|By Gary Sheftick, Army News Service
FORT KNOX, Ky. — All Soldiers planning to separate from the Army now are
required to begin their transition process at least a year before
leaving, according to a Department of the Army execution order (EXORD)
signed Dec. 29.
The order is part of an effort by the Army to beef up transition
assistance, and it places responsibility for the program squarely on the
shoulders of commanders, said retired Col. Walter Herd, director of the
Army Transition Office, located at Human Resources Command.
A Soldier prepares to don a
civilian business suit as a sign of transitioning from the
military world to a new civilian career.
(Photo by David Vergun)
“It really changed Army transition from a staff responsibility to a
commander’s responsibility,” said Herd about the order.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III said during this period
of transitioning to a smaller Army, that it’s essential to have
better transition assistance. “We have a great program, but we can
do better,” he said.
“I believe that Soldiers need to take some time and take a little
responsibility for themselves and to understand that they are going
to be transitioning out of the service,” Chandler said, adding that
they need to look at their resume, their education and their skill
sets. “Then they need to speak with their commander, and their
commander has a responsibility to speak with them.”
The effort to make transition assistance more robust also includes
the opening of a new toll-free call center for transition
assistance. Soldiers can call 1-800-325-4715 for transition advice,
24 hours a day, seven days a week. And a new website or virtual Army
Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) Center soon will be available, Herd
The added emphasis on transition partly is due to a study undertaken
by West Point about two years ago.
The U.S. Military Academy Transition Study sent about two dozen
scholars, noncommissioned officers, and officers all over the Army
to talk with transition counselors and Soldiers preparing to
“They came back with a couple of truisms. Number one is: the more
time a Soldier has to prepare, the more likely they are to succeed.
And that’s pretty simple. If you begin the transition process a week
before getting out of the Army, your chances of failure are
extremely high,” Herd said.
“Two is: the more your commanders are involved, and the more they
support it, again the more likely you are to succeed. In a nutshell,
that’s the gist of this EXORD that was signed Dec. 29.”
What this EXORD does is tell commanders to get their Soldiers into
the ACAP 12 months prior to their planned separation, Herd said.
This allows synchronization of requirements with the unit mission,
with exercises and operations.
The most common comment from Soldiers participating in the West
Point transition study was: “ACAP is a great program, but I don’t
have enough time to attend,” Herd explained.
So no later than 12 months out, Soldiers now need to schedule a
pre-separation counseling at their installation ACAP Center. Herd
said that counseling could actually be scheduled as early as 18 or
24 months out, if Soldiers are able.
At that first counseling, Soldiers begin to draft their Individual
Transition Plan, Herd said. They will set their goals and decide if
they want to go back to school, go home to work the family farm or
business, or join the job market. Then they will determine what ACAP
services and programs are necessary to reach that goal.
“You may want to eat everything on the menu,” Herd said of the list
of available ACAP services, or just sample a couple of items.
Programs include a new Department of Labor employment workshop.
Resume-writing assistance is available. A Veterans Affairs Benefits
Workshop can be attended. And assistance can also be obtained on
sending job applications out.
“There are several Army initiatives to make that connection between
industry and the Soldier,” Herd said. He said Transition Offices
work closely with the Employee Partnership for the Armed Forces, a
group of companies and agencies that have made a commitment to hire
“Industry is dying to hire our Soldiers,” Herd said, “because we are
better than the average American — smarter, healthier, cleaner, more
disciplined, better trained.
About 135,000 Soldiers per year leave the Army and don civilian
clothes, Herd said.
Army civilian employees who are leaving due to Base Realignment and
Closure or just moving on also are eligible to use ACAP separation
services, Herd said. National Guard and Reserve Soldiers are
eligible as well.
In fact, Herd said mobilized reserve-component Soldiers now are
required to begin the transition process one year out, which means
they should begin it at their mobilization station before deploying.
“What this tells you is … the Army leaders have really said that
taking care of Soldiers and preparing them to become civilians is a
METL (mission-essential) task,” Herd said. “And we’re going to
dedicate the leadership emphasis, we’re going to dedicate the time,
and we’re going to dedicate all the resources to set Soldiers up for
For more information about ACAP in the Fort McCoy community, call
Tom Kunz, building 2187, at 608-388-7941.