By Jeff CrawleyMarch 30, 2017
FORT SILL, Okla., March 30, 2017 -- Some topics discussed at the Fort Sill Soldier for Life Transition Summit included: Credentialing of training received in basic combat training, Advanced Individual Training and other military courses; permissive temporary duty orders to attend transitional training at different installations; and opening more training programs to National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, family members and veterans.
More than 100 Army senior leaders; industry partners; educational administrators; Oklahoma state, local and federal officials; and private company representatives attended the summit, March 22, at Snow Hall here.
The summit was themed "Building the Pipeline," and its open forum focused on the efforts and resources of military transition programs to identify and eliminate gaps to further the success of their programs through regional initiatives.
Military representatives came from Army Headquarters; forts Sill, Riley, Carson and Hood; Army National Guard and Reserve; as well as Altus, Sheppard, Tinker, and Vance Air Force bases.
Jim Miller, Fort Sill Human Resources director, moderated the summit, which featured three panels. Comments from the audience were non-attributable to encourage free and open discussion.
"We know that a Soldier is our best recruiter and if we want to sustain an all-volunteer Army, then you want a transitioning Soldier back in the community with respect and dignity," said Miller, in his opening remarks. Soldiers are Soldiers for life and will continue to represent the Army after their separation from the service.
The first presenter was the SFL Transition Campus panel that included Jane Cunningham, SFL-Transition Assistance Program Transition Services manager, and Thomas Miller, SFL Transition Complex Transition Services specialist; and Anne Curtis, senior military spouse's representative.
Cunningham said the Army identifies transitioning Soldiers one year to 18 months from their separation date to begin their counseling.
"We look at what he or she wants to do in one of four career tracks: employment, higher education, career technical skills or entrepreneurship," she said.
A representative from Oklahoma State University said for a veteran to receive college credits the university evaluates their military training and work experience; certifications, credentials and licensing; as well as credit by examination, i.e., College Level Examination Program (CLEP), Defense Activity for Non-traditional Education Support (DANTES).
Curtis said military spouses are challenged to find meaningful employment, and their unemployment rate is four times higher than their civilian counterparts.
"We want to get the word out that these (employment) resources are here for spouses, they're welcome at hiring events, they're welcome at the Soldier for Life facility," she said.
An audience member representing an industry partner noted Colorado allows military spouses to work with their other state licenses and certifications for one year, giving them to time to meet the Colorado's requirements.
Panel 2 consisted of representatives from the vocational programs offered at the Fort Sill transition complex: Choice Career College (robotics); United Association of Veterans in Piping, Warriors4Wireless, and Ryder Systems.
Retired Maj. Gen. Andy Aadland, UA VIP representative, said the fire and sprinkler class can have up to 10 students, and in the future may consist of 20, however, right now the classes here are small. The current class has four students, and the previous class had five.
One way to fill this gap may be permissive TDY orders so Soldiers from other installations can come here for the training, suggested a panel member. Although the concept for the orders has been approved and is at the Installation Command Headquarters in draft form, no funding for travel and per diem has been authorized to go with the orders.
An Army Headquarters representative said the Army was proud of the 93 percent placement rate of transitioning Soldiers across the Army in all the training fields offered through SFLs.
One defense contractor expressed his frustration of not being allowed on Air Force bases to recruit transitioning airmen. This is a policy the Air Force may want to revise, suggested another attendee.
Panel 3 was made up of members from the State of Oklahoma including its department of veterans affairs (OSDVA), employment security commission, accrediting agency, regents for higher education, office of workforce development, and career tech.
Retired Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, OSDVA executive director, said not all transitioning service members will take advantage of training programs available when they leave the service.
"There are going to be those who go home without a skill and without a job and who need assistance," he said. "That is in essence where all states' departments of veterans affairs need to assist Soldiers coming back to communities."
The summit was also an opportunity for the Fort Sill SFL Transition Complex to formally thank its supporters. Joe Gallagher, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill deputy to the commanding general, said the SFL has come a long way since 2013, when he first arrived here.
The work has been put in most importantly by you: Industry partners, state and local partners, who have come together to really embrace the Soldier for Life transition program, Gallagher said.