New GPS offers life skills for Airmen in civilian transition
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan. -- The transition between living the life of an Airman, Soldier, Sailor or Marine to a civilian lifestyle can be a difficult one, and ensuring everything is in order before leaving the military is essential in making the transition smoothly.
The Department of Defense, backed by President Barack Obama, revamped the transition assistance program to help prepare those separating or retiring from service for a civilian career. Yokota Air Force Base conducted its first Transition Goals Planning Success Workshop Dec. 17, 2012.
The Transition GPS course is a redesign of the Transition Assistance Program Workshop. The new course is now mandatory, and replaces what was a half-day mandatory pre-separation counseling briefing with a week-long, more in-depth course. It was brought about to increase knowledge for veterans, thereby improving their quality of life after leaving military service.
According to Nancy King, Yokota Airman and Family Readiness Center core compliance expert, the effort was made to decrease unemployment, homelessness and suicides among veterans. For example: according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, military veterans make up 8 percent of the total U.S. population, but account for 12 percent of the homeless population. President Obama called for actions to fix this problem, and one of those actions was revamping the transition assistance program.
"The Transition GPS program gives service members more guidance, preparing them to successfully transition to the civilian workforce and pursue higher education," King said, who experienced the transition to civilian life herself after leaving a 22-year Army career.
Several sessions were added to the workshop to assist service members with planning and setting goals, translating military occupations into civilian terms and setting a spending plan for a successful transition, according to King.
"Most service members are not aware of all the benefits they are entitled to and services available to them once they retire or separate from the military," she said. "The redesigned workshop increases their awareness and forces them to think about their post-military career and life in general."
An Airman on base preparing for retirement agreed with King and said the new transition course is teaching him a lot.
"So far, the class has given me a broader understanding of my benefits," said Senior Master Sgt. Darryl Nelson, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "It has also prepared me for a job transition from the military to civilian sector by helping me write a résumé and going over what to expect and how to answer questions in an interview."
In addition to the revamped curriculum, there will be three track classes offered once they are developed in 2013 - Education, Entrepreneurship and Technical. According to King, each track is an additional two-day workshop facilitated by either Education Services, the Small Business Administration or Veterans Affairs.
King said the tracks will be mandatory for those who plan to attend school (higher education or vocational) or those who hope to own a small business, but she said service members should go for more than that reason alone.
"They (service members) will be better prepared to pursue their goals," she said. "For instance, after completing the Education Track, they will have their school application ready to submit; after completing the Entrepreneurship Track, they will have a business plan ready to present to a potential lender."
By law, the Pre-separation Counseling Briefing is required no later than 90 days before departure from the military, but King recommends service members take the class well in advance - 12 months for those separating and 24 months for those retiring.
"Planning decreases stress associated with change and gives members more time to research their options, thus increasing their possibilities and chances of success," King added.
Because the course is mandatory and removes service members from their job for a week, it is important for the member to plan accordingly, King said.
"Members should request admin time to attend the Transition GPS Workshop as soon as they are approaching the recommended window or as soon as they know that they will be retiring or separating," she said. "That will allow supervisors and commanders to adjust their working schedules accordingly, just like they do when members go on leave or temporary deployments."
The workshop schedule is available for the entire 2013 calendar year; members can sign up by calling 225-8725.