New Fort Riley team assists with transition to civilian life

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LEFT TO RIGHT: John Verschage, scout, Crystal Bryant-Kearns, site manager, and Lauren Kovaleski, office coordinator, all work at the new USO Fort Riley’s Rally Point 6 program. The program is designed to help Soldiers transition from military to civilian life.

Red, white and blue – that’s the theme of the office of the new transition program through the USO Fort Riley called RP/6, or Rally Point 6. This is a convening place where service members or their families can connect with community partners who can assist them on their path to civilian life.

Crystal Bryant-Kearns, site manager for the program, describes the office as the “best breakroom in the Army” as it is temporarily in the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program breakroom in building 212 on Custer Avenue.

The program staff has been at Fort Riley for less than six weeks, but a lot of work has already been done. The program is part of the USO Transition 360 Alliance, an initiative to help service members and their families successfully transition into civilian life. The USO staff supports the service member’s career and are known for always being there, but the RP/6 program takes that one step further.

“Not only do we want to be with them through their entire military career, but we also want to help them successfully transition,” Bryant-Kearns said. “We want our service members and families to know that on their path forward, we’ve got their back.”

Rally Point 6 was founded by two veterans who make up more than 30 years of combined service in the Army, both experiencing military transition post 9/11. Driven to solve the disconnect between military service and transition to the private sector, they set out to engage their local community in understanding the potential and the opportunity offered in welcoming service members as valued Transition 360 Alliance programs, which leverages the USO’s global resources and the programmatic expertise of additional nonprofit organizations to provide a broader range of impactful programs and services to support troops and military families in their transition to civilian life.

According to the 2015 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 98 percent of those served by RP/6 are successfully connected to trusted resources within their community resulting in a successful transition to civilian life. More than 400 national organizations are partnered with the program.

The USO Fort Riley RP/6 team is made up of three people: a site manager, scout and office coordinator. Bryant-Kearns said she hopes to expand by an additional scout once program numbers grow.

Bryant-Kearns role as a site manager is to build partnerships with the community at the local, state and national levels. She vets each partner, so the scouts who meet with the Soldiers can provide trusted resources from those partners.

“These are warm handoffs where we have vetted them and know that they will take care of our service members and families,” Bryant-Kearns said.

John Verschage is the program scout. He meets with each service member or family member. Using program methodology, he asks a series of questions to better understand where to begin and the goals of each person served. Together they develop an action plan.

As they move through the action plan, he works to connect them with a best fit from the partner organizations, tracks their progress and maintains focus on the end goal, which is transitioning successfully. Once a connection is made, he follows up to validate services were provided and each individual met their objectives.

Lauren Kovaleski is the office coordinator. She maintains stability within the office while marketing the program and completing administrative details for Verschage and Bryant-Kearns.

Although the program is still in its infancy at Fort Riley, about 97 local partnerships have been established, and Bryant- Kearns is hopeful that number will continue to grow. In a few months, the program staff will be moving to the basement of 212 Custer Ave., just downstairs from where they are.

“We’re super excited,” Bryant-Kearns said. “This is a much needed program. Much of my family are active duty or veterans, and I personally know that transition is tough. John knows it firsthand; he spent the last 29 years in the Army. Lauren is a spouse of a service member. Together, we all have varied experiences and understanding of military life and we understand how important a successful transition is, not only for the service member, but their families and the community as a whole.”

For more information or to become a community partner call 785-492-5531 or 785-492-5710. Those who are transitioning and want to participate visit www.rp6.org/register.

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