After deciding to leave the Army, I had to put a plan in place to create a smooth transition from life in the military to life as a civilian. I was a 75B which is a Personnel Administrative Specialist. My duties mainly had to do with processing soldier requests and information. Most of my skills were specific to the military so I had to figure out how to translate the skills I had acquired with the Army, and make them work within a civilian field of employment.
Decide whether or not you will end your career with the Army at least one year in advance. This will allow you the time needed to make necessary arrangements for life after the Army.
Decide where you want to start you new life. Will you become a resident of the community surrounding your permanent duty station, or will you return to your hometown? This is probably the most important step in separating form the military. The sooner you make the decision, the sooner you can start planting roots within the community of choice.
Skills that are acquired in AIT (Advanced Individual Training) are useful to the outside world but may sometimes need to be marketed in a different format. Identify the skills acquired through training for your MOS that you can use in a civilian career. Though I was trained for personnel administration, the skills I acquired are valuable in a wide range of career choices.
Explore Familiar Territory
A good place to start your search for a new employer is probably right where you are. Civilian workers can be found on every Army base. If you’re interested in remaining at your last permanent duty station, visit the on post career centers, or if you work closely with any civilians, ask questions about ways to obtain employment on a military post. The information they provide can be extremely valuable as they’ve gone through the process. I worked as a civilian on Fort Lee, VA for 2 years after leaving the military. The structure and balance I got from the Army made me want to remain in close proximity to what I already knew.
Accrued Leave Days
The most important step to remember, especially when transitioning with uncertainty is to not use accrued leave days unless there is an absolute need during the last year before you ETS. Leave days can be paid out at the end of your enlistment giving you extra cash to aide in your transition and financially support you and your family for at least a period of time until you become properly settled into civilian employment. If you’ve already secured a position with a civilian agency, funds collected from unused leave can also allow you to take some time off before starting your new career, or even better, it gives you the opportunity to start the new employment and collect an extra paycheck from the military. This option gave me a great start when I moved back to the United States after being stationed in Camp Zama, Japan.
Plan For Emergencies
Always have a plan “B”, the economy is uncertain and unpredictable. In current times, company’s hire one week and lay off the next. Before arriving in the city you’ve chosen to call home, do some research and locate local energy assistance programs and figure out the process to apply for other services like free health insurance from the state, and food stamps just in case the need arises in the future.
Sense of Normalcy
Set up activities in which your family participates. If there are children in the family that play sports or participate in other group activities, try to find those same activities in your new community before your arrival. If your family attends church, find several churches that you can visit in efforts to select a suitable place of worship.