Fort Cavazos TAP bridges gap between military, civilian life

By Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public AffairsJune 27, 2024

A man sits at a desk with a computer, right hand resting on a mouse.
Pvt. Jose Fernandez, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, signs in to complete Transition Assistance Program online courses during his visit May 17, 2024, to the Fort Cavazos TAP office. He said he plans to transition at the end of the year and the support was very helpful. (Photo Credit: Photo by Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Transitioning from the military can be quite overwhelming. Life in the military is often a stark contrast to life as a civilian, and the Fort Cavazos Transition Assistance Program is here to help Soldiers navigate the process from active duty to expiration term of service, aka ETS, or retirement.

Owen Alexander, Fort Cavazos TAP liaison officer, noted it’s important to distinguish the difference between transitioning and TAP.

“A Soldier transitioning from the military has things they have to do such as putting in requests for their separation orders,” he said. “A lot of Soldiers get that confused with what we do. So, when we talk about transition, we’re talking just specifically about the Transition Assistance Program.”

TAP assists Soldiers who are separating from the military by providing a series of classes and orientations meant to help them seamlessly transition from active duty to the civilian workforce, Alexander further explained.

“The purpose of the Transition Assistance Program is to help Soldiers achieve their goals post military,” he explained. “What we do is help the Soldier identify the goal they want to achieve after they get out the military, (and) link them up with agencies, resources and information to achieve those goals — work, go back to school or start their own business. We integrate them back into the civilian community.”

Alexander noted employment, education or entrepreneurship are the three main goals for Soldiers transitioning out the of the military, and TAP provides resources, information and assistance to achieve those goals.

TAP includes an in-depth progression of guidance and instruction which Soldiers are eligible to start 24 months before retirement and 18 months prior to ETS. No Soldier should start the program later than 13 months before their separation date, Alexander said. Soldiers involuntarily separated or chaptered must start the program immediately.

After a Soldier has registered for the program, they meet with a TAP counselor for their Individualized Initial Counseling, or IIC, during which the service member completes their personal self-assessment to identify their unique needs and post-transition goals to begin development of their Individual Transition Plan.

Once the IIC is complete, the Soldier receives pre-separation counseling that covers benefits, entitlements and resources. Spouses and caregivers are also encouraged to attend with service members.

Following pre-separation counseling is a mandatory curriculum of modules to help Soldiers define and translate military skills and understand financial literacy. The curriculum includes a brief by the Veterans Administration to help service members, spouses and caregivers understand VA benefits, services and tools earned through military service.

Next, service members will elect to follow the employment, vocational or education track and receive instruction in accordance with the track they pursue.

Lastly, the capstone event reviews the Soldier’s record, ensures they have attended all required orientations, classes and briefings and they meet career readiness standards. Alexander noted the capstone appointment must be completed no later than 90 days before the Soldier separates.

Providing detailed, guided assistance well in advance of separation is vital to ensuring service members are prepared for transition to the civilian sector, Alexander explained.

“They need that assistance, assistance in developing a resume, searching for a job and getting all the support they need,” he said. “And that’s critical to make sure that they’re successful in either starting their business or finding a job.”

Mark Phillips, Fort Cavazos TAP service manager, agreed, adding it’s imperative to ensure the Soldier is ready to leave.

“Our first goal is to make sure the Soldier is prepared to leave the military,” he said. “And if they’re not, we’re going to guide them and say ‘Hey, you might need to extend your retirement, move your separation day back or you might want to reenlist because there are some things that you need to prepare and you’re not going to accomplish that within 24 months.”

Phillips underscored his point by highlighting the discrepancy between military and civilian income, citing basic allowance for housing, lodging, medical, dental and health insurance as tangible examples.

“They need to know how much they actually make,” he asserted. “If a Soldier makes 32K a year, then you add $1,000 per month for rent; then you add another $300 per month to eat; then you add another $500 dollars (for incidentals), now we’re over 51K. You have ... 18K of benefits you’re not counting towards your employment. So, if you’re going to make less than 51K, we’re going to say you probably should remain in the military.”

Phillips added the process also serves as a retention tool.

“(People) come into the military because someone else that they knew or ran into told them how they were treated,” he explained. “So, we have to make sure that people that are exiting are treated fairly so they continue to be recruiters for the military. That’s what actually protects what we do. The more qualified people that we get in and the more qualified people that we exit, they’ll talk about the qualities that come with the military.”

Pvt. Jose Fernandez, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, visited the TAP office to start the process before he transitions at the end of the year and said it was very helpful.

“They teach you about all the resources that you can possibly need from finding a job, financial hardship, VA benefits, health insurance and basically, they just point you in the right direction so you’re okay once you get out,” he said. “So, the whole thing is like transitioning into civilian life from being in the military.

“That’s the beauty of (the program),” he added. “They take care of you along the way too.”

Soldiers can register for TAP services at For more information on TAP, contact the Fort Cavazos TAP office at 254-288-2227.