FORT HOOD, Texas (May 9, 2014) -- Fort Hood recently was selected to host a pilot program for Soldiers approaching their estimated time of separation window.
Under the new program, Active Component to Reserve Component, known as AC2RC, Soldiers will be eligible to speak to Army Reserve and National Guard component career counselors and sign an enlistment contract as far as 365 days out from their estimated time of separation, or ETS, date.
In a historic moment for the AC2RC program, Sgt. Meredith Schwartzentruber, a III Corps G3 Operations Section Air Shop tactical airspace information system operator, was the first Soldier to sign a contract under the program, with the Texas National Guard, May 1 at the Copeland Center here.
Schwartzentruber signed her contract almost a year out from her April 13, 2015, ETS date.
Being the first to try something new can be scary, but Schwartzentruber said it was an easy choice for her.
"As an air traffic controller, it's a hard decision because as a civilian air traffic controller there are huge opportunities, and in the Army, air traffic control is such a small career field," Schwartzentruber said. "There are very few places you can go.
"But I did want to keep serving, so the National Guard gives me the opportunity to get one of those civilian jobs and continue to serve," added Schwartzentruber, who will be assigned to the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade.
In the decision of National Guard over the Army Reserves, Schwartzentruber said it was pride that helped her make her choice.
"I'm a native Texan, so I just felt a sense of pride for Texas and figured why not give the Texas National Guard a try," Schwartzentruber said.
Schwartzentruber said she feels good to be the first to sign under the AC2RC program.
"I feel great," Schwartzentruber said. "It's a huge weight off my shoulders, because my year mark came up and I was thinking, 'What am I going to do after I ETS?' It's great to know a year out what you're going to do and be able to plan for it."
Sgt. Maj. Lisa Birkhead, III Corps Reserve Components senior enlisted adviser, gave two strong reasons as to why Fort Hood was selected to host the new AC2RC pilot program.
"Fort Hood was chosen because of the volume of Soldiers stationed here, along with the large diversity of MOSs (military occupational specialties)," Birkhead said. "Those two reasons made Fort Hood the best choice for hosting this program."
Transition success was a key point that Birkhead said leaders should know about the program.
"This is a program that will offer opportunities sooner to assist Soldiers in their decision-making process as they transition," Birkhead said. "We want all Soldiers to be successful when they transition. We also want them to know they are valued by the reserve component because of their experience and skills."
Secondly, Birkhead said there are some things that the AC2RC pilot program is not.
"This is not an early release program," Birkhead confirmed. "The early release programs are based on school or job offers, and they are done at the Soldier's unit, not through the AC2RC program."
The AC2RC program is not looking to stop at just letting Soldiers sign up for the reserves or guard earlier on in their transition period, Birkhead said. They are looking at how to add training options to the program, as well.
"We hope to add training on active duty soon so that Soldiers that need to re-class or lack the current level of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System for warrant opportunities, can do it before they transition into the reserve component," Birkhead said. "This would be an added benefit for the Soldier. When they report to their reserve component units, they would already be MOS-qualified.
"This will also help alleviate the Soldier's time away from their civilian employment because the Soldier would not have to attend MOS training later on," she added.
At the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Justin Platt, Army G1 Personnel office Manpower and Reserve Affairs director of public affairs, spoke about the importance the AC2RC program had for the entire Army.
"As the Army implements its drawdown strategy to balance the force and sustain capability and readiness, we are extremely sensitive to ensuring that we treat our all volunteer force with dignity and respect, recognizing the service and sacrifices of our Soldiers and their Families," Platt said. "The Army's priority remains retaining Soldiers with the greatest potential for continued service while encouraging quality Soldiers transitioning from the Active Component to continue to serve in the Reserve Components."