LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles District is supporting the U.S. Army’s Wounded Warrior Transition Program and it’s paying off in big ways—both for the District and the warriors themselves.
The program’s Federal Internship Program component, which involves “hiring” troops who have been wounded in combat, is one of many under the WWP designed to provide transitioning warriors receiving medical treatment with meaningful work near their homes and treatment facilities.
“The program is pretty cool for what it is,” said Spec. Christopher Husley, a light-wheeled vehicle mechanic in the California National Guard who now works as an assistant in the District’s emergency management office. “When you’re in the Warrior Transition Unit, as long as you’re capable, you’re required to have a duty site. You can go to school full time, work at the local National Guard Armory, or you could apply for the Federal Internship Program.”
Husley, who sustained injuries during a deployment with the California National Guard’s 756th Transportation Company during a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, has worked for the District since November. Husley believes the program will help set him up for a successful future after his medical treatment is complete.
“The program is a great idea to keep Soldiers from sitting at home. It’s great to be able to get out there if you’re lucky enough to come home,” Husley said. “I can network now. Like many National Guardsmen, I would have come home to unemployment. If I can work here for six months or nine months and learn new skills and be able to network, I have a greater opportunity of finding long-term employment after I’m discharged from the program.”
The program is an effective tool for leaders, especially in the face of decreasing federal budgets. Through the program, the warriors’ salaries are covered since they are on active duty orders for the duration of their assignments, adding even more benefit for the organizations that offer them positions.
Another wounded warrior assigned to the District is Staff Sgt. James Harris, a California National Guard military policeman, who works in the security and law enforcement office. Harris was injured during his most recent deployment as a military police platoon sergeant in Northern Afghanistan in 2012.
After redeploying with his unit in 2013, Harris, a native of Burbank, Calif., began treatment for his injuries at Fort Bliss, Texas. He was soon deemed eligible for the community-based warrior transition unit program and began working at the District headquarters. Harris, who works as an academy staff instructor for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, is putting his experience to work handling a myriad of activities that call for close coordination with local law enforcement organizations.
For Harris, obtaining new experience and meeting new people has made assignment gratifying.
“I enjoy it. It’s fun. I get to travel quite a bit. I’m able to go out to a lot of our different sites,” Harris said. “I can honestly say that I know how a dam works, which not a lot of MPs get to say. I like everyone I work with. I really like going out into the field and interacting with different people.”
Harris, a self-proclaimed “history buff and gear head” found kindred spirits in the Corps’ salt-of-the-earth types, most notably dam tenders.
“I found that they take a lot of pride in what they do. A lot of them have been assigned to their locations for a long time and when I go out and talk to them and they show me around their dams, they’re showing it with a lot of pride. It’s really interesting,” Harris said. “They take you aside and show you photos from the 1940s and 1950s when these dams were built. It’s kind of like a proud dad describing to you what their kid has accomplished. It’s probably my favorite part of the job.”
Overall, the program has been a win-win for the District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“It’s one of the things the commander and deputy commander discussed with me when I first came into the position here at the District,” said Capt. Reginald Seabrook, the District’s chief of security and law enforcement. “They wanted to see the wounded warrior program resonate within the District and I volunteered to assist the workforce manager, Michelle Denham, with her efforts.”
“The transferrable skills that these wounded warriors are bringing have made USACE a much better place,” Seabrook said. “These wounded warriors are highly professional Soldiers who could add a lot of value with regard to their logistical and managerial expertise. They also bring leadership experience and are task-oriented. It’s just a natural fit.”