The next chapter: Will you be ready?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Alan Tally
  • 49th Materiel Maintenance Support Squadron commander

On 17 July 2014, my group commander asked me to come to his office.  I anticipated the call because the Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board (ESERB) results were due and I knew that others received notifications.  As I awaited the results, I felt comfortable that my future in the Air Force was safe, that I would continue to serve my country and advance my career.  I felt comfortable because I have completed my Professional Military Education, my Advanced Academic Education, and assignments outside of my career field as a "must fill" Officer Training School Instructor.  I am a squadron commander and my Year Group is not yet commander eligible.

I did not expect the news I received.  The ESERB determined that after 22 years of service it is time for me to retire.  As I read the notification letter in front of my boss, I really had to focus in order to maintain my military bearing.  I did not want my commander to see how devastating this news really was to me.  Later, as I was driving home talking to my wife (on my hands-free device of course), while I was at home talking to my kids, and again when I called my dad, military bearing was not maintained.  I was upset.  I was hurt.  I questioned the board's decision.  I questioned whether I did everything possible to have a successful career.  My emotions got to me.  However, emotions were not going to take care of my family and me.  I did not have time to dwell on the "what ifs".  I knew what I had to do. 

I had to pull myself together and  register for the next Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class.  I contacted the Airmen and Family Readiness Center the following morning and got into the class that started Monday 21 July 2014.  

One of the benefits of serving in the military is the opportunities we receive to learn how to deal with the many stressors we face in life be it personally or professionally.  During our transition into the civilian workforce we are stressed by a reduction of income as we separate or retire and by the process of searching for and obtaining a job in the civilian market.

As service members, we understand that if we transition we will walk away with our savings and GI Bill.  Some may get a separation incentive.  Those that retire after 20+ years of service will receive a percentage of our base pay each month for the rest of our lives.  Retirement pay does not factor in Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) or Basic Allowance of Subsistence (BAS).  For example if your base pay per month is $2000 and you receive $1200 in BAH and $300 in BAS, your total monthly income is $3500 before taxes.  In this example, your monthly retirement income will be $1000 before taxes if you have earned 50% of your base pay.  During the first day of TAP class, we discussed the benefits of investing in 401Ks or Thrift Savings Plan.  If you are just learning/thinking about savings and investment during TAP, as your income is about to stop or be reduced, you have missed an opportunity to prepare for your own transition.  I believe that savings and investment discussions should be a regular part of mentoring and a mandatory requirement for each promotion.  Make a plan to invest in your future with each pay raise instead of seeking immediate gratification by purchasing a game console, car stereo system, or that high-end car that will quickly depreciate.  You will need those savings some day!

Another great benefit from the TAP class was the education on how to create a resume and present our self during job interviews.  In the military, we had no requirement for a resume or interview.  We receive a job and relocate to another base going into the same job or selected and trained for a special duty position or cross training opportunity.  Now as we transition into the civilian workforce it is imperative to create a resume in the format required for the job you want.  Additionally, we learned interview skills that will help us make a great first impression.  My biggest take away.  Research your future employer and go into that interview knowing how your talents benefit the company.  Regardless of what career field you have in the Air Force, we all gained marketable skills and we face the challenges of translating our military experience into terms known by our civilian counterparts.  Your EPRs or OPRs are a valuable asset when it comes to generating your resume.  I know the first thing that 99% of us do when we receive the report to sign it is look where the "X" marks are on the reverse side of the EPR, we want to see if it is a 5.  Then we focus on whether or not it is a "firewall 5".  Those numbers are important today, but in the future, the content of your job descriptions and the specifics of the bullets will help you recall more about your specific contributions to the mission.  Throughout the reporting period, we accomplish far more that what our supervisor captures on the limited space available on the form.  Take the time to jot down more details and to capture your accomplishments that did not fit on the form before the memories fade.  These accomplishments may be very interesting to a future employer.  Look at your job description to verify that it captures your responsibilities.  Make sure it specifies the number of personnel you supervise and the dollar amount of the equipment/facilities you managed or maintained. 

Invest your time today to capture your career so when the time comes for you to separate or retire, you are financially and professionally prepared.  Life outside of the Air Force may seem scary and overwhelming at first but with the right preparation, we will transition well and begin a productive next chapter in our lives.