Extreme ACAP makeover benefits Soldiers' career progression, transitions
February 10, 2012
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- The Army Career and Alumni Program is on the verge of major changes, some of which are already underway on four pilot installations: Fort Benning, Fort Belvoir, Fort Bragg and Fort Hood.
An Army executive order that became effective at the end of December directs the changes. It is also supported by the Vow to Hire Heroes Act, which makes the Transition Assistance Program mandatory for all for all transitioning servicemembers.
On the orders of Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, West Point, conducted a study on ACAP in 2010. They visited most of the ACAP centers throughout the Army and spoke with countless Soldiers.
The results of the study showed that Soldiers' commands were not always supportive of their right to use ACAP services as early as one year prior to separation and up to two years prior to retirement. Instead, most Soldiers' first contact with ACAP was during their mandatory pre-separation briefing 90 days before their expiration of term of service.
"It takes more than just the last year to get yourself into position if you are going to use all the resources that are available to you," said Roger Shepard, ACAP Transition Services manager.
To better support Soldiers, the Army transformed ACAP into part of a basic career management process that now includes the Army Career Tracker.
According to an Army Transition Policy letter dated Aug. 29, 2011, Army transitions will now encompass the entire life cycle of Soldiers' service -- from permanent changes of station to promotions, schooling and separation, and "adjust and adapt to the needs of the force through the lens of lifelong learning."
It also states that the transition process will be customer focused, easily understood, managed by commanders through performance metrics and supported by integrated information systems.
So what does this all mean?
It means commands will have unprecedented involvement in Soldiers' careers, with accountability.
ACAP services are available online so Soldiers can access them from home, deployment or anywhere with Internet access.
"Commanders will have a responsibility to manage each and every Soldier in this tracking system," Shepard said. "The commander is going to be directly involved, and there will be measurable input provided by the ACAP system once you get started in that process."
Now, within the first 60 days of arriving at their first active duty assignment, new Soldiers will sit with a representative from their commands, most likely a retention noncommissioned officer, and discuss their career paths.
Together, they will create a career management plan and input it into the ACT system, https://actnow.army.mil/, whether the Soldier plans to make a full career out of the military or complete one enlistment and then separate.
This career plan will be tailored to the individual Soldiers to get the best career progression, capitalize on their skill sets and better prepare them for the future.
Under the new policy, a Soldier's first contact with ACAP will happen no less than 12 months from when they separate.
Soldiers who are more than 12 months out, but are scheduled to ETS within 90 days following a deployment, can connect with an ACAP counselor before they deploy. The assigned counselors will then help the Soldiers meet their transition milestones while deployed via telephone and email.
At 12 months, Soldiers will attend TAP and then complete an assessment tool that will gauge their confidence in how prepared they are for transition and recommend specific transition workshops.
The workshops will take them through networking, gathering documents, writing a resume, interviewing and negotiating salaries.
Between 10 months and a Soldier's ETS date, all specialized training and courses must be complete.
At no later than six months, Soldiers will be required to have completed the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits briefing, and those who are determined to have potential qualifying disabilities will have the Disabled Transition Assistance Program briefing. Soldiers will also register on the Department of Labor's Career One Stop site (http://www.careeronestop.org/).
By the time Soldiers are five months from their ETS date, their resumes will be complete.
The ultimate goal is taking care of Soldiers -- they will know what is needed to succeed in their fields; and when it is time for them to transition, they will be prepared for employment and life in the civilian world.
Shepard said he hopes these new changes will set units' command climates to sending a positive message that transitioning Soldiers are valuable.
ACAP is available to active duty, National Guard and Reserves Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and retirees. More information about ACAP services, specific eligibility or how to make an appointment with an ACAP counselor can be found at https://www.hrc.army.mil/site/active/tagd/acap/.