|By Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General,
Installation Management Command
The decision to transition out of uniform is as important as the initial
decision to put it on. Soldiers deserve as much support at this critical
point in their service as they do with earlier parts of their career.
That is why the Army provides the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP)
and is working to make ACAP even more effective.
ACAP delivers transition and job assistance services to Soldiers to
support them in making informed career decisions. These services include
pre-separation counseling; Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits briefings; and
Department of Labor Transition Assistance Program (TAP) workshops, which
cover career planning; job searches; resume writing and interviewing.
ACAP services are available to separating and retiring active-component
Soldiers, demobilizing Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, Family
members, retirees, and Civilians affected by Base Realignment and
Closure actions, reduction in force or Global Realignment.
In April 2010, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army directed a thorough
review of ACAP, which included visits to ACAP centers and thousands of
interviews with Soldiers and Civilians. The study found that while
Soldiers are allowed to use ACAP services up to two years prior to
retirement or one year prior to separation, they do not always have
leadership support in doing more than the minimum required by law, which
is attending the pre-separation briefing no later than 90 days prior to
separation. However, just meeting the letter of the law is too little,
too late. The more Soldiers are able to use ACAP services, the more
successful their transition.
Based on the study results and the Vice Chief of Staff’s guidance, over
the next few months ACAP is implementing an enhanced 12-month transition
program model focused on helping Soldiers develop an Individual
Transition Plan and put it into action. Under this choice-based,
results-oriented model, Soldiers will have the opportunity to spend up
to 60-70 hours accessing ACAP resources, including the pre-separation
briefing, the two-and-a-half day TAP workshop, the four-hour VA
briefing, and individual counseling sessions. The TAP workshop is also
being updated, to incorporate development of the Individual Transition
The 12-month time frame is designed to minimize conflict with unit
mission requirements and enable Soldiers to take full advantage of ACAP
resources. About four out of 10 eligible Soldiers who start ACAP decide
to reenlist or join the National Guard or Reserves, while others need to
get a solid start preparing for the next phase of their careers, whether
it is going to school, starting a new job or starting a business. New
policy and guidance on the transition program will be issued in the
first quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 12.
The key to making ACAP as effective as possible is leader commitment.
ACAP is a commander’s program. Soldiers will take off the uniform at
some point, whether through separation or retirement, and it is up to
leaders to take care of them until the very last day. Taking care of
Soldiers includes supporting their active participation in ACAP, and if
a Soldier decides to separate, making sure no stigma is attached to
It is smart business to support Soldiers’ use of ACAP.
In FY 10 the Army spent more than $500 million in unemployment
compensation for veterans, a number expected to rise even higher in FY
11. The Army is looking to reduce that amount by better preparing
Soldiers to enter the Civilian workforce.
More to the point, it is the right thing to do to support Soldiers’
transition planning. Transition is stressful under the best of
circumstances, and right now Soldiers are facing a tough job market.
We have to equip our Soldiers to take the skills and values they learned
in the Army and translate them into success in the next phase of their
career. When Soldiers take off the uniform, we want them to know they
made the right choice for themselves, their careers, and their Families
when they put it on in the first place. It’s the least we can do for
their service and sacrifices.