by Spc. Samantha B. Koss
The Army Career and Alumni Program offers Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and military Families counseling and classes for a successful transition out of the military.
Retired Army Col. Walter M. Herd, Department of the Army director of ACAP, visited Fort Carson May 9-11 to spread new ideas and explain plans to improve ACAP.
“I’ve been very impressed by the Fort Carson ACAP,” Herd said.
“They have great counselors here who are very passionate about what they do, and they have excellent leadership in the program with great support from the garrison commander.”
Herd served two tours at Fort Carson during his Army career and became the director of ACAP in September. He has visited 12 other posts since taking the position.
Many Soldiers attend a three-day workshop called the Transition Assistance Program, which offers knowledge and skills for obtaining post-separation employment, said Denis “Doc” Leveille, transition services manager, Fort Carson ACAP.
“I encourage everyone to attend follow-on workshops and seminars as well as individual counseling at the ACAP center,” Leveille said.
Soldiers receive expert advice from Department of Veterans Affairs counselors, Department of Labor instructors and Department of Defense and Office of Personnel Management representatives through ACAP, he said.
“Fort Carson is one of only three posts that has an Office of Personnel Management representative who helps Soldiers obtain federal employment, that really makes the Fort Carson ACAP program stand out,” Herd said.
About 5,000 personnel processed through ACAP in the past year and many come back for individual counseling, Leveille said.
During his trip to Fort Carson, Herd sat down with the ACAP counselors who expressed their dedication to Soldiers.
Every Soldier on Fort Carson can receive employment advice provided by a master in counseling, Herd said.
“They can discuss their life goals … all the mechanisms to achieve those goals are right here,” he said. “That’s a huge opportunity our Soldiers need to take advantage of.
“We are in the midst of changing ACAP significantly,” he said.
“ACAP next year will not look like ACAP last year.”
Herd plans to have ACAP become a commander-driven program.
“It is incumbent upon the commanders to help their Soldiers through the transition and set them up for success,” he said.
Soldiers need to start the ACAP process a year prior to their military separation which is another change in the program, and their commanders need to give them enough time to go through ACAP, he said.
“In the past, Soldiers started the ACAP transition process only four months prior to separation … but it takes longer than that to do it right,” Herd said.
He wants to give Soldiers enough time to benefit from all that ACAP offers such as classes on résumé writing, dress for success tips, interview techniques and goal-setting counseling.
“We judge a successful transition by post-separation employment. Chances of getting a job is much better if you start planning and receiving counseling earlier,” Herd said.
The Army has to pay unemployment insurance when veterans can’t find a job on the civilian side, he added.
“Last year, the Army paid $500 million in unemployment insurance,” he said. “The way to fix this is to help Soldiers transition and get jobs … having a good transition program is beneficial to both the Soldier and the Army.”
Also, it is imperative that veterans have positive recollections of the Army because the influence they have on the next generation of Soldiers, Herd said.
“Having a successful transition program benefits the Army in many ways,” he said.
Although the program focuses on Soldiers getting out of the military, Herd said 41 percent of Soldiers that go through ACAP decide to continue serving in uniform.