The New "Reverse Boot Camp" For Service Members Leaving the Military
Posted by Ramsey Sulayman on July 26
President Obama’s speech to the VFW on Monday announced an upgrade that’s been anticipated for quite some time: a new Transition Assistance Program (TAP), or “reverse boot camp,” for service members leaving the military. The goal of the program is to help ease the transition from active military service to the civilian world by tailoring theTAP program to a servicemember’s post-service goals before they leave the military.
The current TAP program was formed after the Gulf War and has changed little within the last 20 years. As a “one size fits all” program, where a private receives the same instruction as a general, it fails to adequately address the different qualifications each military service member has earned during their time.
Other criticism of the current TAP program focuses on the fact that it’s not mandatory, isn’t tailored to the skill levels of participants and takes a “death-by-Powerpoint” approach to instruction. Many participants are assigned to undergo TAP in the last few weeks of service, or after taking terminal leave, during the very busy process of moving themselves and their families away. As a result, participants very rarely understand all the benefits that are explained to them, what they qualify for and how to apply for them.
The new TAP, by contrast, will be a mandatory program with a five-day curriculum that will focus on navigating the VA system, financial planning, and military skills transition. We’re still waiting on the specifics, but we do know that after completing the five-day program, participants can then take additional two-day sessions focusing on education, employment or entrepreneurship. For example, a servicemember who plans on going to school will learn about the educational programs he or she qualifies for, such as the new GI Bill or vocational rehab, and how to take advantage of those programs.
The real change in the new program, however, is that the process will begin much earlier and servicemembers will receive individualized counseling and an individualized transition plan based on their goals. The counseling will be done through units’ career counselors and there will be concrete steps that a servicemember will be required to complete; for example, creating a resume. While that may seem small, it is important because it changes TAP from a check-in-the-box to a process.
There are still some questions that need to be answered. There is an “MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) crosswalk” that is part of the counseling and is supposed to let a servicemember know how his or her skills translate to the civilian workplace. But what is this “crosswalk” going to be based on? Even the best skill translators currently available often return zero matches for someone with a combat arms MOS.
Another question is what steps will be taken to taken to connect separating servicemembers to civilian employers. Part of the problem for servicemembers, particularly younger enlisted, is the lack of professional networks that provide good job leads. Information on jobs, resume writing workshops and mock job interviews are all important but if that is where the reverse boot camp stops then it will miss an important link in the employment chain.
IAVA has worked hard on veteran employment and many of the pieces that make up the reverse boot camp, like mandatory TAP and individualized TAP tracks, are ideas that we have championed. We are pleased to see attention paid to service members who are ready to join the civilian workforce, and that serious steps are being taken to lower the much too high veteran unemployment rate.
Ramsey Sulayman, Legislative Associate, Veteran. As Legislative Associate, Ramsey aids IAVA’s research and policy through coordination with Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and governmental organizations. Ramsey is a Marine officer and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as an infantry platoon commander and company executive officer. He attended the University of Toledo where he received his B.A in Political Science and International Relations. He went to graduate school at Toledo where he studied and taught philosophy as a graduate assistant. Ramsey also has experience on Capitol Hill as a researcher for the Corporation for Effective Government and as a Congressional intern in office of Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D, OH). He is fluent in Spanish, French and Arabic.
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