Transition GPS gives Airmen roadmap to success

  • Published
  • By Rich Lamance
  • Air Force News Service
A new roadmap to help ease Airmen into civilian life is in full swing, providing assistance that will help those separating be as competitive in the civilian world as they are in the military, according to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs.

Mr. Daniel B. Ginsberg addressed only the second class under the new Transition Goals Plans Success or Transition GPS, during the start of a week-long class in the Pentagon.

Ginsberg told the group that the initiative, which took effect Nov. 21, began when President Obama set a goal to ensure all service members are "career ready" when they leave the military.

The new program is mandatory versus optional and extends classes from three days to five. The new program provides pre-separation counseling, along with a military-to-civilian skills review, a Veterans Affairs benefits briefing, financial planning support, sessions to help develop job search skills and individual transition plan preparation.

"I believe it will be very helpful for me to understand the benefits of the VA and what is required to transition to civilian life," said Master Sgt. Thomas Nequette, a training NCOIC for Air National Guard Security Forces at Joint Base Andrews, Md. "I also think it will be beneficial to understand what it takes to transition military verbiage to civilian language."

For some, the classes give Airmen the ammunition they need to make that final decision to either stay or separate. "I'm about 18 months out from retirement, but I'm taking the classes to find out what is available before I make a decision," said Lt. Col. Charles Harris, during a Pentagon class session.

"I'm separating from the Air Force after 14 and-a-half years, so I think it's important for me to get ready for the next steps in my career," said Maj. James Fernandez, Air Force Program Executive Officer for the space launch office. "I think the financial budgeting class is going to be very helpful because it will help me budget for my next steps," said Fernandez. "It will help me figure out how much I'm going to make compared to what I currently make with the benefits of the military that I may or may not be receiving when I get out."

Shortly after the president's directive to strengthen the military's transition assistance program, Susan S. Kelly was named a special advisor to the Department of Defense, responsible for bringing together such agencies as DoD, VA, the Department of Labor, the Small Business Administration, the Education Department and the Office of Personnel Management to strengthen and revitalize the program. She said it was the responsibility of this task force to put together a curriculum that would maximize benefits to service members.

According to Kelly, the extended program takes service members through job searches using the latest technology, highlights skills that are in demand in the private sector, identify where the best opportunities exist and help determine whether moving is a consideration.

"They might look at what skills are in demand and how they can fill that gap," said Kelly. "There are specific pieces of the new curriculum that give them the information they need to make very well-thought out decisions , as well as skills-building to help them succeed in whatever pathway they choose."

Kelly explained that, during the course of the week, small groups will develop an individual transition plan that covers such things as financial planning, and how to put together a budget that covers their first 12 months following separation. The course also covers how to write a résumé, how to interview for a job, along with how to translate military skills into the civilian work force.

When military jobs don't fit a civilian counterpart, Kelly said tracks are available to focus on education and training programs available. "We found that military members weren't making the most of their post 9-11 GI Bill, so we are getting them the information they need to help them choose wisely."

Sitting in on one of the early sessions at Joint Base Andrews,  the Air Force District of Washington commander, Maj. Gen. Sharon K.G. Dunbar, told the class there that the newly restructured transition workshop is a great opportunity for Airmen to prepare themselves beyond Air Force service.

"When you take the time to reflect on all you've done and accomplished since you've come into the Air Force, it's rather incredible," said Dunbar. "Very few people have the richness in experience that you do. Few have lived and worked in different regions of the country and the world and understand cultural differences like you do. Whether you've served your initial commitment, a portion of a career, or full career in our Air Force, this course will help you best convey the accumulation of your unique experience.

"You have vast professional, technical, military and educational training we've invested in you during your service. All that matters to prospective employers. But what really matters is your ability to lead teams, lead people and get things done. There's an old adage that success is when 'preparation meets opportunity.' This TAP course is vital preparation so you're ready for the opportunities that will no doubt come your way."