Welcome back readers of Clay’s Corner. Today is Part 2 of my Soldier to Civilian transition story entitled “The Process.” In case you missed Part 1, entitled “The Decision,” you can read it HERE.
In Part 1, I talked briefly about the transition assistance program (TAP) offered by the Army. Actually, the TAP is offered by the Department of Labor, Veterans Affairs, US Army, and a host of other agencies, but to keep this simple, we’ll just say it’s offered by the Army. I don’t have any knowledge of the programs offered by the other branches, so if you or someone you know is currently looking at transition from military service, their process might be a little different. Please keep that in mind.
In accordance with Army Regulations, a Soldier who is retiring from the Army is allowed to transition no earlier than 24 months from their retirement date. For example, if my retirement date was January of 2016, I could begin my transition classes/training in January of 2014. All other Soldiers who are transitioning are allowed to begin their process 12 months from their ETS date.
While Laura and I were still discussing the possibility of retirement, I went ahead and started my transition process around July or August of 2013. There are certain classes that must be taken prior to other classes, but I’ll try to keep this as general as possible without being too vague. When I enrolled in the mandatory week-long class, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the process would be difficult, but I had no idea how incredibly difficult it would be. Others I know who have gone through this same process have stated the classes were boring, time-consuming, waste of time, pointless and needless. I agree in part with these notions, but I’m the type of person who puts so much pressure on himself. I don’t settle with mediocre. I expect the very best from those around me and even more from myself. When I say the week-long class was incredibly difficult, it was because of the pressure I was putting on myself.
On the first day of this class, the facilitator had everyone introduce themselves by stating their name, their military job and their plans for post-military life. Are you kidding me?! How am I supposed to know that? I don’t know what I want to do. I’m listening to all these career Soldiers with 20 to 25 years of service describe exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Seriously? How do they appear to have it all together? I wasn’t sure how my military training would transfer into civilian terminology and skills. I wasn’t sure what employment opportunities were available. I was stressed out.
Keep in mind that I’m currently attending Seminary. When it was my turn for introductions, I stated that my goal is to lead God’s flock. Needless to say, I was the only person in this class of 30 individuals with those aspirations. However, what church would hire a guy without any pastoral experience to lead its congregation?
I continued with my transition classes and it became aware to me that I would need a 9 to 5 working stiff job to provide for my family as I continued to grow and mature in God’s Word. What to do?
Throughout this transition process, I continued by enrolling in other classes, such as Social Media, Resume Writing, Advanced Resume Writing, Federal Resume Writing and others. The Social Media class was okay. It wasn’t great, but I gained some valuable information from it. Albeit vague information, but valuable nonetheless. The resume writing classes were garbage. I’ll get into more of those in just a minute. The other classes I took were so good that I can’t remember them. LOL!
Let’s get back to the Resume Writing Classes. Every class I attended that was offered by the Transition Assistance Office had one thing in common – H.O.R.R.I.B.L.E.!!! The classes were supposedly offered by Human Resource professionals with vast experiences in resume writing. However, they all began with the same statements. It was either, “I heard…,” “Someone told me….,” or my personal favorite, “I know a guy/girl…..” How is that helping me?! Don’t give me second-hand information. Tell me what I need to do in order to get the interview. Tell me key words I need to include in my resume. Just teach me how to write a resume! I was no further in my resume writing abilities after the classes than I was the day before the class. I have spent my entire adult life in the military. Prior to my enlistment, resumes were rarely spoken of. If you wanted a job, you showed up at the place of business and filled out an application. Now everything is online and resumes are a requirement. I have never written a resume. Once the classes were over, the “HR professionals” asked if there were any questions or comments. My wife can attest to my question asking abilities and commenting expertise. When asked for comments or questions, I first began with, “I have never written a resume. This class has not assisted me.” I finished with, “I need help. Can someone please help me?” My statements and questions fell on deaf ears.
Enough about the resumes and the other classes. Another informative class I took was the Veterans Affairs process. I could spend days on this process. Actually, I’m still continuing with this process as I await my disability ratings. If you are a service member preparing for transition, go to the doctor and get seen for everything. Stubbed toe? Doctor. Sore back? Doctor. Headaches? Doctor. Go to the doctor and get your illness/injuries documented! That’s all I am going to say about that. Let me share with you how stressful it is knowing that my ratings are in the hands of people who do not know me. However, to alleviate some of this stress, the Army did move to a digital database of medical records. Unfortunately, they didn’t begin this transition from paper records to digital records until 2005. This was 10 years after I had enlisted. This was 10 years of lost medical files. This was 10 years of paper copies. It is stressful.
Please keep in mind that these were my experiences from two different Army posts while transitioning. If you or someone you know had a better experience than I did, please do not sit on that information. Share it with others who could benefit. Having said that, I have learned of other resources available to transitioning service members such as resume writing that can help. I am more than happy to share this information if you would like it.
The Process has not been an enjoyable one to say the least. Maybe it’s because I expected too much? Maybe it’s because I had a vision in my mind of how this process was supposed to be? Maybe it’s because the classes were not informative nor helpful? There are a host of other possibilities, but the fact is that the Army has made this process mandatory for all transitioning service members. The fact is this mandatory process has many flaws. The fact is transitioning is a process that requires much preparation. The fact is transitioning is stressful and scary.
I hope this post wasn’t too boring or sounded like a “pity-party.” I hoped to share with you my experiences and my emotions (for lack of a better word) while weaving through the transition process. I also hope you join me in part 3 of this series next week.
Until we meet again,