By Sgt. Tracy R. MyersAugust 22, 2014
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - The U.S. Army has redesigned and rebranded its well-known Army Career and Alumni Program to the new Soldier for Life: Transition Assistance Program in preparation for the full implementation of the Transition Soldier for Life Cycle, Oct. 1.
The Soldier for Life concept is the Army's comprehensive approach to a Soldier's military lifecycle. The Soldier Life Cycle cares for Soldiers by beginning their post-military preparation from their initial entry, through their military service, reintegration and transition phases.
The U.S. Army Central command made enhancing the force for ready and resilient personnel and Army Forces one of their a top priorities in accordance with their campaign plan. Their Soldier for Life: TAP programs at their main command post, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, and forward operating bases throughout their area of operations, are responsible for accomplish this line of effort.
The Soldier for Life philosophy is to take care of teammates by ensuring Soldiers start strong, serve strong, and reintegrate strong so they remain Army Strong serving their communities after.
This new program is designed around the Military Life Cycle transition model, a new transition program that will incorporate career readiness and transition preparation into the entire span of a service member's career.
According to the Department of Defense, service members will have various key "touch points" throughout their MLC that will provide them opportunities to align their military career with their civilian goals.
"It's a new way of taking care of Soldiers," said Steven Wylie, Camp Arifjan's Soldier for Life: TAP director. "Everything you do to prepare them for the civilian workforce throughout their military service, also develops them as better, more professional Soldiers."
This model requires a Soldier's transition to be a well-planned, organized progression that empowers them to make informed career decisions and take responsibility for advancing their personal goals.
Services previously provided by ACAP, such as resume writing, professional development, career fairs and seminars, will still be available through the Soldier for Life: TAP, with a shifted focus on all Soldiers, not just those with an approved separation date.
The Soldier Life Cycle will be divided into three phases. Phase one is the Soldier's first year in the military. While Soldiers receive training and credentials for their Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS, they will also attend an eight-hour financial readiness class during Advanced Individual Training.
"While their certification qualifies them for that MOS, it also provides them skills that can be transfer to a civilian job," said Wylie. "The emphasis has shifted to developing Soldiers job skills so when it comes time for them to transition to civilians, they have ample experience to build a resume."
In the past, transition and preparation for the civilian workforce occurred prior to a Service member exiting the military - late in their term of service, Wylie explained. Under this new program, these strategies will be incorporated earlier to ensure counseling, assessments, and access to resources to build skills or acquire credentials during the early stages of a service member's military career.
"We have learned that we cannot wait unit the end of a Service member's military career to help them succeed and reach their goals post separation," stated Dr. Susan Kelly, Transition to Veterans Program Office director, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. "We have to start early and afford them the opportunity to consider and develop personal goals, and reach milestones through their careers."
The Individual Development Plan, which implements the MLC model, will re-enforce preparation to meet the Career Readiness Standards throughout the span of a Service member's military career, according to Kelly.
Career Readiness Standards are a Department of Defense set of mandated requirements to prepare Soldiers with the knowledge, tools and skills needed to achieve their individual transition goals. It is a checklist of all the training, documentation and preparation procedures already in place, except now it will be conducted according to a different timeline.
The IDP, accessible through the Army Career Tracker online, will guide the Soldiers military career path to align with their post-military goals, stated Wylie. The IDP, started immediate upon enlistment, will be the driving force to planning career advancement within military ranks. Similar to the way the current Individual Transition Plan drives their transition from military life.
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 services such as the Education Center, Soldier for Life: TAP and Retention, to update and benchmark each individual's record.
Career Readiness Standards will begin long before their intended separation and remain engaged throughout their military careers in mapping and refining their individual development to achieve their military goals and their post-military goals for employment, education, career technical training, or starting their own business.
The second phase, the career phase, has two different paths: a 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 IDP, update their career goals with their leaders and update their Army Career Tracker profiles with educational or personal goals.
"It is important for [noncommissioned officers] to use the Army Career Tracker when counseling their Soldiers to be sure they know the Soldier's intentions, whether they plan to continue service or transition from military service," said Sgt. 1st Class James Stasiak, U.S. Army Central Theater Transition Assistance Career Counselor.
Also during the career phase, Soldiers will start working on resumes and thinking about what actions need to be taken when getting out.
Midcareer noncommissioned officers should plan to submit their resume in accordance with the new system, as it may be a requirement, Wylie said.
Tools, such as the Transition Goals, Plans and Success, or GPS, and MOS Crosswalk are available online, to help prepare Soldiers plan for a smooth and successful transition.
Transition GPS provides separating and retiring service members and their families with the skills, tools and self-confidence necessary to successfully re-enter into the civilian work force.
"We encourage spouses to be involved in the process," said Wylie. "If not, than we can only strengthen one member of the team."
The MOS Crosswalk translates military skills, training and experience into civilian related skills and jobs. Understanding how military skills translate to the civilian sector will benefit Soldiers immensely in their employment search or provide a path to seek further education.
Service members will also have the option of selecting from one or more two-day tailored tracks within the Transition GPS curriculum: an Accessing Higher Education track, for those pursing college education; a Career Technical Training track, for those seeking industry-recognized credentials in shorter-term training programs; and an Entrepreneurship track, for those wanting to start a business, Wylie said.
Another option for active-duty Soldiers is to finish out their time in service to reach retirement through the U.S. Army Reserves, explained Stasiak.
The final phase is the transition phase. This phase will remain unchanged from what Soldier for Life: TAP currently provides, with training and programs focused on employability, resumé writing, effective job interviewing and looking for work.
Shortly before they depart the military, Service members demonstrate these standards through a verification process called Capstone. This process includes an opportunity to connect Service members who need further assistance with agency partners who provide them support as Veterans, and additional aid through TAP.
The overhaul of the TAP will provide Soldiers entering the civilian workforce with the confidence and tools to illustrate they are career-ready, and ready to serve the nation as a productive citizen after their military career ends.
The implementation of the Soldier Life Cycle will mainly effect the active duty Soldiers, stated Stasiak. Army Reserve and National Guard is comprised of citizen Soldiers, already holding jobs within their communities.
However, he continued, after they serve 180 days or more on active duty, while mobilized, they are required to complete the transition process when they return to their duty station. If they are returning to the job they left while activated, they may receive a waiver to be exempt from some CRS requirements.
In addition to bettering Soldiers' opportunity for a successful post-military life, the Soldier Life Cycle helps reduce the amount Army pays toward unemployment compensation. The Army alone has spent more than $500 million per year on unemployment compensation. If they can reduce this amount by implementing the Soldier Life Cycle, it will make more money available for other personnel projects or other personnel operations.
"The most important thing for commanders to prepare for is the appointment of a unit focal-point adviser that acts as the company's liaison between the command and the local TAP center," expressed Stasiak. "The focal-point adviser will be responsible for ensuring Soldiers within their unit meet all requirements and "focal-points" according to their time in service."
With implementation anticipated this fall, numerous changes to existing regulatory requirements and policy will align with the Soldier Life Cycle system. The Army is scheduled to provide specific implementation instructions and release a commander's guide to transition this month to help leaders identify program requirements.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Information in this article was compiled using Department of Defense, TAP and the U.S. Army's STAND-TO publicized facts and statements.