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Former soldiers share transition experiences

Feb. 19, 2013 - 10:38AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 - 10:38AM  |  
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The Army took to its Facebook page Jan. 30 to ask soldiers about their transition experiences.

The feedback was mixed, but some themes emerged, most notably that those who succeeded took the initiative to keep up with their records, get in touch with their local Veterans Affairs office and get an education.

Former Sgt. Joe Lopez, a veteran of the 183rd Maintenance Company at Fort Carson, Colo. described a largely positive experience with the Transition Assistance and Army Career and Alumni Programs.

"They helped me with tweaking my resume to incorporate military acronyms and [changing my] military occupational specialty into civilian terms so I wouldn't confuse potential employers that were never in the military with my military lingo," Lopez said.

Lopez went through interview, resume and cover letter coaching with ACAP, and even found a job as a production supervisor for a construction supply company the day after he received his honorable discharge in 2005.

"They helped me get my foot in the door," he said. "The rest was up to me."

Shawn Gregory, a former combat medic, told a cautionary tale concerning his G.I. Bill benefits.

"Read your DD214 [Military Service Record] carefully," he wrote. "I had to repay $19,000 of the $20,000 that they gave me when I was honorably discharged."

He also included some advice to fellow transitioning soldiers.

"Use your G.I. Bill and enroll in the Department of Veterans Affairs," Gregory wrote. "Also, join your local American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars post."

Chris Barber, who separated in 1996, offered some advice.

"Transition help boiled down to resume classes and a job bank with non-existent and dead-end jobs," he said. "After ETS I set up an office-cleaning business and went to law school. All is well now. Don't rely on the Army, do it yourself."

Throughout the variety of experiences and transition eras, there was a clear thread: Use your G.I. Bill.

"Go to school. That cannot be emphasized enough," Uldine Hill said. "You have the experience; now back it up with paper and get your respect."

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