By Rachel Dhaliwal
Contributor, Career Coach
If you’re like most service members, chances are you’ve assumed that you can’t have an internship while on active duty. A logical assumption, to be sure, but as it turns out, also an inaccurate one. There are a few provisions and programs out there that DO allow service members this opportunity, so stick with me while I lay some knowledge on you.
Job Training, Employment Skills Training, Apprenticeships, Internships (JTEST-AI) for Eligible Service Members
The first one is the most all-encompassing one, because it is open to any service member who has served at least 180 days on active duty. The Department of Defense Instruction 1322.29 lays out the program terms, eligibility requirements, and criteria for you, so I’m not going to break it all down here. What I will tell you (to further encourage you to definitely go check it out yourself) is that, if approved, your internship will be where you spend up to the last 180 days of your active service, and it doesn’t have to have anything to do with your current MOS.
That’s right. The JTEST-AI provides you a way to gain valuable experience and make connections in the industry in which you intend to work when you are discharged, while you are on active duty, even if you are going from Motor-T into Intelligence.
Now of course, like anything in the military, there are rules and some “however-comma” stipulations, so you must, must, must do your research before you start getting the wheels turning. What you should definitely know from the outset is that you cannot extend your enlistment/reenlist after participating in the JTEST-AI, so you definitely have to be getting out.
Operation Warfighter (OWF)
Operation Warfighter is a Department of Defense internship program that provides sick and wounded service members the opportunity to intern at one of 24 federal agencies while they are recuperating. Unlike the JTEST-AI, these service members can return to active duty after their internship – once they have been medically cleared, of course.
Interested service members must contact OSD.OWF@mail.mil, firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Regional Coordinator for their region prior to placement in an internship program. For more information check out Operation Warfighter.
Intelligence Community Wounded Warrior Internship Program (ICWWP)
Dovetailing with OWF, the ICWWP is for those service members interested in working within the Intelligence Community (IC). Currently, 14 agencies participate in this program, which is being helmed by the Defense Intelligence Agency. According to their ICWWP page, “Wounded, ill, or injured Active Duty Service Members, Mobilized Reservists or National Guardsmen assigned to a medical treatment facility are eligible to participate in an IC internship. Eligible candidates must also receive approval for participation by their Chain of Command and successfully complete a security background investigation, counterintelligence (CI) scope polygraph examination and drug screening.”
**Note** You can still apply if you do not currently have a security clearance; they will screen you for one during the application process.
As you have seen, participating in an internship while you are still on active duty is not an unattainable goal. While it will take research, drive, and tenacity to make it a reality, the benefits to you in the long run cannot be overstated.