KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- For hundreds of military members separating or retiring from the military in Europe, the search for that first job as a civilian can be a challenge. So for the first time in Europe, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs offer service members a career skills training opportunity to help them become VA employees through the Warrior Transition Advancement Course.

WARTAC classes will be taught at Sembach and Vilseck kasernes where up to 120 applicants will be trained as Veterans Service Representatives or Rating Veterans Service Representatives who are ready for employment at one of the 56 Regional Veteran Service Centers throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Program graduates will be placed in GS-7 or 9 positions with the possibility of future advancement to GS-12 positions.

It's important to have sharp, dependable people filling these important VA positions, said Jesse Rector, Overseas WARTAC program manager.

"VSRs are responsible for building service member case files and collecting all the evidence needed to make decisions on VA disability claims," Rector explained. "RVSRs are responsible for making the final decisions on these claims and determining what the service-connected disability percentage is for veterans. This is important work -- so having capable people who embody integrity, reliability and trustworthiness is vital. But we aren't just looking for people to fill these positions, we are looking to build those future VA leaders to keep us moving in the right direction."

WARTAC is a great opportunity for service members transitioning into civilian careers, said Dr. George B. Brown III, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz acting transition services manager.

"It's a fantastic entry opportunity into VA and the federal government employment," Brown said. "And because of the nature of the work -- helping other veterans access their benefits -- it's a way for military members who served honorably to continue that honorable service."

Soldiers retiring from the military usually must wait 180 days prior to obtaining a civilian job with the DOD, Brown said.

"With this VA opportunity, there is no 180 day wait, and the training is done while people are still on active duty," he said. "Military members are able to start a professional career helping their brothers and sisters in arms who have served by their side," he said.

Successful past WARTAC applicants have had experience in medical, legal and personnel fields, but Anne Fugate, transition services manager for USAG Bavaria, said that bottom line -- the VA is looking for candidates who are able to analyze and apply regulations and procedures, and develop and evaluate claims.

"Sometimes transitioning service members do not recognize how much skill and experience they have to offer, and so they self-disqualify," Fugate said. "If you are interested in this opportunity, don't rule yourself out. Contact your transition services manager for full application information and take advantage of the help available at your Transition Assistance Program Center. We will be glad to review your resume before you submit."

Applicants must be active-duty military members transitioning from the military before April 15, 2018, and must be available to begin employment no later than March 21, 2018. To apply to WARTAC, individuals must submit a résumé, transcripts and location "wish list" form to the VA by Sept. 10.

Classes begin soon -- the 12-week RVSR course begins Oct. 4 and the 10-week VSR course begins Oct. 18 -- with training concluding Dec. 21. Service members stationed outside the Sembach and Vilseck areas can attend the WARTAC on permissive temporary duty status.

To offset the out-of-pocket expenses for those attending the course on PTDY status, both training locations will offer on-post lodging, Brown said. Applicants can contact the WARTAC program managers for more lodging details after program acceptance.

"This training will provide the VA with people who can quickly adapt to the 'what' and 'how' to complete the mission, but more importantly understand the 'why' when it comes to VA supporting our veterans," Brown said. "No one understands the plight of a veteran as well as a fellow veteran."

According to the VA, of the hundreds of Veterans who have graduated from WARTAC since the program was implemented in 2014, more than 97 percent have successfully completed the program and been hired.

Starting with graduating classes at Forts Carson and Belvoir in Colorado and Virginia, the joint VA and DOD program has expanded to seven locations, including major military installations at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Fort Hood, Texas, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. At its outset, WARTAC was available exclusively to wounded warriors in transition from military service. It has since expanded to other transitioning service members interested in careers at VA -- and now extends to those serving in Europe.

For more information about the program, contact the transition services manager in your area.

Rheinland-Pfalz
George Brown, DSN: 541-9005, Commercial: 0611-1435-41-9005, george.b.brown10.civ@mail.mil

Ansbach and Stuttgart
Joselyn Uribe-Huitron, DSN: 431-3673, Commercial: 07031-153673, joselyn.uribehuitron.civ@mail.mil

Bavaria
Anne Fugate, DSN: 476-2057, Commercial: 0966-283-2057, anne.m.fugate.civ@mail.mil

Italy
Donald Bufford, DSN: 637-7492, Commercial: (39) 0444-617492, donald.l.bufford.civ@mail.mil

Wiesbaden and Benelux
Brad Gavle, DSN: 548-1304, Commercial: 0611-14-3548-1304, bradley.d.gavle.civ@mail.mil