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July 17, 2012
By Karl Weisel (USAG Wiesbaden)

WIESBADEN, Germany - The military offers service members various benefits while serving. One of those is helping them transition to civilian life when their time in uniform nears an end.

"Service members should take a pre-separation briefing within a year before ETSing and two years before retiring," said Maricel Stephens, a counselor with the Wiesbaden Army Career and Alumni Program.

Individuals are mandated by Congress to complete a DD Form 2648 (Preseparation Counseling Checklist) aimed at helping them and counselors determine what kinds of assistance they will require as they transition from the military to civilian life.

Upon completion of the briefing, checklist and workshops such as the Transition Assistance Employment Workshops, resume seminars, interviewing techniques and job fair preparation seminars, and Veterans Affairs benefits briefing, service members have a host of tools they can use to better seek employment in the civilian sector, Stephens said.

"We have basically two types of resume classes," Stephens said, explaining that these include federal jobs and private company/contractor resume seminars. One-on-one resume help is also available.

"Many Soldiers have no experience with the resume and job application process having come into the military directly from high school," she said. "Sometimes it's very hard for them to explain how their military job translates into equivalent terms on the civilian job market. In our resume writing classes we help them put their military experience into civilian terms and highlight their skills and education."

Stephens encouraged service members to start the ACAP process as early as possible to give them time to prepare properly. She also advised commanders to keep ACAP on the radar when realizing that service members will be making the transition -- whether because of being chaptered out of the military or simply because they have decided to return to civilian life.

"I recommend that they attend the classes," Stephens said. "They will give them the tools to know what to expect and the confidence to start the job search process -- how to carry themselves and what to say when being interviewed.

"It's like having the weapons for battle," she said, explaining that taking the time to adequately assess their skills and abilities helps avoid having too high or low expectations when seeking employment.

ACAP also provides service members with links to other service providers in the area such as the VA, Education Center and others who can further assist in the move between the military and civilian worlds.

"It's actually taught me a lot," said Spc. Emily Ward, who was attending an advanced resume class on her way to transitioning from the 2nd Military Intelligence Battalion back to the civilian world. "I didn't know how to write a resume. I went straight from high school into the Army. It's helping me figure out what I want to do."

Ward recommended taking all of the available courses to others preparing to go through the ACAP process.

In the near future, Soldiers will be required to take all of the classes and have a completed resume before separation, Stephens said.

"It's provided me with tips and pointers on how to prepare the different types of resumes," said Capt. Phil Goetz, a fellow 2nd MI Battalion Soldier transitioning to civilian life.

Goetz likewise stressed that service members should take advantage of the ACAP classes. "It has helped to get the process started. The VA briefing was really helpful. They explained a lot of the options available. … Make sure you attend because you don't know what you don't know."

The ACAP counselor, who will soon be moving on to another position with ACAP in Kaiserslautern, said service members need to also fully consider where they can realistically afford to live upon leaving the service. While a European out may be appealing to some, it can be very expensive to live overseas without a support network or high-paying job.

"They have to find time to look at what kinds of jobs are available here with their qualifications," she said.

"I always believe that those who avail of the classes and services meticulously will be successful, Stephens added.

ACAP is currently seeking a full-time counselor for Wiesbaden to provide transition and job assistance counseling, pre-separation briefings and job assistance seminars. Qualifications include a masters degree with a minimum of two years counseling, training or education experience.

For more information about the ACAP counselor position or Wiesbaden ACAP assistance call Maricel Stephens at mil 337-5709, civ (0611) 705-5709 or email maria.stephens@us.army.mil.

For details about ACAP in Baumholder call mil 485-6330 or civ (06783) 6-6330.