Soldiers have a unique opportunity when they decide they are ready to separate from the Army, whether after a one-year mobilization or after 20 years of service. Transitioning from active duty to civilian life signifies a career change few other capacities facilitate. To support Soldiers’ success in this inevitable endeavor, the Army provides resources through the Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Army Career and Alumni Program.
With the Army planning to reduce troop strength from its current level of 520,000 Soldiers to 450,000 by fiscal 2017, the SFL-TAP’s significance proves more relevant than ever. Although unemployment for all veterans has decreased, the rate remains higher among post-9/11 veterans compared to civilians, especially among the young, minorities and women.
Providing tools, training, education and counseling, the Army maintains worldwide SFL-TAP centers on post, in addition to 24/7 call centers. The centers provide trained and experienced personnel who assist in connecting Soldiers to resources for the different avenues they may consider, including furthering their education, starting their own business or pursuing another career.
“When you’re getting out of the Army, you need to prepare as early as you can and be aware of your benefits. The SFL-TAP helps Soldiers do that,” said Toni Lewis, the transition services manager at Fort Detrick. “It’s vitally important when you’re getting out of the military so you can transition successfully.”
Lewis, an Army retiree herself, has seen the program through its evolution into the thorough and detailed process it is today.
All armed forces, including the Army, require every service member transitioning to civilian life to complete a five-day program organized by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Department of Labor through the SFL-TAP. The program includes pre-separation counseling, a financial planning class, a six-hour VA briefing and a three-day workshop involving resume-building guidance, mock interview practice and job-searching techniques.
Commanders and supervisors encourage their Soldiers to take advantage of additional services offered through the SFL-TAP upon completion of the five-day mandatory program. Services include quarterly workshops such as ‘Accessing Higher Education,’ ‘Boots to Business’ and ‘Career Technical Training Track.’
Workshops are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information on the SFL-TAP or to register for a workshop, call (301) 619-2174 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accessing Higher Education
Soldiers attended Fort Detrick’s first “Accessing Higher Education’ workshop Oct. 15-17.
Offered under the Veterans Opportunity to Work program, the workshop includes a two-day class and a day for one-on-one counseling. The class, split into four sections, covers participants’ personal and career goals, the process of selecting an institution, funding factors and admission requirements.
Soldiers have the opportunity to take an individual career assessment test on the first day and discuss the role personal factors play in defining and reaching their goals. On the third day of the workshop, they meet with the counselor to discuss their results and receive tailored guidance for their next steps.
Program Manager Cynthia Dillard coordinates more than 50 full-time counselors worldwide who maintain a consistent presence on more than 30 installations.
“We help Soldiers understand what it means to go to school, how to get there, how to apply for scholarships, how to apply to the school itself and understand how their GI bill applies to that particular school’s program,” said Dillard. “We help them figure out the mystery of going to college.”
In addition to the resources and information they gain from the workshop, Soldiers walk away with a better sense of ability.
“Most of all, we’ve seen that the workshop gives Soldiers confidence and helps them understand they can do it,” said Dillard.
The next ‘Accessing Higher Education’ workshop will take place in January.
Boots to Business
The SFL-TAP held its third ‘Boots to Business’ class Oct. 7 and 8.
The ‘Boots to Business’ initiative, offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration in collaboration with Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, helps prepare service members who are considering starting their own business once they transition from military to civilian life. The class offers comprehensive training materials specifically geared to transitioning service members.
Taught by Mark Williams, Veterans Business Development officer with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the course provides valuable assistance to participants who are exploring self-employment opportunities by leading them through the key steps for running and owning a business.
“It’s a good introduction to some of the challenges you’re going to face when you start a business,” said Williams. “We’re trying to introduce them to the resources that they can use to help them start a business and be successful.” With their vast ranges of experience and adaptable skillsets, Williams believes Soldiers offer unique capabilities to the world of entrepreneurship.
“Veterans are entrepreneurial by their makeup,” said Williams. “In the military you learn how to work around the unexpected and there is no option to not complete your mission because something didn’t work out the way you expected. These are great skills that translate well into owning your own business.”
The next ‘Boots to Business’ class at Fort Detrick will take place Feb. 10-11.
Career Technical Training Track
The SFL-TAP at Fort Detrick will offer its first ‘Career Technical Training Track’ workshop Dec. 2 and 3.
Conducted by the VA, this workshop assists Soldiers seeking job-ready skills and industry-recognized credentials in shorter-term training programs by discussing the choices and decisions involved in selecting a technical career. Participants receive assistance in identifying required credentials and investigating training options to pursue those qualifications. By the end of the workshop, they develop a customized plan for success to help smooth their transition to a technical career.