Whether you have 24 days or 24 months left, your separation date is coming. So, when should you start preparing for separation? Transitioning can become a significant emotional event that causes stress if you are not prepared. It is important to plan ahead by visiting your local Soldier for Life/ Transition Assistance Program (TAP) center early and often. Allow yourself enough time take advantage of the programs available, ask questions, seek resume writing support, and start the Veteran Administrative (VA) process early.
Many transitioning service members wait until the end which often doesn’t leave enough time to leverage programs like Career Skills Program (CSP), Warrior Training Advancement Course (WARTAC), and Onward to Opportunity (O2O) while still on active duty. Some of these programs allow free certifications for spouses while the service member is still actively serving. In addition, there are apprenticeships, fellowships, internships, and certification programs that exist and are invaluable leads to great job opportunities. Allowing time to transition helps to reduce stressors you may encounter and time to adjust accordingly.
Most importantly take time out with family and friends. This change does not affect you alone. Your family has been serving along with you and may fear the loss of income, stability, and friendships. Involve family in the planning process to keep them informed and prepared. Family can help you emotionally through the process and friends may be able to relate to the change. Friends can play an important role in networking for job opportunities, discussing their transition experiences, and reassurance in the transitioning process.
Most transitioners feel as if their losing apart of themselves or even a family. Some people have spent their entire working life in the military since leaving high school. Separation or transitioning does not mean the end of the world. You are simply embarking upon a new journey that is only as good as you prepare yourself for. Counseling support services are available during this process and can provide tools for a smooth transition.
During your career you prepared for boards, promotions, and may have even worked out extra for the perfect Physical Fitness score so use that same energy you put into growth and development to transition successfully. The beginning of a new chapter has arrived and you have available resources and support at your fingertips. All you need to do is stay motivated and positive throughout the process. Good Luck during your transition journey. You Got This!!!
By SGM Kenya L. Berry (USA, Retired)