Staff Sgt. Jefferson VanWey’s separation from the Army is being voluntarily postponed.
When VanWey decided not to re-enlist after about 10 years in the Army, he was working in public affairs for the 1st Cavalry Division. He began the process to separate in April by attending the mandatory briefs and workshop, and was allowing the Herald to follow him through the process.
Originally scheduled to separate on April 10, 2013, VanWey decided to switch units, moving into the division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, and participate in the brigade’s nine-month deployment to Afghanistan. He will serve as the noncommissioned officer in charge of public affairs while the unit is downrange.
“It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, and it helped out the division,” VanWey said of his decision. “It’s an opportunity to go to Afghanistan and get the experience of doing public affairs downrange. It’s a new mission and I’m interested to see how it plays out public affairs-wise.”
An added bonus, he said, is the deployment will allow him to pay off all his bills so he will leave the Army debt-free and just a few months later than he anticipated.
Even though VanWey has already attended both mandatory Veterans Affairs briefings and two of the three days of the Transition Assistance Program employment workshop, he said he would prefer to start over again after the deployment. “I know I’ll need a refresher.”
When he does, all those classes will look different, as outlined in the VOW to Hire Heroes Act passed in 2011. The change could come to Fort Hood as early as January, said Linda Christ, director of the Fort Hood Army Career and Alumni Program, which oversees and aids soldiers transitioning into the civilian workforce. This will be the first time in 20 years the Defense Department has made sweeping changes.
Transition Goals Plans Success, known simply as Transition GPS, will replace the three-day TAP course with a five-day program incorporating more than just resume writing and job searching. It also includes the VA briefs and signing up for VA services.
The biggest change is that each soldier in the class is required to be in front of a computer, whereas the old TAP workshop had workbooks. Christ said this will allow soldiers to build resumes and conduct practice job searches right then, instead of listening to instructions and performing these tasks later.
“Then they can come back here and work and get all the one-on-one they need,” Christ said.
Fort Hood has even hired 15 new counselors — doubling its manpower — to meet the growing demand for the course, which became mandatory for all separating service members earlier this year. Since then, Christ said attendance has doubled.
“We’re very excited to get rolling on this and I can’t wait,” Christ said.
In addition to the mandatory GPS course, soldiers can also choose to participate in extra workshops on specific subjects. Fort Hood will be the test site for three of the additional classes to focus on education, technical school and opening your own business.
“We’re big here so it’s nice to be able to do that and see how is it working? Is it giving people what they really want? How can we make this responsive to the needs of the soldier? How can we modify the curriculum and offer exactly what is needed?” Christ said.
The education course will be offered in March, focusing on college prep, she said. In April, Fort Hood will test the technical school workshop and in May, the entrepreneurs.
“We already do a lot of this on an ad-hoc basis,” Christ said. In the past she said they created the curriculum on their own. “These programs will be done for us by the experts and standardized across (the Defense Department).”
As for VanWey, he said he appreciates the flexibility of ACAP, which allows him to restart the classes next year, especially since he will have plenty of new work experience to add to his resume.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.