FORT MEADE, Md. -- For many Soldiers at the Fort Meade Warrior Transition Unit, their time in the Army is coming to an end and they are preparing to move into civilian life.
Employment counselor Sandy Williams assists Spc. Katy Eyler in the Hero 2 Hired trailer during Friday's Transition Check Point at McGill Training Center. Hero 2 Hired provides job search advice for transitioning service members. (Photo by Phil Grout)
This transition, however, can be both stressful and overwhelming.
"There's a lot of apprehension and nervousness," said Staff Sgt. Sean Green, a squad leader with the WTU.
To help ease the Soldiers through the process, the WTU's rehab team hosted a Transition Check Point on May 3 at McGill Training Center. The event introduced the wounded Soldiers to government agency representatives, internship opportunities, colleges and adaptive sports.
"Today is one-stop-shop basically for education, internship and career opportunities for all the Soldiers," said Shannon Webb, occupational therapist with the WTU. "We have over 17 schools represented, we have over 30 internship and career opportunities. Soldiers can go around, tell them what they're looking for career-path-wise or education-wise and try to make some connections."
In the past, the unit has sponsored similar education, internship and job, or adaptive sports fairs, but this is the first time all three have been combined into one event.
"This affords every opportunity to explore anything that you could want," Webb said.
The goal of the fair, she said, was to help "ensure successful transition from the military to civilian life for those who are being medically retired. For those who are going back to active duty, this is a time that they can do school or internships to build a resume or increase their [military occupational specialty]."
During the three-hour fair, Soldiers met with various representatives from government agencies including the National Security Agency, Interpol, NASA and the Secret Service. Online colleges, such as the University of Phoenix, and physical universities including the University of Maryland and Old Dominion University in Virginia also were represented.
Spc. Christopher Larock spent a large portion of the fair meeting with college representatives. After his military career ends, Larock plans to start a career as a funeral director and is looking to study mortuary science.
"I've found a lot of information about colleges," Larock said.
The fair also featured adaptive sports programs including Paralympic Sports Club, Horses for Heroes and Baltimore Adapted Recreation and Sports. The adaptive sports, Webb said, keeps Soldiers from being idle.
"The best thing for anybody who is sitting in a WTU to do is to get out and be active, whether it is kayaking, fly fishing, archery, horseback riding. ... Get out and do something," said Jon Forte, a representative from Team River Runner, an organization that helps service members heal through kayaking.
Outside McGill, Hero 2 Hired hosted an interactive job search trailer. The organization runs a website to help military members find employment opportunities, as well as assist with resume building and advice for job interviews.
Hero 2 Hired counselor Sandy Williams said there are currently 3.5 million jobs on the website. Inside the trailer, Soldiers were assisted in using the program.
Green, who noted that transitioning from military to civilian life is complicated and stressful, said the fair was a useful tool for many of the recovering Soldiers.
"This right here gives them the confidence," he said.
"It was pretty stressful to begin because I didn't know all my options," he said. "Just being here helps out a lot. It points us in the right direction."
Brandon Bieltz, Staff Writer