Transition from military to civilian life can be a difficult experience for many veterans, said Sgt. First Class Eddie Medina, who has a found a way to smooth that conversion.

Medina is part of the Veterans Local Government Management Fellowship, a program funded entirely by the Department of Defense. The 16- to 20-week program provides transitioning service members with management training and hands-on experience in local government, with the goal of preparing them for a government career.

Medina is paired with Pueblo County, the first county in Colorado to become part of the program.

“They can pair you up with a local government or a private company that is involved,” Medina said. “I had to ask a lot of questions to see which path I wanted to take. For me, I thought the program was perfect.”

Pueblo County officially launched the fellowship program Aug. 14, said the county’s Community Information Manager Paris Elliott.

“I can tell you this program is expanding and will be with more local governments and more businesses,” Medina said.

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Medina, 44, has spent 27 years in the Army and said his last duty station was at Fort Carson.

Medina’s wife is also in the Army and deployed in Saudi Arabia. He has three adult children and two others, ages 13 and 8, who live with him in Fountain.

“I want to be the main provider for my family and I was worried about what to do after I retire from the Army,” Medina said.

Medina, who will retire March 1, said the Army tries to help veterans prepare for that day.

“There’s a briefing you get — it’s about transitioning — and you can get that up to two years before your retirement,” Medina said. “The Army really wants you to transition smoothly. They talk about how to do job interviews, finances, lots of things to try to help you.”

When he heard about the fellowship program from Darrin Tangeman, the district manager of Pueblo West Metro District, it seemed like a great opportunity.

“Darrin had the opportunity to talk to us, and I was impressed with what I heard,” Medina said. “I was glad to hear about this program. I jumped right in.”

Medina sees the program potentially helping lots of veterans make the transition to civilian life.

“I can tell you from personal experience how this has helped me understand how local government works,” he said. “It’s given me, just in a short time, a better understanding of how I can be useful in the workplace and how I can use the skills I learned in the military to benefit another employer.

“I think it will help every retiree move forward and help give them a different goal for when they retire. A lot of veterans are unemployed and find it hard to emulate what civilians do in the workforce. This program gives them the opportunity to change that.”