Photo courtesy of Maura Gondek

Make your security clearance work for you, even after the military

August 24, 2018 - 4:40 pm

Service members often leave the military with security clearances but not the corresponding certifications that will help them in the civilian workforce. That’s where  USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore (USO-Metro)  steps in to close that gap.

USO-Metro’s Project Next S.T.E.P, or Service Member Transition Education Program, offers three different classes to prepare to separate service members for various national career certifications.

For those with previous project management experience or cybersecurity experience, the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) classes might be for you.

PMP gives service members the tools they need to lead teams, manage projects and prepares them for the certification exam after finishing the course. CISSP, on the other hand, was created for service members who have experience and are interested in a cyber-security career.

Maura Gondek, transition program specialist for USO-Metro says, “All of the classes offer that transitioning service member an opportunity to put all of those skills and experience that we know that they have in their military life and help transfer it and make it relatable in the civilian sector and helps prepare them for those nationally recognized certifications that they can take any place.”

Photo courtesy of USO Inc.

USO-Metro also offers a program designed for network engineers. Whether you have the hands-on experience from the military or you are looking for a career change, the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) course teaches gives service members practical training installing, configuring, and trouble-shooting routed and switched networks.

The classes are offered at least twice a year on a rotating schedule and each program varies in length. You can apply up to a year before separating and up to a year after they leave the military. The career education classes are also open to active duty spouses.

Along with their partners like Cisco and Booz Allen Hamilton, USO-Metro holds quarterly networking dinners as part of Project Next S.T.E.P with other service members who also received the same certifications. This allows the Project Next S.T.E.P. graduates to meet recruiters and find out how they can take their training to the next level.

Gondek also encourages participants to register with the USO’s national Pathfinder program.

“You register and one of their scouts reaches out to you and works with you to create an action plan, ‘what do you need assistance with?’ Whether it’s furthering education or housing,” says Gondek. “They work on an action plan with you and then they make connections for you based on your action plan.”

While the USO has helped men and women in uniform for over 75 years, their resources don’t stop once you leave the service.

For more information about Project Next S.T.E.P., contact Maura Gondek, at or 571-267-2086 for more information.

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