I’m in the midst of going through the second military transition of my 20+ year career. The first was in 1998 as I was exiting the Army at Hunter Army Airfield upon the completion of my tour as an Infantryman with the Rangers (1/75). The Infantryman part it essential (at least at the time) because the class (then TAPS) was tailored to the crowd of grunts sitting in the audience. The entire course was 1.5 days and was focused on ensuring you look at your DD-214 and how you use your Montgomery GI Bill to go to school.
Granted, there could have been more to it, but at 21 I wasn’t the best audience member (nor was anyone else for that matter) because I didn’t see it as a significant transition; it was just a step I had to take to be a civilian again.
Hindsight being what it is, I got lucky I came back in. I was not prepared to be a transitioned member of the Armed Forces. Sure, at the time I thought I did great, but again, that post 20/20 vision we’re all granted when looking at mistakes has shown me that I was too young to care what was being offered to me. It was a culture thing; I was a grunt.
Fast forward twenty years to today. I just finished my first round of TGPS. I say first as the recommendation is to do it at least twice before exiting, and for a good reason: there is SO MUCH information. Over the course of the new five-day course (new to me), you learn how the rules of life, pay, medical, and that EVERYTHING is getting ready to change.
There were still those in the audience that were naysayers to the process. "I already have a job!" or "This isn’t really for me, I’m going to school," were some of the things I heard. I did my part asking the young man sitting next to me to pay attention; he kinda did. Sorta.
Anyway, the point of this post is to tell you that the folks who are putting these courses on for our military are here to help you and I. Nobody wants to see our transitioning (retiring, separating, or otherwise) fail at life on the "outside." It was great to have reps from the Department of Labor, Veteran Affairs, Tricare, and Navy Family Service there. We also got to speak with a great presenter on the financial aspect of retirement and another rockstar on the use of social media in finding a job. All of it was great information that I’ll use as I get ready for the next chapter.
I don’t care if you’re "just" separating or you’re retiring, take TGPS seriously- ask those questions, and get the answers. Then, just before you exit, or while you’re on terminal leave, do it again! Doing so in the place you’re looking to call home would be helpful too as there’s a big local perspective to this process. You’ll get to know the players and the place you can ask help from.
Best of luck to you out there.