By Joseph Andrew Lee

Separating from the military can be a bigger challenge than joining. And while veteran unemployment rates are down according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the USO recognizes there is more to leaving the military than just finding a new career.

“In addition to finding a job, transitioning service members wonder how they are going to fit into their new civilian culture,” said Anne Sprute, an Army veteran and the USO’s senior vice president of transition strategy and innovation. In 2013, Sprute co-founded RP/6, a Washington State-based organization dedicated to connecting transitioning service members and their families to opportunities in the private sector after military service. After partnering with the USO in 2015, RP/6 became part of the USO’s global infrastructure in early 2017 and has now fully integrated with the USO to form USO PathfinderSM.

“They wonder where they are going to live, where their children will go to school, and how they will continue to make a difference,” Sprute said. “We help them sort through the myriad resources that are out there to find those that will best welcome them home so they can become an asset to their new community.”

An estimated 200,000-plus men and women leave military service each year and the USO is equipped with the access, trust and capabilities needed to assist transitioning service members 12 months before and 12 months after separation. By using its global reach, USO PathfinderSM helps service members navigate, understand and engage with a growing network of resources and programs available to support them as they reintegrate into their communities.

“Today, there are many organizations that service members can turn to for the transition support services they seek,” Sprute said. “The challenge is finding what you need in the complex market of … nonprofits and companies that are trying to help. Through long-standing relationships, the USO is able to vet partners and personalize each individual’s plan for the future through the USO Pathfinder program.”

USO Pathfinder Scouts – transition specialists – are available at USO locations to offer one-on-one support to help families create a plan for what’s next. Scouts assist with developing a personalized Action Plan based on a specific timeline and focused on personal and professional goals. The Action Plan will assist in discovering resources in a service member’s future community that will help make their transition successful.

Since 1941, the USO has strengthened military service members by keeping them connected to family, home and country throughout their military service. USO PathfinderSM is just the latest extension of that commitment to the American military family.

“We are always by the side of service members, from the time they are first sworn in until they complete their service,” USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II said in a press release. “Providing best-in-class transition services represents our final act of support, as we reconnect them to the civilian life they set aside to serve their country.”

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.