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Kristen Rheinlander, Pathfinder site manager for the USO here at the Great Place, is excited to make the transitioning process easier for Soldiers through the USO Pathfinder Program and show that the USO is more than concerts and cupcakes.

“The USO decided that there is really a need to continue serving that service member and their family as they go through a very volatile time of transitioning from active duty,” Rheinlander stated. “The USO Pathfinder Program is our transition services program. We are designed to help transitioning service members transition from active duty, veterans and military spouses and we are designed to complement the already existing programs through the transition assistance programs.”

Despite the current pandemic the USO Pathfinder Program is still able to offer services to transitioning Soldiers and spouses virtually. They can learn about touching up resumes and how to tweak their LinkedIn profile to make them most appealing to potential employers.

“We are still operating at 100 percent functionality,” Rheinlander said. “Just last week we were even able to host a virtual workshop discussing federal resumes.”

She said the team of transition scouts – specialists – are still able to meet with service members and spouses through virtual apps, such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime. She said during this period, they are heaviliy reliant on technology and communication via email.

The Pathfinder Program here at Fort Hood began in 2015 and was one of the first five to come out. Today there are 20 USO Pathfinder Program locations nationwide. Their goal is to give one-on-one attention to transitioning Soldiers and their spouses while complementing the already existing transition programs.

“Fort Hood has one of the largest transition tempos across the entire Army. That’s a big ask for anybody to provide that level of service to. We have on average 1,000 Soldiers transitioning out every single month. There’s not enough people to provide an adequate level of support for something as serious as transitioning from active duty,” Rheinlander said. “Where the USO is able to come in and compliment and support TAP is because we are a voluntary program, we don’t have to see all 1,000 of them that get out every single month. We have, let’s say, half of that and we are able to provide that time and attention that their transition deserves.”

Scouts in the Pathfinder Program at the USO help transitioning Soldiers or spouses create a plan of action and help them with any questions they may have.

“The scouts sit down with that service member or spouse and develop what we call an action plan. That is essentially a transition checklist. It breaks it down piece by piece of, ‘OK, employment, well before you can go to your job interview let’s start with your resume,’” Rheinlander said. “When the economy does start to upswing again, that service member or spouse has their whole professional development package ready to go. They have their resume, they have their LinkedIn, we’re getting them plugged in with the network of hiring employers. As soon as everyone’s ready to push go our service members are ready to respond.”

She finds it most rewarding to still be able to continue servicing transitioning service members despite the pandemic.

“During a time of crisis, the USO has found a way to provide comfort and stability in an uncertain time. Soldiers are still transitioning from active duty despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has been incredibly fulfilling to be able to offer a sense of stability and confidence to these transitioning service members by equipping them with the tools to translate their military experience into a rewarding civilian career,” Rheinlander said.

Though they can continue serving during the pandemic, they are excited to get the all clear and open up operation in their new building.

“We essentially went from one side of the Chili’s to the other,” Rheinlander said laughing. “We are now located directly across from the food court building 121, formerly the Rivers Building. Folks that come to see us, depending on how long they’ve served for, they know us as the old in-processing center and then after that it was CYS and now it’s the USO. We have that entire building which is wonderful.”

In the new space, each scout has their own office so Soldiers and spouses have privacy when planning for the next chapter of their life. Rheinlander is ready to host Lunch and Learns again and having service members utilize the facility.

“We have free printing and complementary lunch, because it is donated by our local sponsors. We have TV’s and couches, it’s like your living room at home and it’s so nice to be able to say that. Now I feel like it’s a place that service members and spouses will want to spend time and bring their kids and have lunch together. I can’t wait to where we’re all cleared and ready to open because it’s something to show off.”

For more info on the pathfinder program, visit www.uso.org/pathfinder or call their direct line at 254-415-2728.