News: Operation Warfighter offers internships to wounded warriors
Story by Kristen Wong
KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii - An improvised explosive device robbed 1st Lt. Rick Rush of his voice, but not his work ethic. Achieving a silver medal in company archery and a bronze medal in the pistol category of the 2011 Marine Corps Trials at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Rush was also chosen for the All-Marine Warrior Games team for the competition in May.
Back on base fresh from the trials, Rush is back to work, at an internship provided through Operation Warfighter.
The former logistics officer from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, sustained multiple injuries, including a collapsed lung, a broken left ankle and permanently damaged vocal cords.
Today, the 30-year-old from Coos Bay, Ore., is a patient at Wounded Warrior Battalion West - Detachment Hawaii.
“You just get more time for yourself," said Rush about the change from regular active duty to being a recovering wounded warrior.
But since last year, Rush has rejoined the work force, as an intern through Operation Warfighter. Through the program, Rush found an internship at the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Pacific at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Operation Warfighter, operated by the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, assists wounded warriors in finding a temporary assignment or an internship while they recover. According to the department’s website, the average wounded warrior works 20 hours a week, and assignments typically last as long as three months.
“Operation Warfighter is working double duty for our service members,” said John R. Campbell, the deputy assistant secretary of defense of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, who oversees the program. “It was designed as a wellness program, a chance to get our wounded warriors out of a hospital setting and doing something productive with their free time.”
Rush is the first Operation Warfighter intern for DLA Troop Support Pacific, which works to supply military customers such as Marine Corps Base Hawaii with food, clothing, construction and medical materials.
“We were very excited to have him onboard,” said Angel Colon, deputy commander of operations, DLA Troop Support Pacific. “He’s actually become our Marine Corps logistics link to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.”
Since October of last year, Rush has been working one full day a week at the DLA.
“His primary duties include making site visits to customers and researching material order and shipment status to identify problems and facilitate prompt deliveries,” said Navy Lt. David Ozeck, chief of the Hawaii area of the DLA Troop Support Pacific.
Because he was a logistics officer with 1/3, Rush was already familiar with some of the programs the DLA uses.
Ozeck said Rush is “extremely personable, professional, and provides a great example that really motivates others in our organization.”
“[1st Lieutenant] Rush has the most positive, ‘can-do’ attitude,” said Stephen DiRico, deputy chief of the Hawaii area of the DLA Troop Support Pacific. “He’s mission oriented and team focused. He brings an operational perspective that enhances our DLA Troop Support Logistical capabilities.”
DiRico, 54, called the internship a “win-win situation,” because both Rush and the rest of the Hawaii area team at the DLA are able to share knowledge and new perspectives.
Operation Warfighter enabled some Marines to network with civilians, like retired Staff Sgt. Shawn Garrett. The native of Amarillo, Texas, is now a course director and subject matter expert at the Enlisted Professional Military Education branch of Marine Corps University at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va.
The former staff noncommissioned officer in charge at Wounded Warrior Battalion West – Hawaii Detachment was diagnosed with stage two nonsalmonella cancer in 2009 and today still divides his time between work and medical appointments.
Last year for nine months, Garrett worked eight hours a day, five days a week at the National Geospacial-Intelligence Agency at JBPHH.
Garrett called the program “productive” and a “unique opportunity,” and encourages service members to find a trade they are interested in pursuing, and learning new skills.
“[The internship] helped my transition to the civilian sector,” Garrett
Fellow patient Jason Hanna, now an imagery analyst for the Washington branch in NGA, also participated in an internship while he was a Marine.
From November 2009 to February 2010, Hanna, of Ann Arbor, learned about the many different facets of the NGA through his internship. As he got to know the organization, Hanna became interested in working for the NGA.
“It [was] an opportunity to get a feel for what the NGA is,” Hanna said. “It’s a chance to see a different side of the war effort.”
Hanna said by giving wounded warriors an internship opportunity, they can explore new career paths. He said it can be especially helpful for those who are leaving the Corps.
“The [program’s] experience also enhances their confidence, skills, and relationships in civilian life,” Campbell said. “Many go on to work at the same agency, while others use their new confidence and skills to land other employment opportunities — it has been an unmitigated success.”
Rush encourages other wounded warriors to consider finding work
through Operation Warfighter. He believes there is always going to be someone who could use assistance in something.
“Just do it,” Rush said. “Get out there and try it.”
For more information about Operation Warfighter, visit http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil.