FORT CARSON, Colo. — Three years ago, Sgt. Ana Lopez joined the Army to challenge herself.
“The military was something I was always interested in doing since I was 18 years old,” said the California native. “I was proud of myself when I graduated from (Basic Combat Training) and (Advanced Individual Training) and became a mechanic in the Army.”
During the three years, the wheeled vehicle mechanic with Golf Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, said the Army matured her, and she was able to discover skills she didn’t know she had.
“I loved working on military vehicles and learning their capabilities in different environments,” Lopez said. “As my contract neared the end, I felt like although I enjoyed being in the military it just wasn’t for me.”
With her mind made up to leave the military, Lopez began to think about the future.
“I was very nervous about my decision,” she said. “I knew I wanted to go back to school, but what about a job and bringing money to my household? I was a bit worried.”
Those stressors, were not only felt by Lopez, but by her Family as well.
“A lot of Soldiers get out of the military and they don’t necessarily know what to do next, and that can cause a lot of problems,” said Juliana Lopez, wife of Ana Lopez. “I was nervous that would happen to us.”
However, like every Soldier who transitions out of the Army, Ana Lopez enrolled in the installation’s Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP).
The SFL-TAP is a commander-funded program that provides transition assistance services to eligible Soldiers. Soldiers learn about job searches, career-making decisions, current occupational and labor market conditions, resume and cover letter preparation, and interviewing techniques.
“Everyone was very helpful throughout the process, answering any questions I had,” said Ana Lopez. “It was through SFL-TAP that I learned about the program Changing Lanes.”
Changing Lanes, offered by Caliber Collision (that partners with SFL-TAP), is a no-cost, 18-week training program for service members and veterans who are leaving active duty and returning to the civilian life. Upon completion of the program, members are offered job placement opportunities across the U.S.
“It’s an amazing program, not only did I receive great training (and) a great job opportunity, but I was also able to get a job in California, where my Family and I wanted to return to,” said Lopez. “Going through SFL-TAP and Changing Lanes has brought me comfort in my decision to leave the Army.”
The sense of comfort that Ana Lopez felt also helped put her wife at ease.
“I am very grateful the military has programs like this and that (my wife’s) unit let her participate in it, I am excited for the both of us,” said Juliana Lopez.
As Ana Lopez and her Family prepare to move to Fairfield, California, and start a different journey, Ana Lopez said as she looks back, she is thankful for all of the opportunities the Army gave.
“The Army is a great place to learn about yourself and to grow as a person,” said Lopez. “I am grateful programs like SFL-TAP exist for Soldiers. I hope everyone that goes through the program is willing to listen and take advantage of what they offer, because it helped me in every step of my transition process.”