FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Moving forward into life as a veteran after hanging up their uniforms for the last time can be an intimidating stage of life for many Soldiers, but the Fort Rucker Soldier for Life -- Transition Assistance Program stands ready with all the weapons military members need for a smooth transition.

Armed with decades of knowledge, a staff honored to take care of Soldiers and a proven track record of successful transitions, the SFL-TAP is invaluable to those moving on from the military, said Bryan Tharpe, center transition services manager.

"We have a two-pronged mission," Tharpe said. "First, we help Soldiers understand what their benefits and entitlements are once they retiree or separate because if they don't know what they are, then they can't benefit from them."

The staff works closely with Soldiers to ensure they understand their transition benefits before they meet with Veterans Affairs advisers who brief them on all VA entitlements and help them put in disability claims, "which can really help them because they are entitled to those and if approved through VA they are going to get an extra check for the rest of their lives," Tharpe said.

"Second, we connect Soldiers with employers," he added. "We do that through our monthly employer days, similar to mini-job fairs, over in the lobby of Bldg. 5700, where usually 10 to 12 employers show up. The employers will interview Soldiers on the spot -- some might even get hired right there, and others later on."

And if monthly mini-job fairs, tailored one-on-one counseling, a five-day employment workshop, and twice-a-month classes where Soldiers are instructed on all kinds of job search dos and don'ts, including resume writing, importance of networking, using social media properly and more, aren't enough to help Soldiers find employment, there's always the annual Fort-Rucker-Wiregrass Area Job Fair SFL-TAP helps put on.

This year's event is July 31 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Enterprise State Community College, 600 Plaza Drive in Enterprise.

Tharpe said 120 employers will be at the fair, which is open to the public, looking to hire Soldiers and family members for jobs primarily in Alabama, but also looking to fill nation-wide and overseas positions, as well.

And the SFL-TAP is working, according to Tharpe, who added that spouses are welcome to attend anything separating or retiring Soldiers attend, and that SFL-TAP also helps retired Soldiers on a space-available basis.

"We probably have the lowest unemployment compensation that we pay out among all of the installations worldwide," he said. "Our Soldiers are getting jobs -- I think it's the nature of mission here. Aviation, especially, is in high demand, but everyone else is getting jobs, too."

Visible evidence of that success is proudly displayed by the SFL-TAP staff in the center via a bulletin board with Soldiers' names along with graphics representing the type of employment they achieved. The displays creator, Arlena Gonzales, administrative specialists at the center, maintains the board.

Tharpe encourages successful clients of the center to do a success story for the board to provide inspiration to the Soldiers behind them. "Then the separating Soldiers can look at it, and say, 'I know that person, and I did what they did for the past 20 or so years -- if they did it, so can I.'"

The program is mandatory for Soldiers, and for good reason, he added.

"The Army made using it mandatory because back when it was call the Army Career and Alumni Program, Soldiers weren't using it," he said. "Now that it's mandatory, you have to start a year out, but you can start two years out if you're retiring or 18 months out if separating. And we don't require retirement paperwork, they can change their mind and stay in -- that's a win-win for everyone. But sooner or later, everyone's getting out.

"We have some great counselors, we have some great teachers, and we have all of the tools they need: books, computers, laptops and printers," Tharpe said. "I highly encourage Soldiers to work one-on-one with my counselors, and that'll make all the difference in the world. They take great pride in Soldiers getting jobs -- they're proud of that board down there."

For more information on the SFL-TAP and its service, call 255-2558.