Transitioning out of the Army can be a daunting process but the Army Career and Alumni Program, or ACAP, is working to ensure that it is a smooth and effective movement. On Nov. 21, the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act took effect requiring that every Soldier of all ranks attend the pre-separation process before leaving the military.
According to an article in Fort Irwin’s “High Desert Warrior” newspaper, many things in the military are mandatory, but the ACAP function is one thing Soldiers should look forward to and want to start on time, if their separation date is approaching, at least 18 months prior to the separation. For retirees, this process can be started up to 24 months prior.
Soldiers who start the ACAP process early in their transition are better able to complete the ACAP requirements around duty requirements. Mfon Umoren, director of Fort Irwin ACAP, said, “We have many more tools available to Soldiers. So, the excuse shouldn’t be that they [can’t] get it done. They can go online … and start the process, meaning we’re trying to make it easier for the Soldier.”
A mandatory five-day workshop, including the pre-separation brief and employment, educational, technical, and entrepreneurship counseling has been created and will be implemented as part of the transition process starting Jan. 3, 2013.
The first day includes: an overview of the transition; a Military Occupational Specialist Crosswalk that matches military jobs to civilian occupations; and a Veterans Affairs Benefits Briefing to become aware of what is offered by the VA. Days two – four are dedicated to a Department of Labor Workshop, in which Soldiers will build a resume, become familiar with job search tools and practice important interview techniques. Day five consists of a Financial Planning Seminar to prepare a one-year budget for the Soldier and his or her Family, after separation. The goal of this workshop is to provide a secure and prepared transition for the life of a new veteran.
The VOW Act has dedicated the separation program as the commander’s responsibility to refer and track the Soldiers enrollment to ACAP, using the ACAP 21 Commander’s Report, at least 12 months out. The DD2648 form, Pre-Separation Counseling Checklist, will be started and the ACAP office will schedule the dates for the five-day workshop.
A capstone event will be held at 90 days prior to separation. According to Army News Service, Retired Army Col. Walter Herd, director of the Army Transition Program, United States Army Human Resources Command said, “What this means is that Soldiers will sit down with their commander and/or counselor to ensure everything that needs to be done has actually been done; transition briefing, yes; budget, yes; resume, yes; training seminar, not yet.”
Herd explained that while these transitional classes are mandatory, there are also elective training classes that are being offered online at www.acap.army.mil, beginning in January. He said “We now have 24/7 virtual capability where Soldiers can connect with a master degree’d transition counselor via phone, webpage, email or via a virtual avatar-based ACAP center. These are the same services offered at brick-and-mortar centers here or overseas.” That call center number is 1.800.325.4715.
All of the transitioning services that are offered to the Soldiers are offered to Army Family members as well. This will benefit those Family members whose spouse is deployed during the months prior to the end of their military career. The spouse can job seek, prepare resumes, research benefits and prepare a budget, all while the Soldier is deployed.
In the future, there will be additions made to the process to further assist the Soldier. An educational benefits brief and a VA benefits sign-up session will be added to the five-day workshop. Also, an individualized career and educational training track will be designed. “By October 2014, Army transition efforts will be scattered throughout the lifetime of a Soldier, so you don’t begin to think about transitioning the last year or so. Rather, you start the transitioning process the first year or so [of your military career] so you can prepare yourself with plans, certifications, networking and so on … whether it’s just a 12-month mobilization or a 30-year career,” Herd said.
Once Soldiers are separated from the military, they have access to ACAP for six months. Those who retire have ACAP access forever. According to the Fort Huachuca ACAP Newsletter, follow-on ACAP services include: career counseling; reference materials; computer workstations for job searching, online applications and resume writing; resume and cover letter assistance; and resume reviews. There are supplementary seminars that are offered such as Advanced Resume Writing, Applying for a Federal Job, Interview Preparation and Job Fair Preparation.
The Fort Huachuca ACAP office is located in Building 41421, Rhea Road, and is open Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 533.5764 or go to www.acap.army.mil.