By Damien SalasAugust 8, 2014
JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - The Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) demonstrated a new database system July 30 that aims to modernize the way command leaders interact with their units and separating Soldiers.
"Commanders will have 24/7 access to check on the status of their units, as opposed to waiting on a monthly report," said Carlos Rodriguez, Transition Services manager on JBM-HH. "There will be no excuse for commanders not to follow up on their roles and deal with problem areas within the unit."
The new program developed by technology and management services contractor Serco, allows commanders to view a comprehensive breakdown of every Soldier in their units and track specific career readiness standards and Veteran's Opportunity to Work Act (VOW) requirements as they move toward separation. The commander can also compare these personnel statistics with the rest of the units on the installation.
The database software, which is approaching the commander training phase, came about in order to make commanders more successful in ensuring Soldiers arrive for transition services with enough time to complete VOW Act requirements, according to Rodriguez.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., senior member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, sent three congressional staffers to JBM-HH's ACAP Center to discuss new software with the capability of streamlining the separation process for commanders and Soldiers.
"One of the bigger issues is being able to find a community of Soldiers who are separating and reaching out to them to actively push information they need," said Adam Goodwin, legislative assistant for Murray.
Blast emails intended to alert thousands of separating Soldiers nearing their separation dates are ineffective and often go unnoticed, according to Army Capt. Larkin O'Hern, congressional fellow to Murray.
"We are interested in how we can enable transition managers and counselors to take information coming from outside employers looking for specific skill sets and use that to target specific groups of Soldiers seeking employment," said O'Hern. "We all know that when an email appears in our inbox and you are number 14,999 on that list of recipients, the tendency is to not read it."
Separation counselors capture information during pre-separation meetings to better identify Soldiers' individual plans after they leave the service, in turn making it easier for commanders to pin-point areas that need work.
"What is important to take away from this tool is that it is very command directed, meaning that it is for a commander and their unit identification code (UIC)," said Retired Army Sgt. Maj. Ed Dunn, deputy director of field operations for Serco. "They can use the tool to target which individuals within the unit have completed certain readiness standards or VOW requirements, and get them on the right track."
The program is meant to provide commanders with the tools needed to monitor units individually and to more address Soldiers' transition assistance needs during their final days of service and beyond.
The Army's lead in data collection, noted by Murray's staff as being "impressive," is dealing with complications stemming from the consolidation of Soldiers' information with other systems within the armed forces, something that remains an issue for Serco software developers, according to Jeff Wheeler, Human Resources Command and policy analyst for the ACAP Program.
"As we go and build this stuff; we're finding issues with these other systems, so we are helping them correct their issues in their data bases, and that will in turn make it easier for us," said Wheeler.
The software development, with no official release date at time of press, comes with the July 31 passage of a new Veterans Affairs legislation in congress, which provides for an overhaul of the department and appointment of Robert McDonald as secretary of Veterans Affairs.