By Jennifer Walleman, Fort Leavenworth LampJuly 10, 2014
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (July 10, 2014) -- On Oct. 1, Soldiers will begin to have a more defined plan for transitioning out of the Army with the implementation of the Soldier Life Cycle.
This three-phase career cycle supports the Soldier for Life initiative and prepares Soldiers from the beginning of their military service, until their transition to civilian life, with the resources needed to equip them with the employment skills, training, counseling and opportunities that will enhance their marketability after military service.
Implementing this initiative will require coordination from several different Army agencies.
At the focal point of this campaign initiative is the Army Career and Alumni Program. A directive dated June 26 was sent from Retired Col. Walter Herd, director of the Army Transition Program, headquartered at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command, indicating the immediate "rebranding" of ACAP Armywide, per the June 20 announcement from Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno.
Army Career and Alumni Program's mission remains the same, but its name is now Soldier for Life: Transition Assistance Program.
Army Career and Alumni Program has been around since 1990, so it may take time for Soldiers to get adjusted to the new name, said Brett Rosene, Transition Services manager for Fort Leavenworth.
"It will take time but with the Soldier Life Cycle, Soldiers will start identifying what our office is about at basic training," Rosene said. "They're going to receive information on Soldier for Life and then, when they first arrive at their duty stations and throughout their careers, we will actually be touching them at certain milestones."
The Soldier Life Cycle is focused on preparing Soldiers for transition, and connecting them with meaningful employment, educational opportunities and benefits from the beginning of their military career until the end. When the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act went into effect in November 2012, huge changes were made to the Soldier transition process.
Transitioning began a year out instead of the previous 90 days. However, this was still trying to convey a lot of information in a compressed timeline at the end of the Soldier's career.
"It is such a life-changing event to change your career," Rosene said. "It affects not just you, but your family and people around you. It takes more than a year to prepare properly to go from military service to a civilian career. So now they are going to start preparing from inception all the way through to transition."
The Soldier Life Cycle is divided into three phases. Phase one is the Soldier's first year in the military.
Soldiers receive credentialing information regarding their military occupational specialty, known as an MOS, and attend an eight-hour financial readiness class during advanced individual training.
Rosene said the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is still working with federal and state agencies to see which MOSs actually do cross over.
"What that means if you are a truck driver, you might actually earn a commercial driver's license as part of your graduation because you would have met the same requirements as the outside world," Rosene said.
Soldiers will complete a self-assessment with an education counselor at their first duty station to help them complete an individual development plan, or road map of how they want their careers to progress and what needs to happen for them to get there. They will receive information on GI Bill benefits and tuition assistance. They will meet one-on-one with a financial counselor who will help them develop a one-year budget. Also, the agency that provides the installation in-processing papers to the Soldier will verify that he or she has an eBenefits account with Veterans Affairs.
The second phase, the career phase, has two parts: one to 10 years of service and 10 years of service to transition or retirement. Soldiers with one to 10 years of service will annually review their individual development plans, update their career goals with their leaders and update their Army Career Tracker profiles with any educational or personal goals.
The Army Career Tracker is an online tool that records each Soldier's accomplishments and milestones throughout his or her career and can be accessed by Soldiers, first-line leaders, and Army groups like the Education Center, Soldier for Life: TAP, and Retention Services to update and benchmark each individual's record. During part two of the career phase, Soldiers will start working on resumés and thinking about what they will need when getting out.
The final phase is the transition phase. This phase will remain unchanged from what Soldier for Life: TAP currently provides, with training and programming on employability, resumé writing, effective job interviewing, and looking for work.
With implementation anticipated this fall, numerous changes to existing regulatory guidance and policy will coincide with and support the Soldier Life Cycle requirements. The Army will deliver specific implementation instructions in July and release a commander's guide to transition in August to help leaders identify program requirements.
"There's going to be an implementation phase," Rosene said. "The Army isn't going to flip a switch and everyone is going to be compliant. There's going to be a period of time for everyone to get used to it, get used to the software, and get used to the requirements."
Rosene said that leaders will need to know how to use Army Career Tracker to document certain milestones, and commanders will have to know how to go out there and look at the Soldier to determine who needs what to ensure that their new Soldiers are meeting the requirements. If the Soldiers are getting ready to re-enlist or are up for promotion, they will have to do a gap analysis or a self-assessment on where they're at, if they met their goals and what they need to do to meet their goals.
"One of the key points is we are not trying to develop civilians in the Army," Rosene said. "We want to give Soldiers an opportunity to grow while they are in the Army. The first job of every Soldier is to be a Soldier and that is their primary mission. Whatever their MOS is, if they have an interest outside their career field, they'll be given an opportunity to explore that."
The Army alone has been spending more than $500 million per year on unemployment compensation. If the Soldier Life Cycle helps reduce this amount, it will make more money available for other personnel projects or other personnel operations.
The Soldier for Life website is www.soldierforlife.army.mil. It features links to informational resources for active-duty, National Guard, Army Reserves, retired Soldiers and their families.