Transitioning from a military lifestyle to the civilian sector can be a daunting task for even the most tenured military veterans.
However, USO Pathfinders, a servicemember transition program, is poised to provide assistance to members transitioning out of the military and into the civilian world at the VyStar Credit Union at Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville.
“We have that trust with our military men and women and that reputation to now help them at the final stage of their transition,” said USO Executive Director Mike O’Brien.
“We like to say that from the day they enlist to the day that they find their next career, the USO is always by their side.”
The USO Pathfinder will be located inside the VyStar Credit Union building in building 39 on base.
“[The USO] was looking for a place on a base,” said VyStar Credit Union Vice President Brad Smith.
“The bases were pretty much full as what the DoD could provide, but with the history of our company here on base, it just seemed like a natural partnership that we could help them with.”
When a service member or military family member visits a USO transition site, a professional scout will assist them with services to help in their reintegration to the civilian workforce.
These services include education, employment skills and training – to name a few. The scout will then help the individual establish an action plan that will provide a roadmap to accomplishing tasks in each area of assistance.
“The scouts will be the individuals who work one-on-one with the [service members] and their spouses to build a relationship to find out where they are in the process,” O’Brien said.
“We work one year pre separation and one year post separation. There is a whole lifestyle approach. Financial readiness is critical – VA benefits, health and wellness, housing, etc. It’s not just the job. It’s also all the factors of preparing for life once they hang up the uniform.”
VyStar Credit Union will also be providing much of the expertise to assist military members.
“VyStar and our other partners will be providing the expertise,” O’Brien said.
“Our USO doesn’t necessarily have the expertise in things like financial readiness. VyStar is a perfect partner to deliver that presentation to our [service members].”
The financial counseling offered by VyStar is not only open to active duty service members, but it also extends to anyone working on NAS Jacksonville.
“Our certified financial counselor serves not only for our members of VyStar, it serves anybody on the base who works as a contractor, civil servant, active duty or their families.” Smith said.
“If they have any financial counseling needs, they can come to our financial counselor here that’s on our staff full time anytime we are open.”
The Public Works department and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) played a large role in allowing the USO Pathfinders facility to be built in VyStar.
“I just want to pass along a great thank you to the base, Naval Facilities and all those who helped bring it to where it is now,” Smith said.
An official ribbon cutting ceremony will be held Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. to celebrate the opening of USO Pathfinders at NAS Jacksonville.
“The big carrot at the end of the road is finding that next career,” O’Brien said.
“It’s also about building that relationship with the scouts and the [service members] and spouses.”