By Katie E. Nelson, ARNEWSJuly 31, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 31, 2012) -- The president announced last month an initiative to expand programs designed to prepare servicemembers for leaving the military. But before those initiatives were announced, the Army was already at work making improvements to the Army Career and Alumni Program, which is designed to help Soldiers transitioning back into civilian life.
Army Career and Alumni Program, or ACAP, is a program designed in 1991 to reduce veteran unemployment and help troops adjust to life outside of the Army. Recently, ACAP coordinators decided to make some changes to help more Soldiers be successful after leaving the military by tailoring the program to meet each Soldier's unique needs.
"The ACAP program is flexible so we can better prepare Soldiers for their transition back into the civil society," said Walter Herd, director of the Army Transition Office.
Some of the additions the Army has made to ACAP include individual counseling, a financial planning seminar, a veterans' benefits workshop and an expanded employment workshop.
Another important part the improved ACAP system is that Soldiers will begin the transition process 12 to 18 months prior to leaving the Army, giving them ample time to prepare for their transition to civilian life.
"We have adjusted our program so that Soldiers can begin the transition early," Herd said. "That allows Soldiers to be better prepared, to get enrolled [in college], apply for scholarships and create and distribute a better resume."
Another improvement in the program is the flexibility of transition support and aid.
Approximately 125,000 Soldiers transition out of the Army each year. Those Soldiers move into either Reserve Component or civilian status. Historically, about two-thirds of transitioning Soldiers enter the workforce and the remaining third enroll in a college or trade school. Although support for military personnel entering these fields existed in the old ACAP program, the updated program exposes Soldiers to more resources, especially those in the Reserves.
"In the past, in order to get transition assistance, you really needed to go to an Army installation," Herd said. "Now you can get that same assistance through [both] and Army installation and a virtual mechanism on our webpage. We're in the process of developing [programs] now that can actually go out away from installations for the reserve-component communities and help Soldiers transition."
Some military installations have already begun implementing the new ACAP changes. The first of these installations is Fort Sill, Okla., followed closely by Fort Hood, Texas. However, there are many more that are beginning to assume the changes to the program, including some Reserve centers.
The Army is currently piloting transition assistance and transition counseling for eligible Army personnel. The objective of the pilot is to assess the ability to implement the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act transition requirements. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 mandates the Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, for all Soldiers separating from a Title 10 Active Duty Tour of 180 days or greater, effective Nov. 21, 2012.