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The secret to success is TAP

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The Transition Assistance Program class I took from April 14 - 18 was an eye-opening experience. As the Manpower & Personnel Flight Chief for Spangdahlem Air Base, I see the "behind the scenes" of all of these Force Management programs that have been in effect so far this year.

Now, as an officer whose Air Force Specialty Code and year group were eligible for the Force Shaping Board, I felt sitting in my chair at TAP placed me an interesting position: I was being prepared to transition out of the Air Force and back into civilian life, like I had done for so many others before.

TAP is a wonderful program put on by the Airman & Family Readiness Center by our instructor, Allisa Shepard. My class was quite large, as to be expected in times when the Air Force is being downsized, but I still felt like I was getting the necessary one-on-one time and attention I needed, and all of my questions were answered.

I was even starting to feel a little excited about transitioning back into the civilian world. Where would I end up? Would I want to try to work for myself as an entrepreneur? Should I go back to school? Could I work for the federal government as a civilian, or something completely different -- like exploring my work opportunities abroad?

It seemed like the paths before me were endless, but TAP helped me narrow it down to what I was truly interested in and what truly made sense for me.

I came away with a lot of resources that could help me write the next chapter of my life. It went beyond websites and helpful brochures; I felt like I had connections with people who I could call and get references.

That's the key: networking. It's become something of a buzzword, but the truth is that a few new personal connections can translate into the job and lifestyle you want for yourself and your family in the future. Networking is something that TAP emphasized because it works and gets people the results they are looking for.

The program also helped remind me of some of the things the Air Force has taken care of for so long that I haven't really given it much thought. For example, I haven't paid for medical insurance in years; the Air Force always had me covered. I didn't have to think about where I wanted to live, because the Air Force would "move" me after a few years to my next assignment.

Even little things stood out to me like having to pick what to wear that week and not being called "Sir" or "Captain," but "Jason" or "Mr. Myl." It felt strange to be a civilian for a work week but that was exactly the point.

The Transition Assistance Program wasn't just about these new experiences and resources - I gained practical knowledge as well. I brushed up on my interviewing skills, learned how to write a resume and the different types of resumes out there, and how to create a budget. I don't have a spouse or dependents, but I felt like there was a great amount of information for helping their transition as well.

To sum up my experience at TAP, I think there's both good news and bad news.

The bad news is that we, as an Air Force, are downsizing. We're going to be forced to release quality individuals and leaders from the service, and there are many of us who don't want to leave.

The good news is that transitioning veterans from a quality military life to a quality civilian life has been made a priority, both by the Air Force and locally by our professionals at the A&FRC.

Our great nation loves its service members, and TAP is one example of that love.