TAP career paths tailor transition material

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jarrod Grammel
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
More than a year and a half ago the Department of Defense expanded and revamped the Transition Assistance Program that helps prepare transitioning service members for life after the military.

One part of this new five-day workshop is what's known as the Individual Transition Plan career paths, which include optional workshops tailored specifically to what the service member plans to do after separating.

The four career paths to choose from are education, entrepreneurial, technical or employment path depending on their goals immediately following separation.

"I think the goal of the program is to help them prepare for transition by looking at what their goals are for the future, and plan for them effectively so they can succeed in the next step of their career, whatever that may be," said Sheena Parrish, 23d Force Support Squadron community readiness specialist.

The five day TAP workshop is broken up into multiple parts. The first day is introductory with information on finances and budgeting. For the second, third and fourth day, a representative from the Department of Labor instructs the employment portion of TAP. On the final day, a representative from Veterans Affairs gives students a rundown of the different benefits for veterans and how to apply for them.

"For me, the resume section was the most informative," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Staron, who attended the TAP workshop in July 2014. "I haven't done one in 30 years. When we get out, we could possibly be fighting for [work] hours. It's very different."

TAP facilitators stress that attending the workshop doesn't affect the separation status of service members facing possible discharge.

Once service members complete the initial TAP workshop they have the option of attending any of the different career path workshops.

Darryl Gagne, 23d FSS education specialist, leads the education path seminar. During the education path class, Gagne focuses on teaching students how to pick the right GI Bill, choosing a school and degree program, and everything that has to do with financing.

"It's just a very complicated process to pick the right school, pick the right degree program and then of course the GI Bill, and all the other financing and money out there is just so vast," he said. "There's just such a large amount of information you couldn't possibly know it all on your own. I don't even know everything. A lot of the students get a lot out of it as far as understanding the GI Bill. [Many] never knew about all the scholarships available. That's one of the things I always get good feedback on: scholarships."

Mickey Lane, 23d Force Support Squadron community readiness specialist and TAP facilitator, is a military retiree himself who knows how important the information offered in TAP is for service members to be successful after their service.

"You have to understand one thing: When you're competing for employment, you're competing against folks who are already in the career field who have experience and seniority," said Lane. "You have to make yourself competitive, and the TAP workshop teaches you how to become competitive and market yourself for that second career.

"This program has a serious impact on your future," he added. "This is something that should be taken very seriously, because it not only affects your future but the future and welfare of your family."

To get a good job and have a good future after service, Gagne believes education is the key.

"Well, for one thing, people getting out of the military, if they don't have an education, something to put on their resume to show they have some specific skills or education, they're at a handicap compared to the rest of the people out there," said Gagne. "If they want to get a decent job, education is the key. It's one thing to be a veteran, but it's another thing to be an educated veteran.

"Our GI Bills are an incredible benefit, and I'm afraid a lot of people are not taking advantage of the benefit that's available to them to pay for an education," he added. "Hopefully, I'm motivating them to realize how important their education is and to take advantage of this benefit that's just waiting for them. I hope people aren't just getting out and going to work, and letting this benefit go away, just die on the vine, because it's probably the greatest benefit we have for people getting out."

Gagne also urges people to carefully weigh the benefits of the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post 9/11 GI Bill before choosing which one to use.

After completing one of the optional career path workshops and TAP, service members have to complete a capstone visit to ensure everything is lined up for their separation.

"I would say the military is putting a lot of resources into this program to prepare you for whatever is coming next and to help you achieve what you want to after your time in the military," said Parrish. "And that's not a common thing you get in the private sector. It's a unique service and a unique resource that you're being offered so take advantage and make the most of and benefit the most you can."