By Chris RasmussenJune 21, 2007
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Army News Service, June 21, 2007) - Kayla Bryan's dream of becoming a drill sergeant may be on hold as she separates from the Army this week, but the young private is not going home without out a plan.
A new program for those separating from the Army because of medical, mental or discipline issues is helping Initial Entry Training Soldiers transition back to civilian life.
"A lot of people come in and they have no family or the Army was their only plan in life. And when they can't make it here they have nowhere to go when they leave," said Capt. Bridgette Brown, commander, Company D, 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception). "In the past they came in, did nothing and left. We wanted to revise this mission and make it beneficial to them."
So Capt. Brown and First Sgt. Patrick Thomas came up with ONTRAC, a three-day program that gives Soldiers an outlook on their future and provides them the resources and tools to be competitive in the job market as they transition back into society.
William Omer's dreams of becoming a Soldier were shattered during a routine PT run with the 13th Infantry Regiment's Company E, 2nd Battalion, when he blew out his knee.
"I wanted to finish basic. I was pretty shocked when it happened and I didn't know what was going to happen," he said. "But they took really good care of me here. They didn't just stop at helping me to find a job; they made sure I would be okay."
During their one to three days in the program, Soldiers take a variety of classes to help them complete resumes, build interview skills and conduct job searches. Other classes focus on education, grants and scholarships.
"The purpose is to give them a direction and path to follow. I want them to say the Army took care of them up until their last day," Capt. Brown said. "I want to make them recruiters when they get back into the civilian world instead of anti-recruiters."
The vast majority of those separating from the Army are due to medical and mental-health discharges, Capt. Brown said, with the rest leaving because of failure to adapt, discipline and physical-training failure.
"I decided the Army wasn't the right thing for me now because I am too young," said Ms. Bryan, 19, who is separating from the Army for failure to adapt. "But now I want to go to college. They have been a huge help to me here in helping me to realize what I want to do next in my life."
"These Soldiers thought this was going to be their career, but we get them to understand that they are not a failure and the Army simply wasn't for them at this point in their life," said Staff Sgt. Kelley James, Co. D, 120th Adj. Gen. Bn. "I do tell them I consider them heroes because they signed up during a time of war."
Eight Soldiers separating from the Army were offered jobs while they were still in ONTRAC in February.
"Some of those that come through here have goals and a direction they want to go, but a good 80 percent don't," Sgt. James said. "They are Soldiers until they leave here and we want to do our best to help them transition back into civilian life."
(Chris Rasmussen writes for the Fort Jackson "Leader.")