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Your Career

Preparing for Civilian Life

How the Transition GPS Course helps Sailors and their families prepare for the change

Preparing for life as a civilian after years as a 24/7 Sailor is not an easy thing to do. Writing a resume, purchasing a wardrobe, searching through job listings and preparing for interviews is a far cry from man overboard drills, working parties, watchbills and underway schedules.

The future is always uncertain, and for a Sailor transitioning from military to civilian life, it can be an even more stressful and tense time. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success), an updated version of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) was launched in late 2012 . The program is mandated by the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act that was passed by Congress two years ago. This program is being used to improve employment opportunities for separating service members and better prepare them for the civilian workforce.

Pamela Stangee, the Navy Information Operations Command Md., Fleet and Family Support Center transition manager, has been assisting service members with their transition since 1998. Stangee is retired from the Navy and understands the preparation needed to make a seamless transition to civilian employment.

Currently, there are approximately 22 million veterans in America and hundreds of thousands are unemployed, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs.

"The exceptionally high unemployment rate and homelessness of veterans is why the TAP program was revamped to help service members when they return to the civilian sector," said Stangee. "It was mandated in 2012 and it forces military members to take ownership of their transition."

The five-day program covers pre-separation and counseling, military-to-civilian work skills review, Department of Labor interview skills briefing, and a Department of Veteran Affairs benefits briefing.

In addition to the GPS core curriculum, transitioning service members who want to pursue specific goals in the technical and entrepreneurial fields, as well as gain more information about higher education, have the option of participating in a series of two-day courses.

Cryptologic Technician Networks 2nd class Tiffany Priestley is separating from the Navy after serving six years. Her advice to Sailors is to begin planning for the future and for what comes after the military as soon as possible.

"Having a plan for when you do get out makes it easier for your transition" said Priestley. "Because if you're not proactive about yourself and your future, I mean, nobody else is going to be."

To assist Sailors with that plan, the GPS course sets up Sailors with an Individual Transition Plan session that allows them to seek guidance from subject matter experts, identify career goals and develop a roadmap for their transition.

Retiring Sailors may attend Transition GPS up to two years before their retirement date and separating Sailors may attend the program up to a year before separation. One of the goals of the program is to allow members more time to prepare for their separation, and incorporate counseling, assessments and access to resources to build skills or credentials at earlier stages in their careers.

After a nearly 20-year career in the Navy, Chief Hospital Corpsman Bob Wheeler is rapidly approaching his retirement date.

"You trade security for freedom," said Wheeler. "You've got maybe some more opportunities to do things that you want to do, but you also don't have the security of a steady paycheck."

Worry is natural, but Wheeler said after attending Transition GPS some of his concerns have been alleviated. He is well prepared for civilian life and the information from the class has validated what he has been working for in the last few years, he said.

Sailors should contact their chains of command and career counselors for more information.

Give us your thoughts. Are you thinking about getting out? Have you attended the new Transition GPS course? What advice do you have for Sailors thinking of making the transition?