Transition services meet Fort Bragg Soldiers' needs
April 19, 2013
In the 20 years since William McMillian first arrived at Fort Bragg to stand up the Transition Services program, now known as Army Career and Alumni Program, it has undergone various changes and improvements.
The program, designed to help Soldiers transition from Army life into the civilian world, is ever-changing to ensure that it provides the best resources for servicemembers.
As of late, the program has transformed its job fair into a hiring event, essentially more effective and efficient because it pairs servicemembers with companies that are specifically seeking their expertise.
Companies are asked to sign up and post at least five job opportunities that they may have, McMillian said.
"Job seekers can now draft a resume targeted to the needs of the company," he explained.
At a hiring event in March, employers were able to sit down with job seekers who matched the criteria for jobs they were seeking to fill. Some of the companies represented at that hiring event included K2 Solutions, Penhall Company, Intelligent InSites, IBM, and the Cleveland Clinic of Ohio. Of 149 applicants who were interviewed, 106 were offered second interviews and 59 received potential job offers, McMillian said.
When Fort Bragg uses a resource such as Futures, Inc., which provides the software to match job seekers with viable companies, it improves the likelihood of an applicant being able to successfully transition from military to civilian life.
Not only that, Intelligent InSites, a North Dakota firm that took part in the March hiring event, was able to interview applicants via Skype. Such technology enables Fort Bragg to broaden its scope and reach out to companies that are not from the surrounding community. It also has the potential to make the job search more of a global effort, which is yet another improvement to a system that raises the bar on meeting the needs of servicemembers.
"(The installation) is looking at doing a total virtual hiring event in August," McMillian said.
Also in its arsenal of improvements, Fort Bragg has accepted an initiative from the Association for Facilities Engineering to train more Soldiers as plant maintenance managers. The course work, which cost $1500, has been offered to 120 Soldiers since July 2012, said McMillian. Once the certification to become a plant maintenance manager is obtained by taking the classes on Fort Bragg and passing an exam, it is good for six years. It is a real-life solution, with graduates having the capability of managing the Soldier Support Center, for instance.
"Fort Bragg is the only Army installation that this course is being offered," he explained.
In other efforts, the Warrior Transition Battalion is also sponsoring a computer maintenance and repair course in which graduates can acquire A-plus certification, necessary to begin a career in information technology. Soldiers learn computer maintenance, fundamentals and security, network design and course work in applications such as Word and spread sheets.
In the civilian sector, the course would cost $4,000 to $6,000 dollars, McMillian explained.
Future improvements include the possibility of helping Soldiers, particularly 88 Mikes (truck drivers), obtain a commercial drivers license, McMillian said. Efforts are currently underway to identify companies who would like to hire veterans.
Besides preparing the separating servicemember to get ready for civilian life, Transition Services also aids in getting that person ready for college enrollment.
Five months before separation or retirement, the Soldier must have a letter of acceptance from a college or university, so workshops are routinely conducted on how to get into college.
Besides the employment, vocational and educational tracks, Transition Services provides assistance to those who are interested in starting a business.
The servicemember must have a completed business plan as to what type of business it will be and where he or she will get funded to start the business, McMillian explained. In January, Fort Bragg began offering a two-day workshop to assist Soldiers with these needs.
According to Headquarters Department of the Army executive order 054-12, Soldiers are required to begin their pre-separation at least 12 months before leaving the military, McMillian said. Guidance is also provided under an XVIII Airborne Corps Master Policy letter issued in February 2013, and under the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, aimed at lowering the rate of unemployment among veterans.
Those considering retirement can start the ACAP process 24 months before separation.
Soldiers who are ending their term of service can begin 18 but not less than 12 months prior to separating from service.
Statistics show that as of 2011, the average unemployment rate among all veterans was 7.7 percent and 12.1 percent for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2012, ACAP helped more than 9,000 servicemembers with that number expected to rise to 11,000 this year, McMillian said. His office has seen an increase of about 200 new clients per week.
But, enrollment numbers are not the only reason ACAP remains critically important to the Army. In this time of sequestration and dwindling DA funds, successfully transitioning from military to civilian life could save as much as $500 million in unemployment insurance, McMillian said.
"The Soldier who does not come to the program is the high price that the Army pays for unemployment insurance," said McMillian.
Last year, the Army spent $503 million in unemployment insurance, and $515 million in 2011.
"The Army does not set aside money like civilian companies do," he explained.
In the meantime, ACAP is a commanders program, which means that leadership is responsible for getting Soldiers to the CAP program in a timely manner.
They will be educated about services such as financial planning, disability transition, and Veterans Affairs benefits, among others.
Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Kephart has spent more than 22 years in service and said he has been pleased with the assistance provided by ACAP staff.
"They seem like they care about helping the servicemember transition from the service to civilian life," said Kephart, who is assigned to Co. A, Womack Army Medical Center.
Sgt. Daniel Davis, of the 619th Transportation Detachment agreed.
"They are extremely helpful ... (in explaining) resources that Soldiers otherwise wouldn't necessarily know," said Davis who is expected to complete his separation by mid-July.
ACAP continues to be a transformative, forward program that serves the needs of servicemembers.
"They've served their country and now, we make sure they are prepared to go back to the civilian world and be productive and not kick them to the curb," McMillian said.
For more information on ACAP or transition services available to retirees and servicemembers who are ending their terms of service, visit