FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Mar. 1, 2012) -- As the Department of Defense downsizes due to budget cuts, the Army Career and Alumni Program offers opportunities to Soldiers and Family members who could possibly be transitioning out of military life.

The Army will be drawing down the size of its active force by at least 50,000 Soldiers over the next five years, according to Brian Tharpe, transition service manager for ACAP. There are over 850,000 veterans looking for jobs and the Army owes it to veterans to give them the necessary tools to find work after leaving the military, according to Tharpe.

"Our ACAP counselors are the biggest asset that the [transitioning] Soldier has," he said. "[The counselors] can help [Soldiers] with things like helping them decide what they want to do [when they get out of the military], give them the tools and resources they need to find a job and help them get their individual transition plans ready."

The program guides Soldiers during their transition process by helping create resumes, conduct job interviews and setting up job leads, according to Tharpe. ACAP is responsible for transition assistance and employment assistance, which is why it hosts an annual job fair in August and monthly employer days with companies that are hiring to introduce Soldiers to potential jobs and careers.

"These companies are looking to hire Soldiers because they've already got a lot of the skills that they are looking for," he said," and it's a competitive work force out there.

"It's an employer's world right now and they are looking for the cream of the crop," said Tharpe. "The Soldier has to be ready to go and he has to be ready to hit the ground running."

ACAP works together with the Department of Labor and the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Army is bulking up its ACAP centers with new counselors and partners from both departments, said the service manager.

"We offer classes that the Department of Labor puts on that teaches [transitioning Soldiers] all the different aspects of job searching," he said. "We just help them prepare by helping them know where to look, how to dress, conducting interviews and everything they're going to need to know when looking for a new job. The Soldier that comes through the ACAP program finds the jobs quicker."

The Army, just like any other large company, has to pay out unemployment to those that transition out of the military due to the reduction of forces, said the service manager. Helping Soldiers find jobs isn't only beneficial to Soldiers and Families, but it's also beneficial for the Army and the economy.

"A lot of people don't know that the Army has to pay unemployment compensation to Soldiers," said Tharpe. "The Army has to pay over $500 million a year in unemployment, and a big focus [of this program] is to get the unemployment down and the costs in line. It's more cost effective to actively help these [transitioning] Soldiers find jobs."

The savings in cost is an added benefit and a big reason that ACAP is being geared up aside from the help that it offers Soldiers and Families, he said.

The first step of the program is the pre-separation counseling, which can either be done online or at the ACAP office in Bldg. 5700, according to Tharpe. Much of what ACAP has to offer is now offered online.

"ACAP online is a great tool," he said. "The Army is the only service that offers ACAP online and the Soldiers can do a lot of the things online that they could come in here and do."

The ACAP website offers transition assistance, employment assistance, information on VA benefits and information on education and training, according to Tharpe. It makes it just that much easier for Soldiers to get involved with ACAP.

A positive outlook while going through the program and job searching is essential when transitioning out of the military, said the service manager.

"Don't get discouraged," he said. "Soldiers will hear 'no' a lot when they are job searching, but, their persistence and a good positive mindset will eventually lead them to an employer that says 'yes'."

For more information, call 255-2558 or 255-2546 or visit www.acap.army.mil.

Page last updated Thu March 1st, 2012 at 15:31