One area of the park and recreation industry often overlooked by those of us on the civilian side is that of Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), a $2.6 billion enterprise that serves hundreds of thousands of military personnel and their families across the globe. MWR professionals oversee everything from sports and event programming to facility maintenance, procurement, equipment rentals and more.
Recently, recreation professional Jay Tryon, assistant director of the Town of Indian Trail Park and Recreation in North Carolina, and John Prue, installation program director at the Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, sat down for an NRPA vlog conversation on MWR and professional development, aimed particularly at young professionals. Both have extensive experience with MWR — Tryon participated in an internship program at Naval Station Great Lakes at the outset of his career, and Prue has been working MWR in some capacity or another at Great Lakes for more than 28 years. Both emphasized there are more similarities than differences among the civilian park and recreation field and that of MWR. “When it comes down to it, we’re delivering recreational programs and services,” Prue says. “It’s no different whether you’re on a military base or out in a community or municipality.”
To that point, Prue highlighted the benefits of an internship at an MWR program for young professionals just starting out in their recreation careers. “At the Great Lakes internship program, our focus is to make sure each student gets a quality experience,” he says. “We treat them like quasi-management — they’re going to get the total internship experience. You’ll hear no horror stories of schlepping boxes in the back of a warehouse or doing dishes. For 16 weeks, [interns] are going to get a chance to manage programs, run special events and lead people.” Tryon backs up Prue’s assertions with personal anecdotes of his own, saying he uses skills and experiences he gained during his MWR internship almost 10 years ago practically every day in his current nonmilitary recreation career.
So — are you a young professional ready to dive deeper into the development of your recreation career? Are you looking for a high-quality internship that offers extensive interactions with community members, upper-level management, and park and recreation professionals with years of experience under their belts? Then it’s time for you to look further into MWR and the wide array of internships offered by the Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Army. It’s also useful to check out the many park and recreation-related job postings offered by the U.S. military.
These, and NRPA’s extensive web of networking opportunities offered through NRPA Connect, are great resources for anyone starting out in the field of parks and recreation, as well as those who have experience to share. We’ll be rolling out our newly revamped and reorganized NRPA Connect platform this March, so be sure to check it out!
Meet the video bloggers:
Jay Tryon, CPRP, serves as Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation for the Town of Indian Trail in Indian Trail, North Carolina.
John Prue is installation program director at the Naval Station in Great Lakes, Illinois.