FORT BELVOIR, Virginia –
This is the second article in a series of DLA Energy workforce development opportunities.
They are not just service members; they are wounded warriors who are dedicated to serving their country both on the front lines and after the fight.
Whether armed in her Kevlar vest and responsible for convoy supplies in Kuwait or providing warfighter support from her desk at Defense Logistics Agency Energy, Army Sgt. Palestine Fox knows how to take her military experience and apply it to any job.
In this case, it’s a job exclusively for wounded warriors.
Fox, a transportation coordinating manager assigned to the Army Reserve at Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, New York, was injured on duty during a unit brigade run while deployed in Kuwait.
From there, the Operation Warfighter Program helped Fox bridge the gap between her military service and future employment.
She joined the DLA Energy Defense Fuel Support Point Management’s Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization division July 13, and will continue to serve for six to 18 months until they determine if she will medically discharge or return to full-functioning Reserve duty.
“Upon coming (to DLA, program employees) get you involved not only in your medical care, but they also want to make sure you’re capable and prepared for transitioning if you don’t have a civilian job or you’re getting medical boarded and need to get a civilian job,” Fox said.
Fox explained that a coordinator in the program provides your resume to contacts in the network of federal agencies. The resume is then reviewed by organizations with a specific recruiting need.
DLA Energy was one of the first organizations to hire a wounded warrior.
“We were in a good position because we have growth in SRM,” said Program Analyst and Master Planning Branch Chief Debra Simpson. “Hiring civilians takes a significant amount of time; so we thought this was a good way to bridge and help a wounded warrior and get personnel on the ground to help our backlog.”
According to the program rules, service members decide if they want to work for the internship opportunity. They can interview with as many federal agencies as they want to find a meaningful work assignment.
“Basically, I contacted her and she was interviewing me,” Simpson said. “She needed to feel confident that this was the place she could feel comfortable and her skill set would match.”
While Fox is in the SRM division, she will train to be a program analyst and master planner.
“I will gather information to assist the warfighter with fuel, maintenance and fuel levels to ensure everything is in compliance,” Fox said.
Simpson added, “She’ll do that for a couple months, and help us develop additional metrics on sustainment and modernization of the fuel tanks … and then once she’s mastered that, she will shadow a program manager to see what we look for at an installation level [for future responsibilities].”
Fox also explained that OWP provides a great deal of assistance, and she discovered a lot of federal agencies are veteran friendly. The agencies are eager to assist with internships knowing well they often lead to future opportunities in the organization.
“That’s what’s most important to wounded warriors transitioning … picking an internship that has future opportunities,” Fox added.
DLA offers comfort to service members, Simpson explained.
“It’s a great place to intern, with 26,000 positions worldwide; it’s broadening their horizon, not just here in D.C., or even Energy, but DLA as a whole.”
Additionally, the program allows Fox flexible work hours so she can follow her medical treatment plan and make any necessary medical appointments.
Simpson said anyone planning to take on a wounded warrior needs to understand they’re probably not going to be sitting at a desk all day due to medical appointments and physical limitations. There may be special arrangements and, in some cases, configuration requirements for the work environment.
“This (wounded warrior) is someone to help with an immediate need and to give them an outlet,” Simpson said. “It has to be a give and take because their recuperation is most important.”
Fox said overall this program makes her feel like she’s not just a hurt person.
“It gives me an opportunity to function as if I were in the unit. I’m very thankful to be here,” she added.
Fox explained that sometimes an injury can be captivating, and sometimes members need an outlet, and this program provides a great outlet to utilize those skills and learn different things.
Simpson said she couldn’t agree more.
“It’s a win-win for me; she brings a skill set I don’t have, but also brings a uniform, and that means a lot,” she said. “That’s an added benefit to my team.”
According to program officials, OWP is a Department of Defense temporary assignment and internship program providing wounded, ill and injured service members with opportunities for meaningful activity outside of the hospital environment while they wait to return to active duty or transition to the civilian world. Service members’ salaries are paid for by their service branches while they work at DLA.