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The big transition

The Army Career Alumni Program helps pave paths

Army Career and Alumni Program counselor Lori Mann offers career guidance to a Soldier at the ACAP center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo credit: Sgt. Ashley Outler

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The transition from the military to civilian life is challenging, regardless of branch or rank; however, it is proving to be hardest for the lower enlisted who only spend a few years serving in uniform. According to the DoD's No Vet Left Behind, Inc., more than half of homeless veterans are younger than 45. While that median age may not seem out-of-the-ordinary, it is lower than in past decades and with the growing number of younger veterans, it may unfortunately continue to climb.

Luckily, there are resources available to these young men and women, before they ETS and throughout the process, which can really make that transition smoother.

The Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP) is a great resource and while Soldiers are required to attend certain briefings, they often fail to utilize all of the ACAP options.

For instance, ACAP holds a variety of workshops and briefs throughout the year to assist transitioning Servicemembers. VA benefits briefs and federal application workshops can shed light on what options are available, while advanced resume writing workshops offer personalized assistance and interviewing workshops cover useful skills, especially for those with no previous work history. There are even small business administration seminars to guide Servicemembers who are considering becoming entrepreneurs.

Basic eligibility for ACAP services begins when transitioning military are within 18 months of separation. However, Soldiers pending "involuntary separation actions" for any reason, including potential medical separation, are eligible and encouraged to begin using ACAP and transition services as soon as separation is anticipated. To reach the JBLM ACAP office, call (253) 967-3258.

Another tool that was recently overhauled and improved is, the official DoD website intended to provide information on transitioning from the military. While many of these resources can also be obtained via ACAP, this website is more versatile and can be accessed at any time. It also can provide helpful information that might have otherwise been overlooked.

For instance, many young Servicemembers might not be aware that, according to DoD regulations, they are entitled to a permissive, transition administrative absence prior to their separation from the military in order to search for a new job and/or future housing. Granted, this leave is only for Servicemembers who are being involuntarily separated under honorable conditions and cannot interfere with any mission requirements. Transitioning military should speak to their command for more details.

The comprehensive site takesServicemembers step-by-step through life after the military and also offers a guide on establishing financial security prior to that last paycheck from the DoD. For example, individuals and/or families should create a budget by specifically listing any income versus all of their expenses and then prioritizing which expenses are really necessary to live in order to figure out the lowest salary they can accept at a new job.

Furthermore, they should obtain an accurate credit report at least six months to a year before ETSing so that there is time to improve (if need be) since a solid credit score will come into play when they are seeking housing and no longer residing on base or receiving a housing stipend.

For more information on this and other transition tools, visit

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