Fort Carson Transition University (TU) is a unique program in the U.S. Army developed locally to assist Soldiers and other supported service members in their move from the military life to life in the civilian world.
In 2011, Congress passed the Veterans Opportunity to Work/Hire Our Heroes Act. In that, it was mandated that all departing service members and Coast Guard personnel would be prepared to enter the civilian sector, either in business or education. The VOW Act no longer allowed the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program and like services to be optional, as it had been in the past, but would be taught in a small-classroom environment with no more than 50 students. The U.S. Department of Labor was made responsible to develop and execute a three-day series of classes in preparing resumes and job searching. Veterans Affairs revised its series of briefings, ensuring that all departing personnel know their entitlements and how to obtain them. Soldier For Life – Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) caps off the week with classes in converting military skills into business skills for job searches and a financial readiness program.
Additionally, the president signed an order for three optional, but encouraged, two-day tracks: higher education, preparing school-bound Soldiers in applying for schools and instruction in how to obtain their GI Bill benefits; Entrepreneurship for Soldiers who want to start or manage small businesses, taught by the Small Business Administration; and a VA-taught class in technical education. The only requirement for these is that the service member has successfully completed the VOW Act requirements.
Staff members of Fort Carson’s Directorate of Human Resources and the SFL-TAP program reviewed those requirements and found that while the basics were good, that more could be done to help service members prepare. Transition University was started in October 2011 on a trial basis, extending the mandatory classes by four days. Two tracks were created: education and business. While there were core classes, those choosing to go to school or business could opt for different classes or even take classes in other tracks as they desired. To complement the education provided, members of the community have pitched in to help out. Managers from a national retail chain guide the men and women in how to dress for “success.” Others have taught classes in using professional networking social media programs, searching for federal jobs and creating that type of resume and personal branding.
The program has been cited by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command as a best practice and several other installations have looked into creating similar programs. As the VOW program expands with the implementation of the Higher Education and Entrepreneurship tracks, TU has also changed its programs and continues to make the transitioning experience more rewarding for the service members returning to civilian life.