From Staff Reports

It’s five nonprofits with one goal: help transitioning troops right now.

The USO announced the formation of the USO Transition 360 Alliance on Monday, an initiative that attempts to cover every angle of a military family’s transition into civilian life when their service ends.

The organization is partnering with Hire Heroes USA, The Comfort Crew for Military Kids, Stronger Families and newcomer RallyPoint/6 (RP/6) to form what it feels will be a comprehensive menu of programming for everyone from new and pending veterans seeking new careers to young children from military families facing yet another move.

“The USO has brought these groups together to combine the very best of what each of us has to offer America’s transitioning military families, on a scale that no single organization could achieve alone,” USO CEO and President J.D. Crouch II said in a release.

While three of the four nonprofits will be familiar to service members who’ve experienced USO programs, the USO says the difference will be the alliance’s ability to work seamlessly to present a holistic approach to military transition. The Department of Defense estimates a total of 1 million service members will transition out of the military in the next five years.

The addition of RP/6, a young nonprofit out of Lakewood, Washington, adds mentorship and concierge services to the equation. The USO plans to hire multiple RP/6 managers and scouts for five yet-to-be-named sites in the continental United States. Those employees will help transitioning service members find the best programming for their specific situations – both from alliance partners and other trusted organizations. RP/6 already has a location open in Washington state serving the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area.

Anne Sprute, a retired Army chief warrant officer 4, founded RP/6 in part because of the lessons she learned when moving into the civilian world.

“[RP/6] helps people get connected to community resources that are already existing across many domains: employment, education, housing benefits, family programs and housing programs,” said Sprute, RP/6’s chief executive officer. “[Transitioning military families are] surrounded by people that care and understand the military culture but also understand what it’s like to be outside [the military].”

Hire Heroes USA CEO Brian Stann – whose organization has partnered with the USO since 2010 – sees transition as one of the largest problems facing troops today. Stann believes a well-executed transition into the workforce can head off a lot of other problems veterans face.

“It is very, very important that we get the warrior class of today’s transitioning combat veterans to work in this country because they have a skill set that people can’t find anywhere else,” said Stann, a former Marine captain who received a Silver Star for his actions in Iraq in 2005. “When they’re denied access to that workforce and they’re denied opportunities because maybe they don’t know how to translate that skillset properly … that’s what leads veterans to some of the negative things you see. That’s what leads to depression. That’s what makes post-traumatic stress worse. That’s what leads someone to suicide. And so it’s more to us than just helping them find a job.”

The alliance covers military families at home, too.

The USO has been working with Stronger Families for nearly six years to help military couples tackle issues in their relationships. Stronger Families’ Oxygen Seminars are tailored to help couples improve communication, resolve their daily and long-term conflicts and rekindle romance.

“There’s already a high degree of pressure and stress in [military relationships],” Stronger Families Executive Director Noel Meador said. “And when you add in deployment, reintegration, all those things combined can put a lot of pressure and stress on a military family. For us to be able to come in and offer practical, very helpful ways to alleviate that pressure and the stress [and] also help them be successful in their most important relationships is [important].”

And one other set of relationships that are often overlooked is how children from military families adapt to the massive changes taking place all around them.

The USO has partnered with the Comfort Crew for Military Families for nearly a decade, going into schools around the world and talking directly to kids from military families about the constant change they face because of deployments and moves.

“Kids oftentimes need to be validated,” said Ronda Englander, Comfort Crew’s executive director. “They are oftentimes are just relieved to be able to share what they’re feeling and [find] someone understands and is there to support them with that.”

USO officials say the organization will continue to support a wide array of programming, including more than two dozen programs and partnerships that make up the USO Warrior and Family Care network.