Fort Buchanan, PR- Assuming its role as the largest US Army Reserve command in the Caribbean, the 1st Mission Support Command (1st MSC), Human Resources Office, hosted the first Pre- Retirement Seminar at the command's headquarters, 14 July.

"Up to this point, the troops assigned to the US Army Reserve-Puerto Rico retired without receiving any formal guidance in the process", said, Ms. Mercedes Torres from the 1st MSC Retirement section.

Torres was referring to the soldiers in the "gray area".

According to Torres, soldiers are in the gray area, if they have retired from the service, but have not reached the age 60.

"The United States Army Reserve conducted a study several years ago and found out that there was a large population of gray retirees, who were not following a process to retire from the military," said Vernon L. Harris, Director of Human Resources, 81st Regional Support Command (RSC).

According to officials at the 81st RSC, changing from military to civilian life-styles is not always an easy task, but planning can be a big help.

Not planning the retirement could potentially result in serious problems that could have been avoided.

"If you want to retire you must start the process at least a year in advance. It is not something that just happens," said Capt. Maya Troupe, 81st RSC, Retirement Services Officer.

During the Seminar, the 1st Mission Support Command, Commanding General, welcomed the over 200 participants.

"We are conducting this initiative to make sure you understand all the procedures and actions that you must take to make sure your hard earned retirement benefits are properly processed," said Fernandez.

This is the first time this seminar is conducted in Puerto Rico, as part of a pilot program established by the United Stated Reserve Command (USARC).

Lt. Col. Kathleen Couillard, USARC Pilot action officer at the Retirement Services Program, was also present during the seminar.

"This is our very first bi-lingual briefing on non-regular retirements. We are focused on the traditional Troop Program Unit (TPU) soldier getting ready for retirement, because their benefits are different from the Active Duty component soldiers," said Couillard.

"It is very important that the spouses and family members are here, because this information directly impacts them. I am glad to see that we have a good mix here today, not just soldiers but family members as well," added Couillard.

Staff Sgt Jose A. Valerio, assigned to the 5th Brigade, 94th Training Division, US Army Reserve, was accompanied by his wife, Ilsha Valerio.

"We should have had this briefing before. A lot of soldiers are afraid of retirement because we do not know. Finally, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Every soldier should be required to do this", said Valerio.

"Before coming here I had many questions concerning so many things, for example tricare. I think every spouse should attend. It is very important to know what you are eligible to, as you make a conscious decision about retirement," said Ilsha Valerio.

The daylong seminar consisted of several key informative and interactive sessions about family readiness, survivor benefits, Tricare and retired pay, among others.

Ms. Torres from the 1st MSC Retirement Office expressed great hope for future Pre-Retirement seminars in the island.

"We would like to have this briefing conducted more often here in Puerto Rico. We also plan on conducting it in small groups and also having it in fully in Spanish," said Torres.