FORT BENNING, Ga. (Feb. 13, 2013) -- Gone are the days when transitioning Soldiers elected to go through the Army Career and Alumni Program 90 days before their separation from service. The now mandatory program, which includes a five-day Transition Assistance Program workshop, reaches out to Soldiers 12 to 18 months before their expiration of term of service, or ETS, date in order to give them better preparation for transitioning successfully to a civilian life.

Changes to the Army Career and Alumni Program, or ACAP, came about because of the Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act, a law passed in 2011 and that went into effect in November 2012.

"Our goal on Fort Benning is to help the Soldier to transition successfully, whatever that is -- either going to school or opening up their own business, starting a franchise or getting a new career," said Eddie Perez, transition services manager for Fort Benning's ACAP. "And we've been very successful at doing that but (starting early) is key. We don't want the Soldier to wait too late because then the stress of separating with the family and all, it makes it too difficult for them to concentrate on one thing or the other. So we try to get them very early."

He said support from senior leadership was also important.

Transitioning Soldiers at the beginning of the ACAP process do an Military Occupational Specialty Crosswalk to help them decide what they want to do and how to get there.

During the five-day workshop, Soldiers will learn how to write a resume, dress for success, do a job interview and set goals.

"There's no military jargon when we finish the resume," Perez said about the resume writing workshops. "Unless, the specific employers are looking for Soldiers with specific backgrounds then yes, we will have that particular jargon but for the most part we teach them how to write it so that if you read it, you wouldn't know that he was a Soldier unless you go down to the bottom and you read 'prior military.'"

Soldiers also take a seminar on budget planning, which helps them develop a financial plan for the next 12 months after their separation, Perez said.

The center brings employers on post to look for Soldiers interested in going to work immediately.

"Most Soldiers don't know who they want to work with, they don't necessarily want to do what they did in the Army -- they want to do something different," he said.

"And not knowing who they want to work for then makes it easier to bring a ton of employers out here and then the Soldiers have a myriad of employers to choose from."

Transitioning Soldiers get help on tweaking their resumes and practicing job interviews through mock panels or with their peers, he said.

Perez said Soldiers should understand their benefits they've earned.

"They've earned this -- no one is giving them anything, so take advantage of it," he said. "And we want you to take advantage of us and ask us questions so that we can help you make a good decision moving forward."

For more information, visit ACAP in building 2652 off of Dixie Road on Main Post or call 706-545-2308 or 706-545-2309.