Getting schooled…

I left my last post with the observation that there were three major undertakings that I needed to accomplish before I could consider my transition completed: first, transition training and education, second, administration, and third, medical evaluations.

In terms of timing, the transition and education bit comes first, and here’s why: the administration of transition as well as the medical evaluations are largely based on a timeline that is centered around your transition date.  The transition training and education, however, are not not.  Instead, the opportunity to educate yourself and learn about the transition process is available pretty much whenever you would like to take advantage of it whereas the other areas are closely tied to when you are actually departing the service.

Much to my chagrin I learned that I was eligible to attend classes and seminars on transition and retirement whenever I wanted.  It was quite the revelation!  Had I only known that I could learn about the other side long before I actually decided to retire it would have made the whole process a lot easier, but to be honest the thought had never crossed my mind.  I was too busy travelling around the world and serving in places notorious for the bad food, scorching deserts, and angry locals.  That said, here are the opportunities that exist to learn about the transition process, well, at least those that are relevant to my situation as a retiring senior Marine officer in Southern California:

-TAP (everything is an acronym! it stands for Transition Assistance Program) which is also known for some reason as TAMP (which stands for the Transition Assistance Management Program).  I really don’t know if there is a difference between the programs, but it falls in line with the military’s love affair with acronyms- adding an “M” between “A” and “P” is certainly an improvement!  I hope somebody got a medal out of it.  At any rate, the TAP (or TAMP) program is both mandated and required to actually separate from the service.  Designed for those separating from the service after serving a hitch or two, it It covers the legal, medical, and administrative requirements for transition as well as a lot of information of how to write a resume, what to wear to an interview (which is a HUGE deal for those of us who have not updated our duds since skinny leather ties and white shoes were all the rage) and how to get a job.  This class is of enormous importance because you cannot get out without attending it; your final check out sheet (a document of epic importance that rates a post of its own) will not have the required notation that allows you to stop getting your hair cut and quit wearing a uniform.  It lasts about a week, during which time attendance is mandatory and is the appointed place of duty for the participant.  This is important, because unlike high school or college, you can get thrown into the brig for skipping class.  Needless to say there is rarely a need for a truant officer to go round up class-skipping delinquents…

-OUT, or Officers Under Twenty class.  This particular class is for officers who are separating from the service but do not meet the requirements for retirement.  Generally speaking, these officers are Lieutenants and Captains who have completed their obligated service of four to six years and who are going back to the civilian world.  It is very similar to the TAP/TAMP class, but focuses at the college graduate level as opposed to the high school graduate level.  They don’t spend too much time on how to dress or what to wear, though, because these young officers are still generally in their twenties and their wardrobes haven’t aged to the point of embarrassment.

-Pre-Retirement TAP/TAMP course.  This course is TAP/TAMP for those who are going to retire after at least twenty years of active service.  It is designed for the more “distinguished” amongst us (myself included) who are greying at the temples and are at a different place in their lives than a 22 year old who will use his or her benefits to go to college or a trade school.  It covers the same required topics on benefits and whatnot as the other TAP/TAMP courses, but has additional lectures and classes on things like becoming an entrepreneur, networking, etc.

-25+ Pre-Retirement Seminar.  More of a symposium than a seminar, this one is not required but is strongly encouraged and recommended for those who, again, have been for a loooong time.  It does not go into the benefits and administration of retirement, but instead focuses on life on the other side of the fence.  In addition to job search and assistance with developing a new career there are several guest lecturers who cover topics ranging from financial management for retirement as well as financial management as a career, how to go into business for yourself with a franchise or on your own, and how to dress for success.

-Ruehlin Seminar.  This course is a week-long seminar that caters to senior officers and enlisted who are retiring- the definition of senior being length of service and advanced rank.  There is often a difference- it is possible to retire after 20 or 25 years but not be at a senior rank; for example, many officers began their careers as enlisted members- and that service counts towards retirement.  As such, they may have over two decades of service, but are retiring as relatively junior officers.  Also, some enlisted members may have the same length of time in uniform but for whatever reason do not achieve higher rank.  At any rate, this course is very small (around fifteen or so attendees), and is focused specifically on the process of starting a new career and all of the job hunting skills necessary to do so.

So there you have it.  Five different courses, seminars, or classes that anyone eligible can attend.  Amazing!  Each one is a little different in its focus and intent, but each provides a slew of information that is invaluable to one on the path to transition.  In my particular case, I attended the Pre-Retirement TAP/TAMP course as well as the 25+ Pre-Retirement and Ruehlin Seminars.  Suffice it to say the wisdom I gained under the tutelage of the experienced and dedicated instructors was remarkable and very welcome.  Without it I would have been not just a bumbling fool stumbling along until I found myself unemployed, but I would have missed out on education and training that my contemporaries in the private sector pay thousands of dollars for.

In my next string of posts I will go into much greater detail for each of the courses that I attended, starting with the required Pre-Retirement Transition Assistance (Management) Program, or TAP/TAMP.


Lessons learned:

– Start early!  I was pretty far down the path to transition before I began attending classes.  I found myself sitting with no small number of more prescient Marines and Sailors who were years away from transitioning but were smart enough to start learning about it early.  All that is required to attend the classes is permission from your command (in civilian parlance, that means your boss has to say it is OK to miss work for a few days) and a commitment to attend the course in its entirety because seating is often limited.

– Find out which courses are most suited to your situation.  If you are getting out after four years, then obviously the Pre-Retirement courses are not for you.  You may be in a situation, however, where you may not be eligible for a “senior” retirement seminar due to not having over 25 years in uniform, but there may be an empty slot you can take advantage of.  Contact your local transition program coordinator to see what is available.  Take every opportunity you can to educate yourself!


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