By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
When Luis Feliz joined the Army in 1999, he thought he would make a career of it.
But a combat injury sustained in Iraq is forcing the sergeant first class through the Army Medical Evaluation Board after 14 years of service.
"I always saw myself doing 20 years in the Army, but sometimes the situation changes. Life changes," he said. "For the time being, I'm making the most of the experience that I can. I'm making the best of it."
Feliz joined the Warrior Transition Brigade in March and a month later, he was interning for the Drug Enforcement Agency in Waco through Operation Warfighter program — a federal internship program that gives recovering wounded, ill and injured service members civilian work experience at participating federal and government agencies.
The program began in 2009 with 10 soldiers interning at the Internal Revenue Service, said Anthony Thomas, transition coordinator of the program. Now, he oversees 51 soldiers interning with more than 25 agencies.
"It's a win-win situation for these soldiers and agencies," he said. "You can tell their morale is boosted once they get into the program. ... They start feeling worthy."
Feliz is the only soldier at DEA and through his internship, he has already been an asset to the agency, said Steven Robertson, supervisory special agent of the Waco office, which covers 13 counties, including Bell and Coryell.
"He fills a need — that's the important thing," Robertson said.
As a Navy veteran, he said he had no hesitation in adding a soldier intern from Fort Hood, and many other DEA offices across the country have participated in the program with positive results.
"In a perfect world, we would give him a job in DEA. It would be in DEA's advantage for him to join," Robertson said. An agency hiring freeze stands in the way, he said.
Feliz said he had never considered law enforcement until he started working with Robertson on intelligence support, tracking data from cellphone information and other resources to help drug investigations.
"It sparked my curiosity after doing it for three months and I've chosen the path of law enforcement after my Army career," he said. The time left until his medical board decision is final is still unclear.
"I'm so grateful to be in this internship program and working with DEA."
For more on the Operation Warfighter program, read Wednesday's edition of the Fort Hood Herald.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.