This story originally appears on Military Health System written by K.D. Harris and edited by Mark Oswell.
In early 2017, Air Force Staff Sgt. Amy Arenas, as a geospatial intelligence analyst, was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.
“For one year I was put on several medications to include a constant medical steroid to attempt to put my body into remission, but ultimately the disease won. It overtook my entire large intestine. Over the past two years, I underwent seven surgeries two of which were life-threatening. I had my entire large intestine removed and now I am living with an ileostomy bag for the rest of my life.”
“Due to the severity and complications of the disease, the Air Force saw me as non-deployable which sent me through the medical board process. Now, I am back to living life as if I never experienced this disease at all aside from having a permanent device on my body.”
Despite Arenas’ diagnosis, she was able to intern for the Federal Bureau of Investigation from October 2019 to July 2020. With her military background and security clearance, she landed a position within the Agency’s Counter Terrorism Unit, where she assisted the Intelligence Analysts on products and research. She found this opportunity through the Department of Defense’s Operation Warfighter Program (OWF).
OWF is an internship program through the DoD’s Warrior Care Program that matches qualified wounded, ill and injured Service members with non-funded federal internships to gain valuable work experience during their recovery and rehabilitation.
“Initially, I was unaware that programs were out there to assist those who were facing the possibility of getting separated due to medical issues,” Arenas said. “After about two years of being in the medical board process, my new leadership put me in contact with Cisco Johnson from the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. At this point, I knew I was going to be medically discharged. However, the date was to be determined. I had received my Master of Criminal Justice degree the year before, and I knew that I wanted to utilize it when I got out of the military. Cisco learned of my dreams and aspirations and put me in contact with OWF Regional Coordinator Sandra Ambotaite immediately.”
An OWF Regional Coordinator assists in identifying an internship opportunity based on the candidates interests and capabilities. Once a placement is agreed upon, the OWF Regional Coordinator follows-up with the wounded, ill, or injured Service member and the agency to obtain necessary security clearances, workplace accommodations and transportation assistance.
“Meeting Sandra was such a blessing,” explained Arenas. She listened to my experiences and future goals and gave me all the advice and encouragement that I needed. She explained Operation Warfighter and the benefits that I could gain from this program.”
“Soon enough I was set up, with the help of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, to tour the FBI office in Honolulu, Hawaii,” added Arenas.” After the tour and the brief of what an internship would entail, I was sure that this was what I wanted to do. “It was a dream of mine that I never felt was possible of achieving, but with Sandra’s help it was in arms' reach.”
“After successful completion of my interview, I was informed that I got the internship position with the FBI office in Honolulu. When Sandra informed me that I was accepted, I was in amazement that this was happening during a time where I was so unsure of where my life was heading as far as my career goes,” continued the airman.
I was placed with the Counter Terrorism Unit During my internship, I attended meetings, learned about what goes on behind the scenes of investigative work and talked with agents to learn about what their days entail.
“I can honestly say that I am beyond humbled to have gotten the chance to experience this internship. I am so thankful for the Operation Warfighter and the FBI Honolulu office for allowing me to be part of their team. While interning, I decided to apply for both Special Agent and Intelligence Analyst positions. I felt at home working with the bureau and it’s just an experience I would love to continue as my next career,” concluded Arenas.”
Although Arenas is no longer active duty, she is currently undergoing the hiring process for the FBI’s Special Agent and Intelligence Analyst position.
To learn more about Operation Warfighter, visit Warrior Care.