Provides Opportunities and Valuable Experience to Recovering Service Members

Aaron “Todd” Dawson, Northeast Regional Coordinator for OWF, networks with Recovery Service members at an event.

Operation Warfighter (OWF) is a Department of Defense (DoD) internship program that provides opportunities for Recovering Service Members (RSMs) to gain valuable work experience with federal agencies during their rehabilitation process. The main objective of OWF is to place RSMs in supportive work settings that positively impact their recovery. The program serves as an opportunity to facilitate RSMs to develop and practice newly assessed and identified work skills in a nonmilitary work environment. 

The first step in the OWF process is to obtain “medical and command approval” from the RSMs recovery team and chain of command. Once an RSM is determined to be ready to participate, a Regional Coordinator assists the individual in identifying an internship opportunity based on their interests and capabilities. Once agreed on placement, the OWF Regional Coordinator works with the RSM and the agency to obtain necessary security clearances, workplace accommodations, and transportation assistance. The Regional Coordinator, along with the Service Member’s Recovery team, stays in contact with both the Service Member and the agency throughout the placement to collect monthly feedback. 

Interns gain experience from federal agencies such as Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce/National Technical Information Service (NTIS), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), USDA Wildlife Service, and Naval Criminal Investigative Service.  A Recovery Service Member had the opportunity to participate in an internship with NCIS through the OWF program. This is what the RSM learned and the positive feedback the agency gave during his time there.

I had the pleasure of supervising an RSM during his Operation Warfighter internship with the NCIS Hawaii Field Office. During the internship, he served as an Assistant Intelligence Analyst assigned to the NCIS Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickman Criminal Squad. The RSM developed a fundamental understanding of intelligence concepts in both theory and practice, such as the application of the traditional intelligence cycle in a law enforcement setting, the missions of various U.S. federal agencies, and their specific roles within the Intelligence Community and the best practices in regards to interagency relationships and information sharing.  The RSM also gained valuable work experience with shadowing NCIS Special Agents during field activities such as observing subject interviews, attending autopsies, installing covert technical surveillance equipment, and assisting with minor tasks during crime scene examinations.   

Most notable was his contributions towards the success of a recent joint, multi-agency Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) enticement operation, and separately, a project related to analyzing the extent of Human Trafficking by way of Illicit Massage Businesses on Oahu, HI. The RSM familiarized himself with the duties & responsibilities of other support element positions in the office, such as the Program Support Analyst and Evidence Custodian. He also learned other disciplines within NCIS’ Global Operations to include Cyber, Polygraph, Technical Services, and Technical Surveillance Counter Measures.  

Federal internships allow RSMs to develop and practice newly assessed and identified work skills in a nonmilitary work environment.  It gives them the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in the civilian yet government jobs.

Regional Coordinators have relationships with over 240 federal agencies throughout the United States. Operation Warfighter has placed more than 6,000 Recovery Service Members in federal internships and help them transition to civilian life.

For more information about OWF, visit https://warriorcare.dodlive.mil/ or contact us at OSD.OWF@mail.mil