This story originally appears on Military Health System written by K.D. Harris and edited by Mark Oswell.
Operation Warfighter (OWF) Regional Coordinator Eric Gehring was the key to my success,” stated Army Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo Rodriguez. “As a recovering service member, you don’t have to go through the process of transitioning out of the military alone. I learned that you need a ‘battle buddy to help you and I felt like Eric became my battle buddy during this time. In my opinion, the only thing better than having a “buddy” or someone you can lean and depend on is having a light in the darkness.”
OWF is a DOD internship program that matches qualified wounded, ill and injured service members with non-funded federal internships for them to gain valuable work experience during their recovery and rehabilitation. This process assists with the service members’ reintegration to duty, or transition into the civilian work environment where they can employ their newly acquired skills in a non-military work setting.
“I heard about the OWF program from another veteran and was amazed by what the program did to help recovering service members,” explained Rodriguez. “After I got in the program, I interned with the Department of Veteran Affairs. I worked in the human resource department as a HR assistant learning all the computer programs, as well as filing and scanning documents. In my position, I got to learn the ins and outs of the human resource department. I also experienced a lot of interaction with people who had already retired from the military and was able to get good advice from them.”
“Due to COVID-19, I was only able to work there for one month,” lamented the career soldier. “After my internship with the VA, I became a part time associate at Home Depot. However, this position was only temporary. Before resigning from this position, I ended up applying for another position within the Home Depot that was better suited for me that aligned with my military background.”
“Surprisingly, I received offers for two job opportunities – one with the VA and one with the Home Depot. I weighed the pros and the cons to both and ended up going with the full-time position at Home Depot - as an Asset Protection Specialist. This also provided me and my family “peace of mind. With my ‘battle buddy’s’ advice and support, I recently accepted a contractor position in logistics within Special Operations Command, Rodriguez added.
“I am very pleased with the Operation Warfighter program,” continued Rodriguez. “I like to describe the program as a “chameleon.” They will work and find something that suits you. Eric and the OWF program were instrumental in providing a blueprint for me to understanding my career path outside of the military.”
“I love that the OWF program feels like you still have someone in your corner fighting with you and for you,” he concluded.