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USO of Illinois Helps Troops Find Work With USO Life Skills Resources Program

Friday, October 19, 2012

By Christian Pelusi 

Last April, USO of Illinois began a program to help get troops’ boots on solid footing in the professional arena upon returning from the battlefield. The event, named the USO Life Skills Resources Program, was aimed at getting servicemen and women in front of mentors who had volunteered to guide them in their reintegration back into the private sector.

USO of Illinois, the U.S. Army and Black Hawk College teamed with the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit (CBWTU), the main organizer of the event, to assist approximately 60 servicemen and women who were in the vicinity for a quarterly muster. The educators from Black Hawk College conducted mock interviews, provided valuable insights on what employers are looking for and helped the troops construct sample cover letters and new resumes.

The program is a terrific example of USO Warrior and Family Care and the programs it provides to troops and their families and will be conducted again Oct. 22-25 at USO Rock Island.

USO of Illinois Program Director Wiley Norden said the troops found the one-on-one time with the mentors particularly helpful, noting the educators were very open to assisting in whatever way possible and that the resume writing class was the best they had ever experienced.

“The mentors were able to instill a confidence in these soldiers that they have so much to offer and that many of their skills and experiences do apply to the civilian world,” Norden said. “It’s so much more than just writing a resume, it’s helping these soldiers develop life skills for their future.”

That goal plays into what the CBWTU is aiming to accomplish.

“One of the biggest challenges we’re having is, what are they going to do for the rest of their life. If they’re medically retired from the military and they can’t return to their civilian employer, we have to look at how we assist them in that transition,” 1st Sgt. John Hersey of the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit told to USO of Illinois at last April’s event.

USO of Illinois Program Manager Jill Gayton concurred.

“This program shows how the USO is committed to serving our troops and families by assisting in the process of finding a new career,” she said. “Many of these soldiers have never had a job outside of the military, but they have so many amazing skills that can be used in other careers.  It really helps the servicemen and women realize their talents and [it] gives them a positive feeling moving forward.”

The program is also a learning experience for USO employees and volunteers, who learn a soldier’s perspective.

“Having no military background, this program helps me to understand the challenges our servicemen and women have when they return from a deployment,” Gayton said. “I enjoy talking to the soldiers about their experiences overseas and why they chose this duty. I feel a new sense of appreciation for the military when I return from the week of mentorship.”

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Photo caption: A Black Hawk College employee talks with a troop at last April's event. (Photo credit: USO of Illinois) 

Donate today to support our troops this Veterans Day during the USO’s "Grant a Wish for Our Heroes" campaign. 

Federal employees can help the USO fulfill its mission to support troops and their families though the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. Please designate #11381. 

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