The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Joint Staff J7 Directorate is responsible for the six functions of joint force development: doctrine, education, concept development and experimentation, training, exercises, and lessons learned. In 2011, the J7 took on a new responsibility when the directorate began offering federal internship opportunities to wounded, ill and injured service members through the Operation Warfighter (OWF) program.
Timothy Baker is the director of Resource Management and Acquisition for J7, and he has led the charge to build their Wounded Warrior Internship program through OWF. “As anyone who has been in uniform knows, transition is a very scary proposition,” said Baker. “You thought you were going to be a service member for many years and all of the sudden you have to do something different. The Joint Staff understands the need for support during this time and we are all very dedicated to the program’s success.”
OWF is a DoD internship program that matches qualified wounded, ill and injured service members with federal internships. These internships provide service members with valuable experience during their recovery and rehabilitation, allowing them to develop new skills and prepare for transition to civilian status. The Joint Staff is one of hundreds of federal agencies that have committed to help strengthen service members’ resolve, while providing an opportunity for them to showcase their skills, talents and abilities. To date, 31 service members have participated in the Joint Staff internship program through OWF.
A current participant, Marine Sgt. Buster Miscusi, enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 2010; In 2015, Miscusi was diagnosed with an illness that would render him unfit for duty.. After transferring to the Marine Wounded Warrior Battalion East at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., he started his internship at the J7 in November 2015.
“A small percentage of service members will have to transition before they’re ready and before they have closure - I fall firmly into that category,” Miscusi said. “I had just reenlisted when I was diagnosed and my contract wasn’t set to expire until 2019. Being told that you can no longer serve in the military is a hard experience, to say the least, especially for those who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
The J7 staff understands the need to be a part of the larger whole. “The warrior ethos is alive here because the J7 is providing direct support for the forces and the warfighters,” Baker said. “What happened to you in Iraq or Afghanistan or what injury or sickness you sustained will always be important, but doesn’t have to end there and it doesn’t have to define you.”
This message resonated with Miscusi, who is now exploring careers in defense contracts and acquisition. “What this internship has given me is the ability to stay in the fight and to still serve that higher calling to defend our nation.” Miscusi said.
Miscusi and the other interns have also had a profound impact on the Joint Staff. “Warriors come in and they bring a sense of purpose that reinvigorates the workforce,” said Baker. “You see this young, motivated Marine like Buster and they start telling you about the impact of what you do every day; it’s an instant boost. You may hang up your uniform, but you never really retire. You always have the commitment to your people and that is the foundation of our program – the people.”
For more information on Operation Warfighter, visit: www.dodlive.warriorcare.mil