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Soldier for Life: Center helps transition Soldiers to civilians

Bryan Tharpe, transition services manager at the Fort Rucker Soldier for Life Center, helps transitioning Soldiers prepare for careers outside of the military. (Photo by Jay Mann)

Bryan Tharpe, transition services manager at the Fort Rucker Soldier for Life Center, helps transitioning Soldiers prepare for careers outside of the military. (Photo by Jay Mann)

Published: September 4, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 4, 2014) -- The Fort Rucker Soldier for Life Center is not only a place for Soldiers transitioning out of the military – new Soldiers will soon become very familiar with Soldier for Life starting in October.

Formerly the Army Career and Alumni Program, Soldier for Life is a place where Soldiers can seek help when undergoing the transition from the military to a civilian career field, according to Bryan Tharpe, center transition services manager.

“People need to stop by and start talking to us early,” Tharpe said. “It’s never too early to ask questions and get information.”

Although this is a commander-driven requirement, the center tries to help by identifying Soldiers that are 18 months from their separation date, added Tharpe.

About 50 to 60 transitioning Soldiers a month visit the Fort Rucker Soldier for Life Center, according to Tharpe. “The VOW Act of November 2011 mandates that all Soldiers with 180 days of active duty attend transition classes prior to separation from the military.”

There are also Career Readiness Standards that transitioning Soldiers have to meet, he said.

“The biggest problem we are facing right now is that Soldiers are not coming to talk to us 12 months before their separation, but it is not just happening here, it is an Army-wide problem,” said Tharpe.

He said that if someone shows up at the last minute before their separation date, the Soldier for Life Center will not leave a Soldier without help.

“We will do a warm handover to the Department of Labor or Veterans Affairs, even take them down and introduce them, but we will not just leave someone hanging,” said Tharpe. But he added that the Army is rolling out a new program Oct 1 that will address this problem.

The Soldier for Life Cycle will be an online program that follows Soldiers from the beginning of their service until their Expiration of Term of Service date. “During their first year, Soldiers have certain courses that they have to take anyway. With this program, they will be putting the courses into the Army Training and Certification Tracking system, and it will follow them throughout their career until they transition out of the military,” said Tharpe.

In the program, Soldiers will develop certain civilian career skills throughout their Army career progression that build on one another until the Soldier reaches the end of their service, be it one or 20 years. “The problem now is that Soldiers don’t know what they don’t know, and we’re waiting till the end to tell them,” he said.

CRSs will be introduced early and throughout a Soldier’s career with touch points at their first duty station, first year of service, reenlistments, deployments, promotions and, finally, at their transition out of the military. “By the time they reach their ETS, they will be ready for a civilian career, and will only need to pull everything they have already done together,” he said.

Spouses can visit the Soldier for life Center as well as their transitioning service member. “Well, they are a team, right?” said Tharpe. “If ever they had to team up and do something together, getting out of the military is the time. The spouses have to know just as much as the Soldier so they can help each other.”

Soldiers approaching their ETS or thinking about transitioning to a civilian career can stop by Bldg. 4502 or call 255-2558.

“Come talk to us early,” said Tharpe. “Soldiers should complete a pre-separation briefing no later than 12 months before they separate from the military.”

This article was originally published at

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