Two months in, a pilot program already has more than 115 soldiers taking advantage.
The Active Component to Reserve Component 365 pilot program allows soldiers to speak to Army Reserve and National Guard component career counselors and sign a contract as far as 365 days out from their active-duty separation date.
It’s not an early separation program, but rather a program that allows soldiers to begin looking at their post active-duty options sooner. Fort Hood is the only post testing it.
Sgt. Maj. Lisa Porillo-Birkhead, III Corps Reserve Component career counselor, said soldiers who learn about the pilot program are consistently positive about it.
“Soldiers like the early contact because it optimizes their time to make good decisions and to do proper research as they transition out,” she said. “One soldier said 180 days or less is not enough time to make life changing decisions to be successful.”
The retention office has talked to an additional 500 troops over the past two months.
While visiting Fort Hood last month from Fort Belvoir, Va., Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, deputy chief of staff of the Army Reserve, was able to check in on the progress of the program. In her previous job as director of human capitol for the Army Reserve, she’d worked closely with Fort Hood on the program’s preparation and launch.
“Part of it is the timing of it. As we are going through some of the force-shaping activities that are affecting the Army right now, this was a necessary thing to do to improve our process and put more rigor behind our transition processes because as the Army moves toward getting smaller we need to retain all of that talent in uniform,” Smith said.
It’s also financially beneficial. For every specialist who transitions to the Guard or Reserve, the Army saves on average at least $57,000, she said.
Whether transitioning soldiers choose the Guard or Reserves, they are still likely to be seeking civilian employment.
In the future, Smith said she would like to see soldiers get their Reserve training while on active duty, so that soldiers don’t show up at their new job, and immediately need time off for training. This also improves a unit’s readiness.
“We are running into a few legal barriers that have to do with the color of money, but I really think it’s a strong idea,” Smith said. “It’s good for the soldier and their families. It’s a little challenging to the active-component units that are releasing them, but I still think despite the barriers we’ve uncovered so far, we need to continue to explore this.”
As the Army continues to supervise Fort Hood’s pilot program and brainstorm on changes before potentially taking it to other posts, Porillo-Birkhead and her team will continue to help soldiers make those difficult transition decision.
“My dedicated team makes soldier care their number one priority, which is the ultimate reason for our (Reserve component) transition success,” she said. “My counselors listen to the needs and desires of each soldier. They provide guidance to ensure soldiers continue to have a successful military career.”