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FORT LEE, Va. – “This is the best thing that has happened for Army transition in 10 years.”

That statement by retired Col. Walter Herd, director of the Army Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program, is in reference to changes taking effect Oct. 1. They were outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019.

The new SFL-TAP procedures include a self-assessment that will help determine the level of transition assistance each Soldier needs. Other changes include an updated curriculum for some of the classes and a requirement that Soldiers start the process of transitioning at least a year out, or earlier if possible.

“The Army has been advocating for these changes for a while in order to better prepare Soldiers for transition,” Herd said. “Congress heard the Army, and now Soldiers are getting a transition plan that is more tailored to meet specific individual needs rather than the ‘one-size-fits-all’ program that’s been the overall standard. The overarching theme of ‘Go Early, Go Often’ is still a key component of SFL-TAP.”

Moving forward, Soldiers who are better prepared for transition to the civilian sector will not have to spend as much time away from mission requirements, and changes to the program will better ensure they get the help and advice they specifically need.

“Some of the challenges I frequently encounter with transitioning Soldiers are not knowing what they want to do next or how to manage expectations and cope with anxiety about the unknown,” observed Na’Stelle Graves, the transition services manager at Fort Lee. “Most Soldiers enter the transitioning

process after being in the military for a number of year, straight from high school or college. Much of the anxiety comes from the realities they will face without the uniform and the difference in benefits that military life has afforded them.   

“We can help them think outside of the uniform and see those new career options and opportunities,” she said. “Soldiers tend to lock themselves in one career path, based on what they did in the military. They think employment will come quickly and on their terms. It is not always the case. 

“The new changes emanating out of NDAA 2019 will hopefully allow the Soldier to communicate more with SFL-TAP staff about career plans and goals, and allow us to focus efforts on individual needs. I think the changes will help Soldiers who are willing to truly take the time to seek guidance and listen to the advice of the counseling staff.”