‘Transition GPS’ helps troops re-enter civilian world
By Terri Moon Cronk, American Forces Press Service
/ Published March 13, 2014
WASHINGTON -- Feedback on "Transition GPS," which prepares service members to enter the civilian workforce, indicates it improves on the program it replaced, the director of the Defense Department's Transition to Veterans Program office said here March 11.
Transition GPS -- for goals, plans and success -- is a redesigned, weeklong curriculum that replaces the Transition Assistance Program with a more in-depth approach that is a "significant improvement," Susan S. Kelly said.
Participating service members give high marks to the Transition GPS program, she said.
"We have received very positive reviews from the service members," Kelly said. "They're telling us they'll use the content to prepare for transition, use it after they separate, (and) they know how to access resources they're going to need before and after they separate. That's a very positive outcome for the program so far."
Kelly emphasized the need for service members not only to take the full weeklong course, but also to get started early in Transition GPS before they begin the separation process.
"Every service member, whether they're completing their first tour of duty or they're separating as a four-star general, will separate from active duty," she added. "So the best plan for everyone is to start early, because this is your exit strategy."
The redesigned program stems from the Veterans Opportunities to Work, or VOW, to Hire Heroes Act, she said.
Congress mandated the core part of Transition GPS for all active-duty, Guard and Reserve service members. From there, DOD created a mandatory policy for service members to meet career-readiness standards before they leave military service, Kelly added.
The redesign of the old Transition Assistance Program began with "a very large and successful partnership" with the Labor, Veterans Affairs and Education departments; the Office of Personnel Management; and the Small Business Administration. The agencies jointly decided what service members need to prepare for re-entering civilian life, Kelly said.
In Transition GPS, Kelly said, service members can choose personal goals. "We give them the training, skills and information ... to be able to navigate multiple systems very successfully," she added.
The mandatory eight-hour core curriculum includes training in pre-separation counseling, a Veterans Affairs benefits briefing and a Labor Department employment workshop, Kelly explained.
For those who attend the full five-day curriculum, various modules help service members match their military training with prospective civilian jobs.
Transition GPS also offers three additional two-day tracks to service members, which concentrate on meeting goals such as going to a college or university on the Post-9/11 GI Bill; technical training schools to obtain certifications, licenses and apprenticeships; and an entrepreneur track for those who want to start a business, she said.
While the core curriculum is available now at military installations, the full Transition GPS program is expected to be in place at the end of the year at facilities around the world, Kelly said. The entire program also is available online, she noted.
"For service members facing imminent transition, the entire Transition GPS curriculum is available online, with 24/7 access," she said. All of the curriculum's modules are posted on Joint Knowledge Online for service members to move at their own speed to complete the training, and they can return to the site as veterans for a refresher, she added.
"By hosting it in JKO, DOD is sending a message that preparing for separation is a training expectation of all service members," Kelly said.
While Transition GPS helps service members ease back into civilian life and gives them the tools for seeking jobs, pursuing education and managing day-to-day issues such as finances, the program doesn't end there, Kelly said. To make sure Transition GPS is meeting its goals, she explained, DOD will follow up on its former students as they begin careers, continue their education or start businesses.
"We're looking at several long-term outcomes," Kelly said. DOD is committed to setting up the infrastructure to collect data, which will begin as soon as the program's information technology is in place, she noted.
"My advice to any service member is three words," Kelly said. "Get started now."