Helping Injured Soldiers Continue to Serve
Sean Clifton was seriously injured in 2009 during a raid in Afghanistan. Today, he works for the FBI in Ohio. “Now I have another mission and another team to be a part of,” he said.
May 31, 2009. Eastern Afghanistan. U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Sean Clifton and his Special Forces team were conducting a raid against a Taliban stronghold. As an assault team leader, Clifton busted into a compound—and into a wall of enemy bullets. “I still remember everything vividly,” he said, “from the time I kicked in that door to the time they Medevaced me off the battlefield.”
Clifton was critically injured, with major organ damage and a shattered wrist. He eventually pulled through and spent several months at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. before returning to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. There, he learned about Operation Warfighter, a Department of Defense program that places wounded service members in internship positions with federal agencies so they can contribute while healing (at the time, the program was only available in the D.C area). Intrigued by this idea but wanting to stay in Ohio, Clifton—who had at one time considered becoming an FBI agent—called up our Cincinnati Division to see if it would be willing to do something similar. The answer? “Anything we can do to support you during your recovery.”
Clifton began working as an intern in our Columbus Resident Agency, shadowing analysts and agents to help out on cases. And when his time with the military—and therefore, the internship—was up, another door opened. On April 22, 2012, Clifton became a full-time Bureau employee.
From the Battlefield to the Bureau
Injured service members participating in our Wounded Warrior Internship Program are located all over the country and perform a variety of duties, from administrative and budget functions to intelligence and personnel security matters and more. Several of these interns have made the full-time switch to the Bureau following their transition out of the military—including the first wounded warrior intern to become an FBI agent, assigned to our Los Angeles Field Office, as well as Kionte Storey, pictured above training with his service dog, Koja. Storey was a Marine who lost part of his right leg after stepping on an improvised explosive device while deployed to Afghanistan. Following his wounded warrior internship, Storey was hired to be an operational support technician in our San Diego Division.
Clifton is one of many injured service members who found a place at the FBI.Various field offices—like Cincinnati—have allowed wounded warriors to intern with them over the years…and field-wide interest and support led to a national pilot program, then to the launch of the FBI’s official Wounded Warrior Internship Program in August 2012.
Participants—who remain on the military’s payroll—must first be approved through Operation Warfighter, have at least nine months left on their wounded warrior status, and be able to pass a full background investigation. Those selected are given assignments around the country that don’t interfere with their rehabilitation and recovery and that allow them to build a résumé, explore employment interests, develop job skills, and gain federal work experience. So far, more than 50 wounded warriors have participated in the program since the pilot began in March 2011, and 15 of those interns have since come on board as full-time FBI employees.
“My goal for the program is for every field office, every Headquarters division to have at least two wounded warriors working in their space,” said William McNeill, manager of our Wounded Warriors and Veterans Program and a 23-year Army veteran. “These service members still have so much more to give. They may not be able to serve in the capacity they first desired…but that sense of commitment and dedication is still there.”
Four years after his injury, Clifton is grateful for all the support the FBI provided him as a wounded warrior and as a Bureau employee. “Even from day one, coming in as an intern—that helped me out not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, too, because now I have another mission and another team to be a part of. And that was just a big part of my healing.”
This Memorial Day—and always—the FBI remembers those who have fallen and thanks our nation’s current and former service members for all they have done and continue to do for the country.
About Operation Warfighter
This federal program has placed more than 2,500 recovering wounded service members in internships with more than 100 federal agencies and sub-components. Visit the Department of Defense’s Warrior Care Blog for more information on this and other programs that support our nation’s soldiers. (Note: Operation Warfighter and the FBI’s Wounded Warrior Internship Program are not affiliated with the non-profit Wounded Warrior Project). | Learn more