By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs August 24, 2012
VILSECK, Germany (Aug. 24, 2012) -- Post-military life for service members can be difficult. Leaving the sequestered culture of the military may presents challenges such as finding jobs, obtaining health care and translating military jargon into civilian locution.
The Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, part of the Army Career and Alumni Program, is set up to ease this bumpy shift and to provide out-processing Soldiers, veterans and dependents with the necessary skills and realistic expectations for a new life.
Though TAP has been part of the Army for years, it is currently undergoing a facelift thanks to the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act passed by Congress in October 2011. This revision -- the program's first in 20 years -- is designed to make TAP more intensive, involved and in line with current economic trends. The new initiative, which begins Nov. 21, also makes TAP mandatory for all departing Soldiers.
For Ben Petersdorff, transition services manager for ACAP Europe-East, the new TAP is timely and forward-thinking.
"It's more hands on," said Petersdorff. "The material's been updated. There's a lot of new websites out there geared toward getting Soldiers employment. The Soldiers will be able to go (to the websites) in the class. They'll be able to apply for jobs in the classroom and even interview."
The class will also cover interviewing skills, searching for employment, resume writing, salary negotiation and tips for translating military-speak and skills into language civilians can understand.
"It gets the Soldiers in the frame of mind of thinking like a civilian," explained Petersdorff.
Along with the three-day TAP class, Soldiers will be obligated to participate in a preseparation briefing, a Veterans Affairs briefing and initial counseling. Also starting Nov. 21, service members must begin their ACAP training at least a year prior to their exit date, a significant change from the current timeline of 90 days.
In conjunction with their TAP class, ACAP offers a host of support classes nearly every day for ETSing Soldiers and their families.
Classes take students into the intricacies of the USAJobs.gov job website, and offer a practicum for those wishing to apply to federal positions with on-site expert help. Community members may also take ACAP classes which delve into VA benefits, resume writing, online career research and small business administration.
If exiting Soldiers desire a federal career, they may also turn to Army Community Service for post-Army career assistance. While Soldiers may take the USAJobs course hosted by ACS, Rhani Ellis, Employment Readiness Program manager, offers one-on-one guidance. Ellis will take job seekers through the entire process, from discovering their career goals, to hitting "submit" on the application.
"The process is different for each Soldier because what everyone wants is different," said Ellis.
Though there is a glut of career assistance in Grafenwoehr, Ellis notes that the key element in preparing for the outside world is time.
"I really advise that as soon as they know they're getting out they need to start planning for their future," she said.
Petersdorff emphasized the value of time, as well.
"Start early. It's easier to look for work when you're not hungry," he said. "When you start to look when you're already discharged, you get panicky. It's easier when you start early."