ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois -- (Nov. 6, 2018) The Rock Island Arsenal Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program in Building 56 provides transition services to Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians, and Family members who transition from active duty. Their services are not only important, but are also Congressionally mandated by Public Law 107-103 and the VOW Act dated Nov. 21, 2012.

Shelly-Ann Mimms, an HR specialist (Military) within the Military Personnel Division of the Human Resources for United States Army Garrison Rock Island Arsenal, is heavily involved in SFL-TAP and says the program not only goes beyond its operation on post, but impacts the surrounding community.

"The SFL-TAP provides transition and employment assistance to Soldiers and their adult Family members who are transitioning from active duty to being a veteran," said Mimms. "Part of that assistance is coordinating with the community to organize job fairs, some here on the Arsenal, and some in the community. We not only get that information out to those who are transitioning, but also to the Arsenal workforce who are also able to attend for themselves or to get information for their Family members."

Pre-separation planning is a critical part of a Soldier's transition to civilian life, said Mimms. It includes learning information about benefits, creating and maintaining budgets, developing job search skills, career guidance, job search assistance, and other guidance relevant to transitioning from military service. Starting the process on-time in the long run is beneficial to a smooth transition. Retiring Soldiers can begin using SFL-TAP services 24 months prior to retirement and Soldiers who are separating can begin up to 18 months prior to their Expiration Term of Service. Program services are also available for retirees as space-available, and veterans with 180 days or more of active service are eligible for SFL--TAP services up to 180 days following their transition date.

Not only does SFL-TAP reach out to community organizations, but it works the other way around as well. The newly created Rock Island Arsenal Veterans Network is a group that is focusing on helping transitioning veterans and the RIA community to network, meet new people, and to find that next great career in the Quad Cities Area.

Lt. Col. Bryan Miller, a transitioning veteran with First Army, is founder and communications officer for the RIA Veterans Network.

"RIA Vet Net is a new organization with the purpose to assist and support veterans to make business contacts in the Quad Cities Area," said Miller. "These business connections provide a less formal environment for veterans to introduce and market themselves for future employment opportunities. Even veterans seeking opportunities in other geographical locations should participate in the RIA Vet Net while they are in the QCA. You never know, who knows who and where, this is the power of networking."

On how this new group started, Miller gave the low down.

"I spend a fair amount of time on LinkedIn building my network in preparation for my transition from the Army," said Miller. "Daily, I see LinkedIn posts with great pictures from other Army installations about their last networking event and how it assisted or resulted in one or multiple employment opportunities. For a while I was asked myself, why doesn't the Arsenal have an organization of this type? On Oct. 10, I was messaging with Command Sgt. Maj. (Brian) Heffernan about the Nov. 8 QC Fall Success Fair and had an epiphany. Why don't I start a veterans network on RIA? So I did.

Miller emphasized just how important networking can be to getting employment regardless of who you are, transitioning Soldier or civilian.

"This past week during SFL-TAP class I learned that only 4 percent of people find jobs by applying on line and that 80 percent of available jobs are not even advertised and filled internal to the organization," said Miller. "How do you beat those odds? You network, that's how. That network connection can help move your resume to the top of the pile in their company or get you information on that unadvertised position. Currently, the only interview (phone) I have had was because of a network connection that mentioned me to another recruited in their company. Your networking is going to get you the next career opportunity, not your resume."

RIA Veterans Network's first meeting is scheduled to take place on Nov. 8 at 4:30 p.m. in the Lock and Dam Lounge in Building 60. The guest speaker for the event is Dave Underwood, HNI Corporation recruiter and successfully transitioned USMC veteran. Right now the focus of the RIA Veterans Network is on establishing their second Thursday of the month meetings and making those productive.

"The plan is for all follow on meetings to have an agenda or focus and a guest speaker, with a time for group discussion," said Miller. "I want the network to decide what it wants and needs. Until the network is functioning in that manner I will coordinate speakers and topic. If the network wants business attire advice, I will coordinate with Men's Warehouse as an example. I chose the second Thursday of the month, so the time, date, and location is known and there is a monthly meeting standard. Also chose the Lock and Dam Lounge to limit travel time at the end of the work day and to generate some business for an Island establishment."

With Rock Island Arsenal Veterans Network just getting off the ground, Miller says he is looking to get others involved in the group.

"I will be soliciting at the first meeting for anyone who would like to volunteer and help manage the business end of the Vet Net and to help coordinate future events," said Miller. "For the first meeting I have 12 RSVPs, so including myself there are 13 members involved. Looking to expand participation in the Vet Net to more than veterans. I would like the entire Arsenal and the QCA involved. The focus is for veterans, but I want to include all who want/need a new career. Expanding participation will empower the network for future success."

While the RIA Vet Net will function as a networking resource, Miller sees it as more.

"I don't only see the Vet Net as a networking organization, but also as a support network," said Miller. "Transition from the military can be a difficult and scary time, just talking to someone in the same situation can help. The bottom line here is for vets to help other vets. Take assistance for the network for your transition, but make every effort to help others who follow you. Pay it forward!"

Mimms says that SFL-TAP is encouraged by such programs in the overall effort to assist transitioning Soldiers. She says that the efforts of all involved make a difference and are needed, even though by law, Soldiers must participate in SFL-TAP after completing at least 180 days of continuous active duty service, the additional efforts make a big difference.

"SFL-TAP is a commander's program that encourages the idea of going early and often to receive transition services," said Mimms. "The Army uses a one-size-fits-all model for transitioning Soldiers. All Soldiers are required to meet the same career readiness standards, which integrate legally mandated courses from the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act.

"The SFL-TAP resources help Soldiers transition from military service to civilian life," said Mimms. "Connecting Soldiers to civilian employment is good for a company's bottom line, but also for Soldiers, who can leave active duty with a sense of pride and truly become a Soldier for Life."

For more information about the RIA SFL-TAP go to www.usagria.army.mil/Services/SoldierForLife.aspx or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RIAsfltap.