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Military Community Relations

While there are many private organizations who serve a primarily military audience, there is little community involvement during the military career of many service men and women. Occasional community events or appearances in parades provide two of the few formal interactions between military personnel and the general civilian population. Encouraging more community events and more interactive relations with civilians for all soldiers may be a way to combat the difficulty many have with transitioning from military to civilian life.

Recent studies completed by the Pew Research Center found that 27 percent of veterans said they had a difficult time transitioning from military to civilian life. More troubling, however, is that 44 percent of veterans who enlisted after 9/11 said this transition was not easy.

The Defense Department’s Transition Assistance Program, the first line of defense against difficult transitions since the 1990s, is being replaced by Transition Goals Plans Success, called Transition GPS. This program is a more in-depth, interactive transition training program for all military personnel, offered shortly before their transition occurs. More information about the Transition GPS offerings is available in an article from Clarksville Online.

Officers and college graduates had an easier adjustment to civilian life after their ETS date than those who just held a high school diploma, according to the Pew Research Center study. This is perhaps because with more education it is easier to find a suitable job that pays within the range soldiers were accustomed to in the military.

Many enlisted men and women have the skills to complete job tasks, but do not have the diploma or certification required to apply for the position. The Military-to-Civilian Skills Certification Program was created in 2012 to span this gap and help military personnel gain their certifications without having to complete the training or testing again in civilian life. The program is a partnership between the Department of Defense and credentialing agencies in engineering, logistics, maintenance and welding.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will also pay benefits toward education through the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Veterans, reservists and active duty personnel are eligible for these benefits. They can be used to cover university coursework, on-the-job training, internships, apprenticeships and certification programs. Attending classes and programs with civilians can also help to reintegrate soldiers into civilian life by meeting friends and being surrounded by non-military peers.

Finding a job and establishing a new career can be the most stressful part of transitioning from military to civilian life for many men and women after their ETS. Finding employment and working within the civilian community also helps with the transition process.

Veterans ReEmployment provides a resource for finding employment, training and financial assistance for veterans after their ETS. It is operated through Career One Stop, which has offices near most communities across the country. These centers offer training and assistance to both veterans and civilians, but there are special programs for veterans.

The U. S. Department of Labor’s Gold Card program was designed to help young military veterans become reintegrated in their communities through obtaining work and becoming an active part of the civilian community. This program targets post-9/11 veterans and offers resume workshops, job searches, referrals and individual assistance from a case manager. There are also several private sector organizations, such as Military Stars, who work to place veterans in corporate positions in their community.

Injuries and Trauma
The veterans who have the most difficult time transitioning into a civilian community are those who have suffered a serious injury or had an emotionally traumatic experience while enlisted, according to the Pew Research Center study. Those who knew someone who was seriously injured or killed in service were also affected, with only 56 percent reporting their re-entry into the general population was “easy.”

Luckily, these men and women also have more resources than others when it is time to transition from military to civilian life. There are hundreds of organizations who offer serve injured and recovering soldiers. Both the military and community organizations provide support resources for members of the military who have suffered mental, emotional or physical injuries.

For personnel who were severely injured, there are groups both in local communities and nationwide who are dedicated to helping make the transition to civilian life easier. Some of these groups provide assistance with medical care, prosthetics and even childcare during continued treatment or rehabilitation. One organization, Homes for Our Troops, even builds new homes or adapts the existing home to suit the needs of an injured veteran.

Additional Resources
-A local Veterans Affairs office can offer assistance and support during the transition. The website features a search tool to help find the nearest location.
-Each branch of the military offers Transition Centers for members of the military and their families. These centers have a host of resources from both the public and private sectors.
-Transition Assistance Online is one of the largest collections of resources for transitioning military personnel.
-Most areas have a One Stop Career Center, which is a government-run center charged with helping people train for and obtain a job.
-Resources from the Army Career and Alumni Program are available to veterans for 180 days after their ETS. This includes assistance programs, support and other resources.
- The VetSuccess website run by the Department of Defense offers a search of interactive online and in-person resources for veterans based on their current or future location.
-Hearts Toward Home is a nonprofit organization that hosts counseling and workshops for transitioning personnel and their families.
-The National Resource Directory connects wounded wounded service members, veterans and families to others in similar situations as a means of mutual support.