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NEWS | Oct. 12, 2012

JBSA-Randolph members pilot new DoD transition program

By Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

As the military drawdown continues over the next four to five years, Defense Department officials estimate 250,000 active-duty, Guard and Reserve service members will leave the military per year through normal separations, with each service conducting additional mandatory separations.

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Airmen who are included in this demographic were among the first military members to benefit from the White House-mandated Transition Assistance Program redesign here Sept. 28.

"The TAP redesign pilot program started here in July," Peggy Rayfield, Air Force Personnel Center chief of transition operations, said. "We just completed our second iteration here before it goes live across about 75 Air Force locations and to every other U.S. military base."

In total, the program will go live across about 250 military locations worldwide through the end of November.

The transition redesign was initiated to comply with the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, and TAP pilots were conducted incrementally at seven military locations nationwide, Randolph being the one Air Force location.

The original TAP was designed as an end-of-career-driven event that consisted of a pre-separation counseling, voluntary attendance at a Department of Labor employment workshop and voluntary Veterans' Administration briefings for some service members. The only mandatory portion was pre-separation counseling, and the individual services added to this menu of preparatory efforts.

The redesigned TAP offers standardized curriculums with standardized learning objectives to give all service members a more equal footing as they enter civilian life.

"Since the early '90s, the TAP has been all about employment," Rayfield said. "We really focused on educating members for their job search. But the redesigned TAP is evolving into a much more comprehensive program in which the member will be able to choose from different tracks - the enhanced employment track, small business and entrepreneurial skills track, a vo-tech track which is licensure and certification, or an education track if they want to go back to school."

Using a phased approach, the redesigned TAP will continually be adapted and expanded, rolling out the added tracks through fiscal 2013 and implementing a Military Life Cycle Transition through fiscal 2014, she added.

"The Military Life Cycle Transition is a program that will allow us to reach service members at high points in their career," Rayfield said. "We'll literally start training them for transition from the time they come into the Air Force - through accessioning - and then primarily during (professional military education), meaning we'll ping them over and over again to be thinking about what they'll want to do when they leave the Air Force."

Since the July pilot, about 150 people have been through Randolph's redesigned TAP.

"The feedback we've received from people who've been through the redesign here so far is that they feel very involved," Thomas Badman, 902nd Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center chief, said. "They've done exercises and experienced significant interaction, following an adult learning style."

Members retiring from service may initiate their transition process two years prior to leaving the military, and those separating may start one year prior. Civilians losing their job due to Base Realignment and Closure actions are also eligible to participate.

"While spouses are not required to participate, we strongly encourage them to," Rayfield said. "Spouses will often hear things and ask questions that don't necessarily occur to the member. They also care about some different things than the member does, so this is their opportunity to use the TAP to pursue their own post-military life plan."

Ultimately, the intent of the redesigned TAP is to reduce veteran unemployment levels to the greatest extent possible.

"A military member's transition back into civilian life is a critical change, and I believe the new program better prepares them to make that transition," Badman said. "These people have done a great service to their country. We owe this to them."