By David Ruderman, U.S. Army Human Resources Command Public AffairsJuly 13, 2015
FORT KNOX, Kentucky (July 13, 2015) -- U.S. Army Human Resources Command is paving the way for Soldiers to move from active duty to the Army Reserve and National Guard in a deliberate transition that works for the individual service member while retaining skilled personnel and racking up significant savings for the Army.
"We are focused on the continuum of service," said HRC Reserve Component Transition Branch chief, Maj. Christopher Hill. "We preserve the human capital. If you look at what it costs to actually train a Soldier to go through basic training, it is roughly $75,000. The cost savings is a preservation of the Army's investment."
In fiscal year 2014, RCT Branch transferred more than 11,000 enlisted Soldiers and officers from the active component to the USAR and ARNG, which amounted to roughly $825 million in savings, he said.
Working with a staff of less than a dozen out of HRC's headquarters at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Hill and his team are frequently on the road to installations across the country, coordinating efforts with the Army's Soldier For Life -- Transition Assistance Program and active duty career counselors, detailing transition options to Soldiers and explaining the workings and value of the RCT/RCCC to various levels of Army leadership.
"One of the things we've been doing is visiting each installation's Soldier For Life office, focusing on the 12-month mark. We are trying to ensure everyone is on the same sheet of music and streamlining the process, where we actually inject ourselves to do a Continuum of Service brief and highlight available opportunities," said Hill.
The immediate aim is to set up a one-on-one counseling session for each Soldier with a Reserve Component Career Counselor, or RCCC, on the Soldier's installation.
"The RCCCs determine eligibility and qualifications and they explain USAR and ARNG incentives and benefits. It is the Army's chance to say, 'Hey, guys, we have this career for you. We have something out there for everyone whether it be a specific job, location or incentive that can help you as you transition into the Guard or Reserve,'" Hill said. "Either way, we road map it based on the Soldier's needs, wants and desires."
That usually means a transition based on MOS, desired geographic area, academic aspirations and potential bonus availability.
"The decision to join the reserve components is based on the Soldier's individual desires," said Sgt. Maj. Scott Spigelmyer, RCT's Branch SGM and lead National Guard representative. "We sit down and we do a search to show them what's available. In some cases, the MOS drives their decisions and for others it's the incentives."
What works best for the Soldier is getting to lay out the range of possibilities as early in the process as possible so they can reach back to their families, friends and personal networks. Part of the challenge also involves changing a long established mindset within the Army, said Hill.
"Years ago, when a Soldier went through the old ACAP (Army Career Assistance Program) process, it was considered a privilege. You really had to fight to go in many units. Now we are integrating our program into SFL and we want to make sure the Soldiers get that opportunity. The commanders have to buy in. It's something the Soldiers have to go to," he said.
The change in process has provided benefits for both Soldiers and the Army, said Spigelmyer.
"We provide a return on investment unequaled by any other accession agency out there," he said.
"Our main business is to transition a Soldier into the Guard or Reserve, give them the benefits, and do it while they are still on active duty. Our goal is to keep the Solider in boots. It's another avenue to retain the best and brightest," said Hill.
The mission has gained traction with the adoption last spring of a 365-day window of advisement to transitioning Soldiers across the active Army prior to their ETS (expiration term of service). The RCT Branch presently coordinates the efforts of about 125 RCCCs at more than 40 installations nationwide.
"It's to give Soldiers the opportunity, year round, to find out where they want to go, what do they want to do," said Sgt. Maj. Jose Mendez, RCT's Branch SGM and lead U.S. Army Reserve representative. "Do they want to change their job? Is college the ideal spot? It gives that Soldier a year in advance to do a lot of research and make a wise decision."
"It is all about being timely and getting Soldiers into the office at a point where they are still thinking about their future and haven't put blinders on and are only thinking of getting out," said Spigelmyer.
Nesting the transition power of the RCT within SFL-TAP takes a lot of hands-on, in-the-field work to tailor briefings and support based on the characteristics of particular installations, units and Soldier populations, said Hill.
The fact that the Continuum of Service brief is now a mandated part of the SFL pre-separation process has been very effective, said Spigelmyer.
"The Soldiers are engaged much earlier on than they were under ACAP," he said. "The process starts at the 12-month window and it is trackable, so the unit leadership is more engaged and accountable."
In addition to its transition activities in the field, RCT advises leadership on USAR and ARNG manning requirements and prepares mission statistics for the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Army Reserve Command. The team at Fort Knox also streams weekly job opportunity listings to the field and responds directly to Soldiers via email and call center operations.
"We contribute to filling end strength based on the Soldier's wants, needs and preferences," Hill said. "We are an advisory team. We do not have command and control of the RCCCs, but we do all their training. We advise them and help them keep up with policy changes for all 54 states and territories on the Guard side, and U.S. Army Reserve Command and Office of the Chief, Army Reserve."
The RCT team vets changes and broadcasts them to the field so Soldiers can research the most current information when considering what to do with their post-active service careers.
"Whether Reserve or National Guard, it is really just providing opportunities and stabilization for these Soldiers," said Mendez.