Transitioning service members leave ready through workshop

The USO Pathfinders sponsored and organized the USO Readiness Workshop for transitioning Soldiers at the Fort Riley USO Oct. 27. The event was structured to equip Soldiers for the civilian workforce and to transfer their skills from the Army to civilian jobs.

“The morning is all about preparation, writing your resume, how to do cover letters — if they are necessary, why or why not — how to utilize a tool such as LinkedIn for your benefit,” said Crystal Bryant- Kearns, site manager for USO Pathfinders.

After lunch, the Soldiers underwent mock interviews with local companies.

“We break for lunch about 11:30 a.m. and then after lunch we do mock interviews,” she said. “And then we have a LinkedIn class that we do with them, specifically on how to create a LinkedIn profile and how to use the profile in recruiting. opening, networking with people who are already with the companies they want to work with.”

The program is supported by approximately 44,000 nonprofit organizations that assist veterans, Bryant-Kearns said.

“Our approach is holistic,” she said. “We don’t just focus on employment, we focus on financial readiness, family strength and wellness, volunteerism, legal assistance and housing. So no matter where they go, globally, we will resource map their region and find the best fit resources for their needs.”

The staff of USO Pathfinders understand transitioning out of the Army can be a struggle, in fact the scouts have experienced the transition first-hand.

“A lot of Soldiers get out and they think they don’t have any skills,” said Vance Zimmer, scout of USO Pathfinders. “They do, they have a lot of skills. Whether that’s leadership, organizational skills, work ethics, things like that. Just putting that into civilian terms.”

The skills Soldiers have are transferable to the civilian workforce. These skills are known as soft skills, which are defined as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people, said Bryant- Kearns. These soft skills make Soldiers marketable in the civilian workforce.

“Like Vance said, those soft skills that are naturally innate to service members, the civilian sector is seeking those,” Bryant-Kearns said. “The general workforce population, doesn’t always possess those soft skills such as leadership, determination, focusing on the mission of the company, sharing the core values that they value — such as integrity, responsibility, showing up on time — these are all things that we hear from companies that are our clients who say wow they are awesome.”

The USO Readiness Workshop assisted in resume and cover letter writing as a response to Soldiers struggling in transferring their skills without the use of Army language. Zimmer said translating Army language into civilian language is the biggest struggle Soldiers face.

“I would think the biggest thing is translating your military experiences or knowledge into the civilian terminology,” he said. “When you get out of the Army, the civilian sector doesn’t understand the military lingo. So it’s just relating that for the civilians to understand that.”

Spc. Matthew Jardine, Company D, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, experienced the overuse of Army language in a mock interview.

“For instance my interviewer, she repeatedly harped on me to use language that she understands,” Jardine said. “She was not in the military, so she instantly picked up stuff that is natural for me to say to other Soldiers. She told me that doesn’t work.”

Bryant-Kearns said she sees Soldiers come into USO Pathfinders stressed and full of anxiety. The courses the program offers help the transitioning Soldiers step out into the real world with confidence.

“We see a lot of guys and gals come in and they’re so stressed and anxious about their transition,” Bryant- Kearns said. “Once we talk to them and break it down, and help them develop a plan, the anxiety leave their faces.”

Spc. Zane Willett, Co. D, 1st Eng. Bn, 1st ABCT, 1st Inf. Div., attended the USO Readiness Workshop and said the event is one every Soldier should get into.

As a program that offers various classes to transitioning Soldiers and their families, Soldiers leave the classroom with various tools.

To register for a class with USO Pathfinders, Soldiers can register at

“They can stop by our office anytime,” Bryant-Kearns said. “We are located at 212 Custer Ave. down on Historic Main Post, below Soldier For Life. In addition to that, they can call our office, 785-492-5710 any time we are happy to register for our workshops or our programs. Our programs are very personalized.”

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