FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- Transitioning from military life back into the civilian world often is a stressful time for Soldiers.

But situated inside the bright-green Aloha Center building, here, is a cache of know-how and insider tips that can make this major life change all the easier.

The Army Career Alumni Program (ACAP), based both here and on Schofield Barracks, delivers a world-class transition program that empowers Soldiers to make informed career decisions and capitalize on their Army experience and skills to find a job best suited for them, post-service.

"The purpose of the ACAP office is to ensure that Soldiers have a smooth transition back to the civilian world," said Amy Ritch, an ACAP counselor at the Fort Shafter center, which serves service members stationed at Tripler Army Medical Center, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Camp Smith and others.

"We want to ensure that they know how to write a resume, how to job-search effectively, how to market themselves, how to negotiate salary and build networking relationships," Ritch added. "We want to make sure that they are on a track when they're getting out of the Army -- whether it's an education track, a vocational track, an employment track or an entrepreneurship track -- so we steer them in the right direction."

"It's no small thing, making a career transition, regardless of your pay grade," added Chip Phelps, also an ACAP counselor, here. "The idea (behind ACAP) is that they can take care of themselves and they're competitive in the workforce when they hit the bricks on the other side of the streets."

Simply put, ACAP is all about setting Soldiers up for success by providing the following services:
•Mandatory preseparation counseling;
•Individual counseling and employment assistance;
•Resume writing;
•Interviewing skills;
•Salary negotiation;
•Special employment assistance workshops and events;
•Department of Labor three-day Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Employment Workshop (offered at the Schofield Barracks ACAP Center only, due to space availability);
•Monthly Veterans Affairs benefits and disability briefings;
•Tricare and Social Security disability briefings; and
•Financial planning workshops and personal counseling.

Soldiers are advised to contact ACAP no later than two years prior to retirement and no later than 18 months prior to expiration term of service (ETS).

"There's so much to do when you transition out of the Army that if you wait until the last-minute, you're going to scramble to try to cram everything in," Ritch cautioned. "Your job search is a full-time job.

National Guard and Reservists need to attend ACAP, as well, Ritch noted.

"They need to come in at least 12 months prior to REFRAD (release from active duty), and at least two years prior to retiring," she said.

Crucial to the transition process, according to Ritch, is the one-on-one time Soldiers receive with a counselor, who will help them set goals, refer them to appropriate services and sign them up for mandatory workshops.

"They are encouraged to come back for follow-on counseling … to review resumes and conduct mock interviews," Ritch added. "Sometimes, they'll say they have two job offers and don't know which one to take, so we talk about comparing jobs and what to look for, negotiating salary and all of that.

"We want to make sure that they're prepared and answer any questions they may have," she added.

In addition, the ACAP center regularly posts job announcements and provides books, computers and other resources pertinent to the job-finding process.

"We also encourage spouses to participate in ACAP," Ritch said. "They can attend workshops and meet with the counselors, as well."

As mandated by the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act, training requirements must be completed prior to separation from the Army, and an Army Transition Program Exit Survey must be completed before issuance of clearance papers.

There are new timelines for transitional training prior to a Soldier's separation; see ACAP VOW Checklist and Transition "Not Later Than" Timeline under the "Resources" tab of the ACAP homepage, www.acap.army.mil.

In addition, Soldiers are recommended to have a final resume and at least one of the following transition products upon separation:
•A letter of acceptance from a college or university,
•A job offer, or
•A list of job openings the Soldier can qualify for.

"They have to have the skills in order to be able to survive when they get to the outside and to prevail in the new jobs that they land," Phelps said. "Their retirements aren't going to be enough, if they even get a retirement."

ACAP is a commander's program, and commanders at all levels of the Army are directed to embrace transition policies and encourage greater participation by Soldiers by actively ensuring their Soldiers begin transition no later than 12 months from their scheduled departure from the Army and continue their participation in ACAP until they are discharged.

"It's really important that the senior command continues to get the word out," Phelps said. "They are totally responsible for being sure that the Soldier gets what he or she needs, and they share that (responsibility) with us.

"We're helping a Soldier step out of fear," he continued, "and that's really what this is all about -- getting the job, and getting out of the fear of how to get the job. And our job is to help empower them enough with the skills and self-confidence that they can do it."

- Upcoming
The Army Career Alumni Program hosts a job fair, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Sept. 27, at the Nehelani Banquet and Conference Center, 1249 Kolekole Ave., Schofield Barracks, with employment, technical entrepreneurship and education opportunities for ACAP clients, veterans and military spouses.

Among participating companies and agencies are Aerotek, Army & Air Force Exchange Service, Bella Torre Academy, Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc., Firestone Complete Auto Care, Gate Gourmet Inc., H&R Block, Hawaii Pacific University, Hawaiian Electric Company, Island Palm Communities, Longs/CVS, Microsoft, Navatek Ltd, Rodan + Fields Dermatologist, Troops to Teachers and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to name a few.

Also, the Fort Shafter and Schofield Barracks ACAP centers have weekly workshops scheduled throughout the remainder of the month.

- ACAP locations
The Fort Shafter Army Career Alumni Program office is located in the Aloha Center, Building S330, Room 110. Hours of operation are 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Mondays-Wednesdays and Fridays, and 1-4 p.m., Thursdays. Call (808) 438-9735.

Schofield Barracks' ACAP office is in the Soldier Support Center, Building 750, Room 134. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday. Call (808) 655-1028, ext. 5.

To learn more about the ACAP program, "like" the Schofield Barracks ACAP page on Facebook. (See the link.)

Page last updated Mon September 23rd, 2013 at 14:02