FORT BENNING, Ga. - It's no secret that military spouses make sacrifices. They raise children while their spouses are deployed and leave behind jobs when it's time to relocate to a new duty station.

The Department of Defense wants to ensure their sacrifices aren't to the detriment of future career opportunities.

The Military Spouse Preference Program affords spouses of active-duty service members and full-time Reserve or National Guardsmen moving to a new duty station priority consideration for competitive federal service positions nationwide.

The priority placement program has many subprograms that apply to different placement categories such as the Defense Commissary Agency family member placement program, "Program M," and the Reserve Component Military Technician Disability Program, "Program G." "Program S" applies to military spouses and is open to spouses whose military sponsor is:

Aca,!Ac Assigned by a permanent-change-of-station move from overseas to the U.S., or to a different commuting area within the U.S., including U.S. territories and possessions;

Aca,!Ac Relocating to a new and permanent duty station after completing basic and advanced individual training;

Aca,!Ac Permanently assigned to the same duty station after initial entry training was received;

Aca,!Ac Assigned by PCS to a service school regardless of the duration of training;

Aca,!Ac A former military member who re-enlists and is placed in a permanent assignment; or

Aca,!Ac Reassigned on an unaccompanied tour by PCS with orders specifying the sequential assignment. The spouse may register for activities in the commuting area of the sequential assignment at any time during the sponsor's unaccompanied tour.

In the broader picture, this program benefits Soldier retention and the work force as a whole, said Blanche Robinson, the human resources officer for Fort Benning's Civilian Personnel Advisory Center. Robinson oversees CPAC operations for the post.

"There are many prongs to it, including stability of the work force, economic security for the family and the installation gaining a readily trained employee," she said.

Robinson said there is a staff of 20 within CPAC dedicated to counseling spouses, registering them in the program and assisting with resumes. Applicants are asked to bring in a narrative resume listing complete job history with descriptions. This is to help counselors identify the job series the spouse is qualified to apply for, she said.

Applicants may register in up to five job series' provided they are qualified.
Once skills are identified, the spouse is registered into the program and placed in the priority placement program which is administered in Dayton, Ohio, for all PPP participants. If a job opportunity comes up, the spouse is notified by CPAC and has two calendar days to accept or decline the offer.

The Office of Personnel Management sets the requirements for civil service jobs. Eligible spouses must be ranked among the best qualified for the position and be within reach for the selection, according to officials at the Civilian Personnel Management Service. To be rated "best qualified," applicants must demonstrate knowledge, skills and abilities above the cut off score - which is vacancy specific and determined based upon the skills required.

What to bring to CPAC:
Aca,!Ac Current narrative resume
Aca,!Ac Copy of SF-50 documenting current or previous appointments
Aca,!Ac Sponsor's PCS orders
Aca,!Ac Copy of last performance appraisal if current federal employee
Aca,!Ac Documentation of E.O. 12721 or 13473 eligibility, if applicable
Aca,!Ac DD214, member copy No. 4, if applicable
Aca,!Ac SF 15, if claiming 10-point preference and letter from Veterans Affairs dated within the last year showing the percentage of disability
Aca,!Ac Official college transcripts in original sealed envelope from institution, if education requirements apply
Aca,!Ac Licenses and certifications, if applicable

Employment pipeline takes stress off moving

Audrey Carpenter first entered the DoD's military spouse preference program shortly after her family was stationed in Germany in 2004. The respiratory therapist had just completed training at the family's previous duty station in Savannah, Ga. She volunteered at the Vilseck Health Clinic for several months before a job opened up for a medical support assistant. She applied and was hired for it through the preference program.

Since then Audrey and her husband, as well as their two children, have moved two more times. She now works in the central appointments office for Fort Benning's Martin Army Community Hospital booking appointments and putting in medication referrals to doctors.

Carpenter said military moves can be rough but knowing a pipeline is in place to help spouses find employment takes some of the stress off of moving.

"It's stressful especially if you have little ones - you need to get them settled in. It's more difficult for the parent that's not in the military to adjust, whereas the Soldier is coming into a job," she said.

Carpenter said her dream job is to work as a respiratory therapist and is content to wait for an opportunity. In the meantime, she is taking classes to become a registered nurse.

It would be easy for a spouse to be discouraged trying to find work in a new place, she said, which is why the preference program helps families - it gives them job security.

Though Carpenter was able to find work at each of the duty stations she lived, spouses are not necessarily a "shoe-in" for jobs, said Blanche Robinson, human resources officer for the post's Civilian Personnel Advisory Center.

The applicant must meet all selection criteria and be ranked among the best qualified for the job, she said.