By Joseph Andrew Lee

Can you imagine how much more difficult the transition into the military would be without the USO? For the past 75 years—from their first assignment to their last big welcome home celebration—the USO has been that bridge to home. So what about when they transition out of the military?

The USO’s answer to that question is RP/6.

As part of the USO Transition 360 Alliance, RP/6 connects service members and their families with resources in their community that can ease their transition. It’s like a USO center in reverse. It’s located off installation to help new veterans stay connected to their military ties, make use of their earned veteran benefits and find their way as they matriculate into their civilian lives.

“It was always a welcome sight and a relief to find a USO,” said Anna Bruun, a former Army medic who recently transitioned into the civilian world. “[I felt] that same feeling I felt when I walked into [RP/6] needing some assistance.”

In the military, an “RP” or a Rally Point represents a physical place where a team can reassemble and reorganize to prepare for what comes next. The “6” comes from the military slang, “I’ve got your six,” understood as, “I’ve got your back.”

Bruun remembers the USO being the place that had her back. She recalled walking through airports not knowing much about where she was or where she was going. When that happened, she could always ask, “Where is the nearest USO?” to find a place to feel comfortable, get something to eat and connect with people who would help her.

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Founded by veterans Anne Sprute and R.J. Naugle, who have 30 years combined military service, RP/6— part of the USO Transition 360 Alliance—connects service members and their families with resources that can help them navigate their transition to civilian life.

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Founded by veterans Anne Sprute and R.J. Naugle, who have 30 years combined military service, RP/6— part of the USO Transition 360 Alliance—connects service members and their families with resources that can help them navigate their transition to civilian life.

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Founded by veterans Anne Sprute and R.J. Naugle, who have 30 years combined military service, RP/6— part of the USO Transition 360 Alliance—connects service members and their families with resources that can help them navigate their transition to civilian life.

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Founded by veterans Anne Sprute and R.J. Naugle, who have 30 years combined military service, RP/6— part of the USO Transition 360 Alliance—connects service members and their families with resources that can help them navigate their transition to civilian life.

The concierge approach at RP/6 is very similar to what one might find in a USO center. It incorporates several USO partners, including Hire Heroes USA, Stronger Families and the Comfort Crew for Military Kids, in an effort to cover both the personal and professional issues military families face when moving to the civilian world.

Founded by veterans Anne Sprute and R.J. Naugle, who have 30 years combined military service, RP/6 was created to solve the disconnect between military service and the transition to civilian life. They set out to engage their local community in understanding the potential and the opportunity offered in welcoming service members home to their new neighborhoods as valued assets. Together, they believe we can collectively make a difference in communities across the country, offering time, opportunity and resources in support of those who have protected our shared freedoms.

To date, RP/6 has served over 1,700 service members, veterans and military family members by connecting them to support services in the areas of employment, education, benefits, housing, family programs, finance and legal support.

“We know that through this great partnership with the USO and other organizations that are coming on board that we are going to be able to help so many more military families and make sure they are successful as they transition out of the military,” Sprute said.

“You have an option,” said retired Army Sergeant Major Lee Baleme. “You can go through this Yellow Page-like guide and you can try to pick out and sort through all these resources, or you can come to RP/6.”

Now an RP/6 fellow, Baleme spent 28 years in the Army guiding younger soldiers. He was sure by the time he transitioned out of the military he would have the whole thing down to a science.

“It was an eye-opening experience to think that I was going to make that transition—smoothly—and then realize that I wasn’t,” he said.

After receiving assistance from the team at RP/6, he decided he would give back by becoming a mentor to transitioning airman Antwon Teverbaugh, who also found his way to RP/6 and approached Baleme for assistance.

Your donations help the USO provide programs and services to help military members and their families transition to civilian life.

“It’s tough to do for a lot of guys—a lot of type-A guys—who want to reach out to somebody and find that person who they can trust as a true mentor,” Baleme said. “Not just someone who can coach them or just kind of give them guidance, but reach out to them and snap-link into them and feel like, ‘I trust this guy enough to be able to talk to him, tell him my story, ask him for genuine guidance and direction in my life—not only in his career but as a man.’”

The mentor-mentee relationship with Baleme allowed Teverbaugh to realize he didn’t have to go through the transition by himself.

“It made me less stubborn in my ways of, ‘I got this,’” Teverbaugh said. “I do still have it, but it’s a matter of you don’t have to do it by yourself and that eases all of those woes. You become more enlightened and more self-assured. They make you stand on your own two feet.”

Veterans and transitioning military can come to RP/6 and find that person who will point them in the direction of the resources that they need, Baleme said. “From housing issues to employment, school and even family issues, transition from active duty to the civilian [world] has never been an easy nut to crack and I think RP/6 found a great partner in the USO.”

—Joseph Andrew Lee is a USO multimedia journalist. This story appears in the Spring 2016 issue of On Patrol, the magazine of the USO.

You can send a message of support and thanks directly to service members via the USO’s Campaign to Connect. Your messages will appear on screens at USO locations around the world.