ACAP helps veterans make transition into civilian life

Honor and respect is earned by Army service personnel in the United States and abroad. America’s appreciation for military service does not stop at the end of an enlistment. Yet, even with that appreciation, many returning veterans are finding a hard time making the transition back into civilian life.

The Army Career and Alumni Program is a program designed to help Army veterans go from military to civilian life. Local businessman and former enlisted Army intelligence Sgt. Shane Lloyd explained how ACAP helped him gain employment after a five-year stint in the Army.

Lloyd’s introduction to a future in the military began in high school. Lloyd said the vice principal called him into the office and said, "There is someone I want you to meet — an Army recruiter." After talking to the recruiter, Lloyd said, everyone in the room "recognized he would be a good fit for the military."

Joining the Army gave Lloyd an opportunity to explore and develop strengths he learned from being raised in a challenging family environment. After taking an Army aptitude test and graduating from high school, he chose a job in Army intelligence.

A key requisite for that job classification is aptitude. But, even with aptitude for the job, a candidate must have clean credit and no criminal record. An extensive background search is done before acceptance into Army intelligence.

"Any credit problems, drug use, criminal record issues, even misdemeanor crimes, can deny an Army candidate an opportunity to join Army intelligence," explained company 1st Sgt. Paul Bula, the Army recruitment manager for the Las Vegas Valley and Southern Utah.

After Lloyd served in intelligence for five years, he felt he was at a crossroad:stay in the military or return to civilian life. His decision to leave the service seemed as big as his decision to join.

"It was challenging," Lloyd said of his discharge. "I felt a loss of structure when I left the Army. On the other hand, I didn’t have to go to PT (physical training) at 6 a.m."

Lloyd went to his last duty station at Fort Sill, Okla., for ACAP orientation. (Fort Irwin, Calif., is the closest ACAP to Nevada.) "ACAP is a mandatory transition program for all personnel leaving the military," explained Jeff Ross, the U.S. Army recruiting battalion chief in Salt Lake City.

"ACAP shows veterans how to research the job market for their skill set, how to get an employment interview, how to dress for an interview and how to handle interview questions," Ross said.

ACAP also arranges job interviews with local employers, such as police departments, FBI and PaYS (Partnership for Youth Success) companies. "More civilian jobs than government jobs are found by veterans because employment by the government entails a slow and complicated application process," Ross said.

"ACAP opens your eyes to what you did in the military and what type of job you are qualified to seek," Lloyd said. He explained that ACAP helped him translate military experience to civilian employment

Lloyd admitted that even with the help of ACAP, "Transitioning to civilian life makes one feel trapped in a clueless experience."

When he returned to his hometown, Lloyd found that his parent no longer lived here. "I had no home to go back to," he said.

With some nervousness, he wondered, "What do I do now?" He thought about going back into the Army.

But then he came to another conclusion: "I have always been interested in business so why not start my own business?"

Lloyd explained that his job in the military "taught him how to gather information, collate it, make informed decisions, and act decisively."

Because Lloyd had set up automatic payroll deposits to a bank while in the service, his credit rating was excellent. And with that excellent credit, Lloyd was able to get a $30,000 loan from the Small Business Association.

As is often the case with new business startups, the business did not pay enough to support him. So Lloyd supplemented his income by going to work for another company, which was owned by a military veteran.

"Because my new employer was a veteran, he knew what I was going through," Lloyd said.

"There is a bond felt with people that have been in the military," Lloyd added, "A common experience and understanding make veterans good leaders, decision-makers and followers." Lloyd demonstrated a veteran’s maturity and ability to make decisions with follow-through and decisive action.

"Often employers do not understand what a person with military experience brings to the table," Ross said.

Speaking as an employer, Lloyd said, "When I interview a potential employee, I know a veteran understands the meaning of the acronym LDRSHIP (loyalty, duty, respect, social service, honor, integrity and pride)."

According to Ross, "Some veterans choose not to pursue a career as soon as they get out, but a veteran needs to stand above the crowd when looking for a job." He explained that going back to school may be crucial. For example, Ross said police departments only require an applicant to have a high school diploma but prefer college graduates.

One of many programs to help veterans make the transition to a civilian job is the PaYS program. PaYS helps those who are career-oriented.

Ross gives an example: "A 19-year-old wants to be a cop but cannot become one in Las Vegas unless he is 21. If a 19-year-old chooses to join the Army, he may have the opportunity to join the military police."

The Metropolitan Police Department is a PaYS program participant, which means someone who is honorably discharged from the military is guaranteed an interview with the department. "This is not a guarantee of a job but it is a foot in the door," Ross explained.

There are 349 companies in the United States that have signed PaYS agreements with the Army. PaYS maintains an Internet database with five-year job projections. Every participating company in the PaYS program is required to have a PaYS representative on staff. Every Army veteran is guaranteed an interview with a PaYS company.

"Every recruit is given the opportunity to be enrolled in PaYS at enlistment," Ross said.

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