Taking the next step

Guest Column

By Felicia Seals-Hilliard, Transition Services Specialist Assistant

The Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program was developed under the constructs of Public Law 107-103, Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act Of 2001 and the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011.

This legislation mandates all service members with 180 days of active-duty service obtain assistance and training in pursuit of civilian employment.

The significance of the SFL-TAP is immersed in the Army’s Soldier Life Cycle, a three-phased holistic approach to preparing Soldiers for careers after separating from the Army.

Soldiers learn of this process and enter the initial phase as new trainees. They are given credentialing information about their military occupations, trained in financial readiness and tasked to create an individual development plan. The IDP helps guide the direction of the Soldier’s career.

A year later, Soldiers will begin Phase Two known as the career phase. During this phase, those with less than 10 years of service will review and update their IDPs and Army Career Tracker profiles annually. However, all personnel will seek and complete training to help them meet their civilian employment goals.

The final transition phase consists of all things SFL-TAP —- a new beginning to a notable Army career.

By now, the Soldier should be prepared and ready for this phase. Service members are notified two years before their retirement or one year prior to their separation date, putting them on notice to begin their transition.

While many believe one or two years is a lot of time, it goes by quickly and allows the service member the flexibility to meet mission requirements and utilize the free SFL-TAP services.

These services include training and programming on employability, resumé writing, job interviewing and job searching.

Soldiers are so mission-driven, it is hard to conceptualize this new chapter of putting themselves first. However, there are transition and career services mandates that all Soldiers must meet.

By law, transition services must be initiated no later than 365 days prior to separation or retirement. Failure to complete the pre-separation and initial counseling mandate by Day 364 means the Soldier is non-compliant with federal law.

The Soldier must initiate transition services by contacting the Fort Meade SFL-TAP Office at 301-677-9871 to register for services and schedule his or her first SFL-TAP appointment.

During this appointment, Soldiers will receive pre-separation counseling, complete the Pre-Separation Counseling Checklist — DD Form 2648 or 2648-1 — and meet with an SFL-TAP counselor to learn more about SFL-TAP and to schedule additional services.

Each commander, sergeant major and first sergeant are responsible for ensuring that Soldiers initiate SFL-TAP services early in the transition process.

For more information about the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program, call 301-677-9871 or visit the SFL-TAP office Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 8501 Simonds St., Room 105.

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