WIESBADEN, Germany - It's inadvisable for one to take a trip without charting the course beforehand. The same advice stands for military members preparing to make the trip from military to civilian life.

The Army Career and Alumni Program is the navigation device for service members getting ready for such a journey.

"ACAP is giving service members the tools to be successful in the civilian world," said Angela Roelofs, ACAP counselor. "We're not headhunters or an employment agency, but we are giving people the overall tools to be successful on their own."

ACAP is a mandatory Army program for active duty and reserve Soldiers with more than 180 days of continuous active duty and their family members. Retirees also have lifetime access to ACAP services on a space-available basis.

The ACAP process starts with an initial counseling to introduce one to the transition process. Then Soldiers sit with a counselor to develop an individual transition plan. Once the process is initiated, the career counselor will assist the service member with writing and reviewing resumes, cover letters, job searching and interviewing techniques. Throughout the transition process a number of workshops and briefings are offered to inform service members of their benefits and entitlements through Veterans Affairs.

The program also offers a number of transition workshops and seminars which include:

• Transition Overview and Military Occupational Specialty Crosswalk Workshop;

• Financial Planning Workshop;

• DOL Employment Workshop;

• VA Benefits Briefing and Disability Transition Assistance Program Briefing;

• Individual Transition Plan Review Course;

• Advanced Resume Seminar;

• Apply for a Federal Job Seminar.

A few modifications have happened with ACAP to suit the changing needs of an evolving force, said Roelofs.

The program now features the services of a financial counselor, with whom Soldiers can receive assistance with budget planning, debt reduction, tax information, insurance and investing.

"I think it's the best addition even though people seem a little resistant to it," said Roelofs.

Also, the process will be modified into several transitional tracks to offer tailored services for the different life pursuits Soldiers choose after leaving the Army.

ACAP offers an employment, educational, technical and entrepreneurial focused tracks so "one can be more focused on their individual futures when they start the ACAP process," said Roelofs.

And while ACAP arms Soldiers with the tools to help with the changeover, counselors highly recommend allowing time to maximize the benefits of the program.

"Start early to get ready," said Roelofs, who added, "We say start early so an individual can get started on things such as a resume, reducing debt or enrollment preparation requirements." Even in situations such as short-notice separations such as chapters "we try to make sure they can attend and get access to as many resources as they can during the short timeframes."

Though ACAP is a tremendous resource and mandatory for transitioning Soldiers, past use statistics suggest that some Soldiers may have missed out on the program's offerings.

"When they changed the program in November, it became a commander's program," said Roelofs, who said the mandatory program got the needed enforcement and priority from units to ensure departing Soldiers incorporate it into their regimen as they begin actions for separating from the military. "Units now have ACAP liaison officers who track ETSing and retiring Soldiers to make sure that Soldiers are completing the different requirements of ACAP."

At the local office, customers have access to computers, Internet, long distance phone service and a fax machine. "It's important that separating and retiring Soldiers take advantage of the services we have to offer," said Roelofs.

Get more information by visiting the Army Career and Alumni Program, collocated with the Education Center, in Clay Kaserne Building 1023E, in the basement, or call mil 337-5709.

Soldiers can also access ACAP resources online at www.acap.army.mil. In the ACAP Virtual Center users can receive all the transition and education services they would as if at a physical location.