MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Staff Sgt. Mikkel Simpson has worn Marine Corps uniforms for more than 15 years. Whether sporting dress blues at the Marine Corps birthday ball or wearing desert camouflage utilities in the mountains of Afghanistan, Simpson has always dressed for the Corps’ many occasions.
Now that Simpson’s end of active-duty service date is fast approaching, he faces some new challenges as he prepares to leave the Marine Corps and make the transition to civilian life. How does he dress for success? How does he write a resume? What educational, medical and veterans benefits is he entitled to?
Active-duty service members and families who are preparing to retire or transition out of the Marine Corps can get these questions answered before they make their departure. Personnel with the Transition Assistance Management Program, Marine Corps Community Services aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, provide the means and resources to help these individuals get a head start on life in the civilian sector.
“We want to make sure, when an individual gets out, that they know exactly what they’re going to do, whether it’s going to college or getting a job,” said Regina Steward, an employment assistance manager with Personal Readiness and Community Support Branch, MCCS.
Although service members must attend the mandatory seminars no later than three months prior to their EAS dates, Steward stressed it is important to take the TAMP courses as soon as possible, ideally one year before the EAS date and two years before retirement.
“If (service members) get in here early enough, it gives us enough time to actually work with individuals and get them to the point where, if they are going to work or school when they get out … they have options,” said Steward.
Retirees are encouraged to attend a pre-retirement seminar, held quarterly, two years before their retirement date.
Service members who are finishing their tours of duty attend a regular three-and-a-half day transition assistance management program, offered on a weekly basis. Both the retirement and regular seminars are conducted at the Russell Marine and Family Services Center aboard the base.
On the first day, representatives from a number of organizations such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Camp Lejeune’s Traffic Management Office inform service members and families about topics such as veterans benefits, insurance information and financial planning.
The next two and a half days are spent in the Transition Assistance Program employment workshop. Department of Labor instructors teach a number of classes such as resume writing techniques, job interviewing skills, and salary and benefits negotiation practices. The seminar’s attendees also get a chance to meet civilian and federal government employers.
Steward added counselors are available to meet with service members and their families on a one-on-one basis to come up with individual transition plans. Resume paper, computers and printers are also provided for the job seekers.
Steward said service members and families who utilize TAMP’s available resources are not only getting a jump-start on their future goals but are also saving money in the long-run.
“I would like everyone to come over and utilize our services – they are free,” emphasized Steward. “If they go out in town and get the services they receive here, they could pay anywhere from $50 to $2,000 and up. When they leave here, (they’ve got) everything they need. It’s a one-stop shop.”
Simpson, a diesel mechanic supervisor and a staff noncommissioned officer in charge with 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, plans to pursue career opportunities in the Department of Homeland Security once he finishes his time in the Marine Corps. Although he had a basic understanding of the civilian world and adequate job-marketing skills, Simpson said taking the three-and-a-half day course significantly helped him refine his skills and gave him confidence to make a smooth transition when pursuing his future endeavors.
“The program showed me that my resume was good, but with the tools they gave me, now it’s much better,” said Simpson. “They also provided networking opportunities and points of contact you should maintain out in the civilian world.”
Dave Walters, the TAP coordinator with MCB Camp Lejeune, said one the biggest challenges service members and families face is translating their military skills and experiences into civilian terminology, especially as it pertains to job searching. Walters said the course addresses these issues through classroom learning and practical application exercises, thus equipping the soon-to-be-civilian employees with new skills and proactive, can-do attitudes.
“It’s very important to go through this program because … for some, (the military lifestyle) is all they have known, so they are ingrained into a certain way of doing things,” said Walters. “So we enlighten them about what to expect when they go to the workforce, be it the executive level, retail, running the cash register – it doesn’t matter – whatever your forte is.”
Walters added the skills and confidence gained in the seminar not only apply to jobs but also to everyday life activities.
“It’s a whole new lifestyle,” said Walters. “Whether you’ve been in for four years or 34 years, this is the lifestyle you have led, and the civilian world is completely different.”
Sgt. Cody Long, a training noncommissioned officer with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, has served in the Marine Corps for almost four years and plans to pursue a career as a firefighter. Long said he has learned a lot about benefits that will help him and his family when he leaves the Marine Corps in six months.
“When you have a family, it’s really important to take this (seminar),” said Long. “This is an excellent program to help us transition from the military to the civilian world.”
For more information regarding TAMP, call 451-3212 or visit the website usmc-mccs.org/tamp/index.cfm.