Soldiers transition to civilian jobs
February 21, 2014
FORT SILL, Okla. -- As the military draws down its forces, many Soldiers face decisions about their future in the Army. Will they stay in, or will they choose to get out? Or will they even have a choice about continuing to serve?
For those facing separation from the service, there is a transition plan and they are required to participate in that plan, known as the Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
Debra Watts, transition services manager for the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) at Fort Sill explained how the weekly TAP classes help Soldiers prepare for life beyond the Army.
"Today some 45 Soldiers are attending the TAP workshop. We teach them how to write resumes and develop interviewing skills, to prepare them for the mock interviews we conduct," Watts said. "All of this prepares them for the Soldier for Life hiring event we are having March 27 at Rinehart Fitness Center.
"We are just trying to help them market themselves, the skills and leadership responsibilities they learned while in the Army. We help Soldiers translate those abilities once they leave the service," Watts added.
James Gorham, a TAP facilitator, knows firsthand the difference his program and ACAP can mean to Soldiers.
"I went through the ACAP program when I got out in 2002 when Debra Watts was the director. It really helped me with my resume and learning how to work with the Veterans. I didn't know much about resumes when I was in the military, and ACAP really helped me," he said.
When he got out of the Army after 27 years, Gorham said the first job interview he went to, they asked for a resume. He was glad he had a good one that ACAP helped him create.
Gorham now teaches the Soldiers to create different types of resumes when they want to apply for different types of jobs. And they are taught how to dress for interviews.
"In the "Dress for Success" class we teach them how to dress for interviews, because an applicant doesn't have to wear a suit and tie for every interview, such as for construction or labor jobs. It's very important they know how to dress for different types of jobs," he said.
Staff Sgt. Michael Becton, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery, was one of the Soldiers attending the workshop. He worked a couple civilian jobs before joining the Army in 2000. Now he is facing a possible separation from the Army, so he wanted to check out the TAP workshop.
"I wanted to prepare myself to go from being a green-suiter to a civilian without much worry. I would prefer to stay in for six more years and finish with 20 years in, but if that doesn't happen I want to be prepared for all options," Becton said.
He is a 14T Patriot missile aircrew member and is currently an Advanced Individual Training instructor. He hopes to get a job in management, or become a teacher at Fort Sill.
"The most valuable thing I have learned in the class is networking and writing resumes. I had written a resume before in a college composition class, but I feel the training I receive here in writing a resume will be far more valuable," Becton said.
Another Soldier attending the workshop was Spc. Kathleen Owen, A Company, 168th Brigade Support Battalion. She's an 89B ammunition supply specialist who has been in the Army four years and will transition out in about six months.
"When I get out of the Army I am going to Cameron University to get my allied nursing degree and then I'm going to get my bachelor of science in nursing," she said. "My ultimate goal is to be an RN."
While in school she will wait for her husband, Cpl. Levi Owen, 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery to finish his contract in 2016. And she will soon be looking for a job, another reason she attended the TAP workshop.
"They are helping us build our resumes this afternoon. I am excited about that because I want to get out there and apply for jobs, to see my options. And even though I don't have my degree yet I am working on it. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for me," Owen said.
"Our Soldiers have many diverse skills, and they bring a lot to the workplace, so we are just trying to help showcase what they have learned in the Army by offering the Soldier for Life hiring event March 27," Watts said.
She said there are 65 companies registered from local, state, national and federal levels with a goal to attract more than 100. And she doesn't think we will have any trouble meeting that goal.
"We have seen Soldiers who are close to getting out of the Army walk away from these hiring events with job offers. And, many times there will be follow-on interviews, but we have actually seen Soldiers receive job offers from these events. That's our wish for every one of our Soldiers."
There is room for additional companies and businesses to attend the free Soldier for Life hiring event March 27 from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Rinehart Fitness Center. Call 580-442-6428 or visit the Fort Sill ACAP Facebook page for more information on how register.