Service members practice job interviewing techniques during a pre-separation seminar at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in 2010. The new Transition Readiness Seminar places even greater emphasis on individualized career counseling. (CPL. JO JONES / MARINE CORPS)
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Separating Marines will now be required to attend the Corps' new Transition Readiness Seminar before leaving the service, and officials are taking concrete steps to ensure Marines — and their commanders — comply with the new mandate.
At the program's foundation is a core curriculum all Marines must take. But unlike past transition programs, the TRS allows Marines to select one of four individualized "tracks" tailored to their specific post-service plans. After doing homework in preparation, they will receive instruction on how best to pursue college or university education, career or technical training, employment or entrepreneurship.
So, for example, a Marine in the college education track might receive instruction in applying for college while a Marine in the entrepreneurship track learns how to create a business plan. The entire curriculum lasts one week.
Some Marines have already completed the program, but the TRS will be required across the service as of Nov. 21, according to Marine administrative message 641/12, signed Nov. 8.
The changes were prompted by the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, which mandated — among other things — that each of the services implement fortified transition assistance programs to help end combat veteran unemployment. The message announces "the implementation of the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act compliant Marine Corps Transition Readiness Seminar across all Marine Corps installations."
In addition to the TRS, Marines leaving the service will be required to:
• Attend pre-separation counseling.
• Receive instruction in a military occupational specialty "crosswalk," a session with a career counselor to help Marines understand how their military skills can be transferred to the civilian workforce.
• Attend a Veterans Affairs Department benefits brief.
• Attend a Labor Department employment workshop resulting in completion of a resume.
Marine officials are taking steps to enforce pre-transition requirements by using an electronic database to track completion. As of Nov. 1, installations must transmit pre-separation checklists for active Marines and transition assistance program checklists for reservists using the Defense Manpower Data Center's TAP online data entry tool, according to MARADMIN 642/12, signed Nov. 9.
This will cut down on the inefficient handling of paper records and increase accountability.
The tracking requirements are the result of a working group organized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to identify ways to improve transition programs. The group identified automated electronic form submission as an important area for improvement.
According to the MARADMINs, transitioning Marines are encouraged to begin pre-separation counseling, including the TRS, as early as possible during the 12- to 14-month period before leaving the service. For retiring Marines, that time frame is expanded to "as soon as possible during the 24-month period prior to the service member's anticipated retirement date," the message reads.
The changes come with specific responsibilities for individual Marines and unit and installation commanders.
Individual Marines must complete mandatory pre-course work depending on the track they choose so TRS can be carried out in five days. They must have also completed their pre-separation checklist and a 12-month budget and have been briefed on opportunities to stay in uniform, including possible Reserve service. For the full list of requirements, refer to MARADMIN 641/12, available online.
Installation commanders must coordinate with the Department of Labor, the Small Business Association and the VA in the delivery of TRS materials. The Marine Corps partnered with those organizations to help educate Marines on their post-service options. The SBA, for example, helped develop the entrepreneurship track, tested this summer, to help interested Marines develop viable business plans.
Unit commanders must ensure eligible Marines attend TRS no later than 90 days before leaving the service. They must also provide a roster of Marines who will attend TRS to the staff coordinating the seminar at least two weeks in advance of course dates. Last, they must ensure Marines arrive with all preparation work completed for core curricula and their selected track.