FORT KNOX, Ky. (July 14, 2015) – U.S. Army Human Resources Command, or HRC, is paving the way for Soldiers to move from active duty to the Army Reserve, or USAR, and National Guard, or ARNG, in a deliberate, sensible transition that works for the individual service member while retaining skilled personnel and racking up significant savings for the Army.
“We are focused on the continuum of service,” said HRC Reserve Component Transition, or RCT, branch chief Maj. Christopher Hill. “We preserve the human capital. If you look at what it costs to actually train a Soldier to go through basic training, it is roughly $75,000. The cost savings is a preservation of the Army’s investment.”
In fiscal 2014, the RCT branch transferred more than 11,000 enlisted Soldiers and officers from the active component to the USAR and ARNG, which amounted to roughly $900 million in savings, he said.
Working with a staff of less than a dozen out of HRC’s headquarters on Fort Knox, Kentucky, Hill and his team are frequently on the road to installations throughout the country, coordinating efforts with the Army’s Soldier For Life, or SFL, – Transition Assistance Program and active duty career counselors, detailing transition options to Soldiers and explaining the workings and value of the program to various levels of Army leadership.
“One of the things we’ve been doing is visiting each installation’s Soldier For Life office, focusing on the 12-month mark. We are trying to ensure everyone is on the same sheet of music and streamline the process, where we actually inject ourselves to do a continuum of service brief and highlight available opportunities,” Hill said.
The immediate aim is to set up a one-on-one counseling session for each Soldier with a Reserve component career counselor, or RCCC, on the Soldier’s installation.
“The RCCC’s determine eligibility and qualifications and they explain USAR and ARNG incentives and benefits. It is the Army’s chance to say, ‘Hey, guys, we have this career for you. We have something out there for everyone whether it be a specific job, location or incentive that can help you as you transition into the Guard or Reserve,'” Hill said. “Either way, we road map it based on the Soldier’s needs, wants and desires.”
That usually means a transition based on military occupational specialty, or MOS, desired geographic area, academic aspirations and potential bonus availability.
“The decision to join the Reserve components is based on the Soldier’s individual desires,” said Sgt. Maj. Scott Spigelmyer, RCT’s branch sergeant major and lead National Guard representative. “We sit down and we do a search to show them what’s available. In some cases, the MOS drives their decisions and for others, it’s the incentives.”
What works best for the Soldier is getting to lay out the wealth of possibilities as early in the process as possible so they can reach back to their Families, friends and personal networks. Part of the challenge also involves changing a long established mindset within the Army, Hill said.
“Years ago, when a Soldier went through the old ACAP [Army Career Assistance Program] process, it was considered a privilege. You really had to fight to go in many units. Now we are integrating our program into SFL and we want to make sure the Soldiers get that opportunity. The commanders have to buy in. It’s something the Soldiers have to go to,” he said.
The change in process has provided benefits for both Soldiers and the Army, Spigelmyer said.
“We provide a return on investment unequaled by any other accession agency out there,” he said.
“Our main business is to transition a Soldier into the Guard or Reserve, give them the benefits, and do it while they are still on active duty. Our goal is to keep the Solider in boots. It’s another avenue to retain the best and brightest,” Hill said.
The mission has gained traction with the adoption last spring of a 365-day window of advisement to transitioning Soldiers across the active Army before their expiration term of service, or ETS. The RCT branch presently coordinates the efforts of about 125 RCCCs at more than 40 installations nationwide.
“It’s to give Soldiers the opportunity, year round, to find out where they want to go, what do they want to do,” said Sgt. Maj. Jose Mendez, RCT’s branch sergeant major and lead U.S. Army Reserve representative. “Do they want to change their job? Is college the ideal spot? It gives that Soldier a year in advance to do a lot of research and make a wise decision.”
“It is all about being timely and getting Soldiers into the office at a point where they are still thinking about their future and haven’t put blinders on and only thinking of getting out,” Spigelmyer said.
Nesting the transition power of the RCT within SFL-Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, takes a lot of hands-on, in-the-field work to tailor briefings and support based on the characteristics of particular installations, units and Soldier populations, Hill said.
The fact, which the continuum of service brief is a mandated part of the SFL pre-separation process, has been very effective, said Spigelmyer.
“The Soldiers are engaged much earlier on than they were under ACAP [Army Career and Alumni Program],” he said. “The process starts at the 12-month window and it is trackable so the unit leadership is more engaged and accountable.”
In addition to its transition activities in the field, RCT advises leadership on USAR and ARNG manning requirements and prepares mission statistics for the National Guard Bureau and the U.S. Army Reserve Command. The team on Fort Knox also streams weekly job opportunity listings to the field and responds directly to Soldiers via email and call center operations.
“We contribute to filling end strength based on the Soldier’s wants, needs and preferences” Hill said. “We are an advisory team. We do not have command and control of the RCCCs, but we do all their training. We advise them and help them keep up with policy changes for all 54 states and territories on the Guard side, and U.S. Army Reserve Command and Office of the Chief, Army Reserve.”
The RCT team vets changes and broadcasts them to the field so Soldiers can research the most current information when considering what to do with their post-active service careers.
“Whether Reserve or National Guard, it is really just providing opportunities and stabilization for these Soldiers,” said Mendez.