FORT CARSON, Colo.—Stacia Naquin, KKTV news anchor, talks with the Transition University students on interpersonal communication and the changes they will have to make in the civilian world. Naquin also arranged for one student to tour and talk to the staff at the TV studio as he was interested in a career in broadcasting. Naquin previously taught Soldiers at Fort Sill, OK, while she was living in Lawton. She also volunteers for the Fort Carson USO.
FORT CARSON, Colo.—Retired Master Sgt. Rob Rohren hypes up the Transition University program to the second pilot class in Dec. 2012. Rohren retired in Aug. 2012 and had gone through the Army Career and Alumni Program and the Transition Assistance Program. He returned to attend the first pilot class to provide feedback to the Transition University staff.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Fort Carson Transition University students tour the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus to get an idea of what college life is all about. UCCS has an active Veterans program which assists military personnel in adjusting to the civilian education environment.
FORT CARSON, Colo.— Mark Berninger, Regional Veteran Employment Coordinator, Veterans Affairs, talks with the students as part of the Business and Community Mentorship Panel at the November 2012 Transition University pilot program. The panel members advised the students on how to best present themselves to employers and hints on getting jobs. Each of those panel members were also Veterans.
by Douglas M. Rule, Fort Carson Transition University
FORT CARSON, Colo.—The Congress of the United States made a vow to assist transitioning service members: Fort Carson has taken this one step farther.
The vow is the VOW Act of 2011; that extra step is the Fort Carson Transition University.
The VOW Act — Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Our Heroes Act — went into effect Nov. 21, 2012. The Act sets up a framework for the US Departments of Labor, Defense, Transportation (Coast Guard) and Veterans Affairs to construct a mandatory program for all service members to take prior to leaving the military, either by retirement, by choice or other circumstances.
DOL is responsible for a three-day employment workshop, formerly referred to as TAP (Transition Assistance Program). In the workshop, service members are instructed in the basics of resume writing, interviewing skills, employment research and information on using Montgomery GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill for further educational opportunities. The Department of the Army has added to this with a 6-hour financial readiness program as well as mandatory involvement by Soldiers with the Army Career and Alumni Program. When put together, these programs run for most of one working week.
Fort Carson has incorporated the DOL employment workshop and the Financial Readiness Program with other locally-developed classes to create the Fort Carson Transition University. TU recieves support from both the military and the local community. Two pilot programs were run in November and December 2012, with the program starting up Jan. 7, 2012. The object of the pilots was to fine tune the program and see what classes worked the best.
“This program has one goal: to ensure Soldiers and their Families have a successful transtion out of the Army,” said Skip Blancett, Fort Carson education services officer. “No one else (in the Army) is even beginning to do Transition University”
Blancett lead the way with the educational aspects of the program. A partnership with on-post colleges and universities has allowed TU to run on a volunteer, no-cost-to-the-government basis. Blancett worked with college instructors to teach classes in the art of negotiation, time management, TRiO, branding and the like to enhance the instruction the Soldiers already receive. Additionally Blancett arranged with two local institutions of higher learning — Pikes Peak Community College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs — to provide college tours to introduce the Soldiers to college life at both a two-year and four-year college.
Lyle Dickason, transition services manager with the Fort Carson Army Career and Alumni Program, took the lead with the business-oriented classes. Dickason formerly taught TAP class and has many contacts within the business community. Working with both Shelley Anderson, Office of Personnel Management, and Jason Shireman, Veterans Affairs, the three have come up with a Veterans panel, consisting on military Veterans who share their experiences in transitioning.
They have also put together a Business and Community Mentorship Panel, which brings in business and community leaders to discuss their perspective on how the service members can best transition. In addition, Anderson teaches a half-day session on federal employment and Shireman leads the Soldiers through networking and use of social media.
The teaching staff is rounded out with ACAP and ACES counselors, Department of Army civilian employees and members of the community, including Stacia Naquin, a local news anchor, and Kevin Walda, Veterans Upward Bound program.
Rob Rohren, retired master sgt. and formerly the noncommissioned officer in charge for Fort Carson’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, retired in August 2012, but returned to take the first pilot program to help improve the new program. He found TU to be much more helpful than just the old system of ACAP and TAP. He returned as a member of the Veterans Panel for the second pilot class.
“You need to take full advantage of this opportunity,” he told the students. “These people really care about you and you’ll never get a chance like this again.”
Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is also interested in the program. For the second pilot program, he sent Leanne Wheeler to observe and compare the program to the one being run for the Colorado National Guard. Wheeler was impressed and was sure that the Colorado National Guard would be making some changes in their program as well. She said that the governor was especially concerned about the plight of unemployed Veterans, which she said was between 12-18% in Colorado versus 6-8% of the general population.
The program will start every week with an overlap of one week with each session.