After Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell cut the ribbon on U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s new transition center, the U.S. Army Europe commander spoke with Sgt. Megan Loveland about her leaving the Army.
Loveland, an Indiana native who serves as a medic with 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, served four years, including a tour in a combat zone. At Kleber Kaserne, she recently underwent courses on employment, education, finances and veterans’ benefits.
“Do you have a plan?” Campbell asked. “What are you going to do?”
“I do, Sir,” said Loveland, who plans to leave the Army in late April. “Having a plan, that’s the most important thing.”
Helping Soldiers plan for their lives after the military is the aim of Army Career and Alumni Program staff at the garrison’s new center. The center’s resources can help Soldiers transition out from federal service to become a productive member of the workforce, said Lt. Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.
“We owe it to our Soldiers to help them transition back to civilian society at the best degree possible,” Zetterstrom said.
Campbell took part in the official ribbon cutting March 8. Loveland was among the more than 40 Soldiers who already took classes there.
“This is the first one we’ve renovated in our footprint,” said Col. Bryan DeCoster, U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg commander, to Campbell. “In Baumholder, we’re doing the same.”
In November 2011, President Barack Obama signed the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act of 2011 into law. That set into motion new initiatives to assist Soldiers separating from the Army, including new mandatory training, said Ramona Kausch, the garrison’s education services officer, who oversaw the creation of the new center.
Kleber Kaserne is where Soldiers process in and out of the community. The new classroom is collocated with education center in Bldg. 3245. Up to 42 people can attend.
Each workstation has an Internet-connected laptop linked to the instructor’s interactive “smart board.”
“It’s taken us from flip charts and power point presentations for something more state of the art,” Kausch said.
It’s now a commander’s program and classes are mandatory, said Cherylanne Hunter, an ACAP coordinator. Participants undergo a self assessment and counseling and learn how military jobs translate to civilian skills. There’s a choice to make. Do they want to further their education, seek employment or start their own business? From that, they begin a track designed to meet their individual goals, Hunter said.
“Soldiers receive a ton of information to assist them in making a sound decision,” Hunter said. “We want to help Soldiers succeed.”
The U.S. Department of Labor offers a three-day workshop, geared toward resume writing, interviewing and making the most of their military skills for either civilian or federal employment. A financial planner discusses budgets, taxes, college funding and investments.
The Department of Veterans Affairs also offers information. Soldiers should plan on attending a year before their expected separation date, Hunter said.
“It provides Soldiers with the knowledge that they need to be successful when they leave the military,” Hunter said. “It’s also for family members. They are more than welcome.”
Campbell, who visited several garrison installations during his visit to Kaiserslautern, later reflected on his talk with Loveland.
“She had a plan she’d thought through, with the help of the transition center, her leadership and probably her family,” Campbell said. “The best advice I can give anybody is to have a plan, use the transition center and determine what’s best for your future.”
During their interaction, Loveland explained how she’ll undertake a church mission before college. She plans on teaching. The general clasped the sergeant’s hand and presented her with a commander’s coin.
“Good luck to you. All the best to you, as you go back to the states,” Campbell said. “Thanks for your service.”
For more information on the Kaiserslautern’s transition program, call 0631-411-8816 or visit www.acap.army.mil.