By Eric E. Parris | Garrison Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Despite the effects of the coronavirus on the military community over the last five months, there has been one constant for many Soldiers – those who are scheduled to leave the Army because their term of service was up or planned retirement, did.
To assist those Soldiers who will leave the military is another constant — the Fort Carson Soldier For Life-Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP).
Soldiers with 18 months prior to transition out of the Army or 24 months before retirement, are required to complete the SFL-TAP requirements.
During the last several months SFL-TAP classes and some programs have been conducted virtually and through phone conversations. But recently some changes were made.
“We were given approval by the commanding general to allow some programs to restart in person classroom instruction affective July 6,” said Sherry Jenkins, the transition services manager for SFL-TAP.
That information was passed onto the Career Skills Program (CSP) providers, and some were able to resume classes such as the Home Builders Institute (HBI), Jenkins said. Others were not able to resume because of the negative impacts COVID-19 has had on their businesses.
During the SFL-TAP process, CSP providers brief Soldiers on their programs.
One of those providers, HBI, was able to hit the ground running. This program provides training in skills that will allow the graduates to find meaningful careers in the construction industry.
Students receive classroom instruction but spend most of their time with hands-on training.
“We do electrical and carpentry,” said Greg Reeves, the regional career development coordinator, who described what’s taught in the HBI 12-week course. After successfully completing the course, the graduates will have a pre-apprentice in both skillsets.
There are nine students in the carpentry section and five in the electrical part.
About seven CSP programs have resumed in-person training and up to four are providing virtual training, Jenkins said.
“We told our partners we have to be flexible and adjust based on guidance provided to us as a result to changes in COVID-19,” Jenkins said. “Our program partners have continued their commitment to our transitioning service members.”
The goal is to have all of the 18 CSP partners back up and running later this year, Jenkins said.
Currently, the SFL-TAP office is operational Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and can be reached at 719-526-1001/1002. Soldiers can connect with their assigned career counselors either by email or over the phone.
Initial counselings and pre-separation briefings are scheduled and done over the phone, Jenkins said. Classes can be completed through the Army Virtual Center or online through Joint Knowledge Online.
Some in-person classes began July 6 with a limited capacity of 20 students per class. This is up to 15 classes a week. Soldiers and instructors are required to social distance and wear masks. The in-person classes being offered are My Transition, MOS crosswalk, financial planning for transition and Department of Labor employment fundamentals.
There are many virtual events such as the Hiring Our Heroes career summits that continue across the country to help transitioning service members connect to employment opportunities.
Even though there continue to be challenges, Jenkins said Soldiers are given the same opportunities whether that’s over the phone, via email or in person.
“The new operating environment has been challenging for everyone,” Jenkins said.
Overcoming those challenges is an ongoing process.
“We’ve done a good job at transitioning to virtual events and partnering with the community to offer supplemental classes and hiring events,” Jenkins said. “The opportunities are still there — employers are still hiring.”HBI’s training program is providing employment opportunities for Soldiers.
“We train them how to become carpenters and electricians, so they can make a good living,” Reeves said.
The SFL-TAP staff is committed to assisting Soldiers during their transition periods and providing the required services they need.
“We are still committed to providing them with the very best service possible given the limitations,” Jenkins said.