By Jean-Marie Bralley
When Sunny Noble, a former soldier and current Army spouse, decided to volunteer for the United Service Organizations’ Pathfinder program, she did not expect that her experience would also result in a new career.
Yet, in the process of helping others, she became a beneficiary of the USO’s transition programming for service members and families reintegrating to civilian life. She explained some of the difficulties that come with constant military moves and how USO PathfinderSM helped her.
“Every time we move, we have to start off fresh, make our own networks and meet new friends, and start to do a lot of research,” she said. “Every time we move, I have to research ‘Where do I go for this? Where do I go for that?’ So, when I heard about the USO transition program, I thought it was great not only for the soldiers, but for the family members. … The USO is really connected to the different community resources.”
The Pathfinder program extends the USO’s mission of connection by assisting service members and their families in achieving their personal and professional goals as they transition from military service and return home to their new communities. With a global network in place, the program connects individuals to the best-in-class services and resources in their new hometown, regardless of where it may be.
Noble, of El Paso, Texas, attended USO shows while deployed to Iraq – where she met her husband, an active-duty soldier – and thought that she might like to volunteer with the organization when she left the service.
The former Army captain and military police officer encountered the USO at fairs and programs when she moved to Fort Bliss with her husband and son in 2016. USO Pathfinder was just being established on base when Noble arrived and she wanted to be a part of helping jump-start the program.
Part of her motivation for becoming involved was because she did not have the assistance of a transition program when she separated from the Army in 2010. Moreover, Noble said the USO has a great mission and she likes how the organization makes it easier to connect with home.
Noble explained that she worked in the outreach area of the transition program.
“I helped the USO network with the local community, different nonprofits and … education fairs, so I helped … get the word out,” Noble said.
Her interaction with soldiers and military spouses was her favorite part of volunteering with the USO, she said.
“I really like helping the spouses especially because I’m a spouse, too, and I know how hard it is, so they really appreciate it when I tell them [I have] hands-on experience,” she said.
And she has firsthand knowledge of the useful services available through USO Pathfinder.
She recalled a beneficial two-day career workshop she attended while searching for a job. The workshop included a resume-writing class, sessions focused on highlighting skills many companies are seeking and the value of using LinkedIn as a professional networking tool. However, she didn’t anticipate finding a job when she began volunteering at the USO.
“I thought I was just going to volunteer for a while,” she said. “Then I started going to these transition fairs and while I was volunteering, I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I should start looking around,’ and that’s sort of how I got a job.” Through volunteering, she learned about hiring fairs and found her current position at Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP), a Fortune 500 company and a global provider of human resources management solutions.
In her new career, Noble utilized her master’s degree in human resources, which she earned during her transition to civilian life. Though she previously worked as an Army civilian, she said working at ADP was her first “real civilian job.”
Noble said she appreciated the personal attention she received from Genaro Lopez, her USO Pathfinder Scout, and how frequently her he checked in to make sure she was connected to the services and resources that were the best fit for her personal and professional goals.
Noble, who recently left her job at ADP following a family emergency, said her husband supported her work with the USO. “My husband really encouraged me to continue volunteering with the USO,” she said. “He was pretty excited about it because he knows that eventually he’s going to have to get out, and now that I know all the details … he knows he’s set when he transitions out.”
–Jean-Marie Bralley is a freelance writer and a professional ballerina with Charlottesville Ballet in Charlottesville, Va. USO Senior Multimedia Journalist Sandi Moynihan contributed to this story.