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Aiming for the future: Reserve Soldiers train for final military mission- retirement

More than 200 transitioning Reservists, Guardsmen and "Gray Area" Soldiers spent Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, learning about the perks of being a life member or a Soldier for life during a U.S. Army Reserve Pre-Retirement Training Seminar hosted at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Among this population of Soldier preparing for retirement was Maj. Gen. Glenn Lesniak, Deputy Chief of the Army Reserve, who will retire after about 40 years as a commissioned officer with service in both the Active Duty Army and U.S. Army Reserve.

"I know I have to [complete the pre-retirement training], just like [one knows] know [one has to] jump off the high dive as [he or she] climbs the ladder at a swimming pool," Lesniak said. Retirement Services Officers (RSOs), assigned to the 99th Regional Support Command, Fort Dix, N.J., facilitated the training with the mission of ensuring that Reservists across the country are aware of all of their benefits.

"Army Retirement Services helps prepare our Soldiers to be Soldiers for life by ensuring Soldiers, their Families, and 'Gray Area' Soldiers [have as much knowledge of available support and resources as possible to make informed decision before separating from service," said Lt. Col. Orville Jennings, Army Reserve Retirement Services Program Manager.

Transition and accredited financial counselors are standing by ready to assist Soldiers, as early as 18 months before exiting the military. The transition assistance process starts with an initial counseling to introduce one to the transition program. Then Soldiers sit with a counselor to develop an individual transition plan. Once the process is initiated, the career counselor will assist the service member with writing and reviewing resumes, cover letters, job searching and interviewing techniques. Throughout the transition process a number of workshops and briefings, such as this one host at Fort Belvoir, are offered to inform service members of their benefits and entitlements through Veterans Affairs.

Program managers use customer feedback to gauge effectiveness and subsequently make enhancements. In response to the question "I feel the seminar provided me with helpful tools and basic knowledge to improve my understanding of the retirement process," response rating is a 4.84 on a scale of 1-5, where 5 is the highest possible rating. The target for Army Reserve is 4.5.

"This kind of event is very helpful," said Lt. Col. Patrice Peters, a "Gray Area" Soldier who was initially unaware other Reservist suffered similar transition challenges as she.

"This is definitely something [of which] the U.S. Army Reserve should do more," she said. "There is such a need for this information.

Seminar attendees consisted of not only military members but also some their spouses. Because many of the topics covered during the sessions indentify direct impacts to Army Families, RSOs encourage spouses to join their Soldiers.

Stephanie Sherman, wife of Staff Sgt. (Retired) Don Sherman, accompanied her husband at the event.

"We are learning new things about all the different benefits," Stephanie said. Learning about the insurance and SPB resources were especially informative, she added.

Many Reservists and Guardsmen spend a few years on Active Duty before transitioning to reserve. According to Master Sgt. Renee Ramos, the Army's points system used to calculate retirement for these individuals could be difficult to use.

"[Some] Soldiers don't think about retiring [early on in their careers]," said Ramos, whose job in the Army is to guide and mentor brothers and sisters in arms. "[Later in their careers, these individuals may] get married or have kids...soldiers [should consider these life events] early on."

RSOs culminated the series of sessions by re-enforcing that retirement is a process, not an event. In addition to this mindset, Soldiers and their families can remain strong during and after transitioning from military service with the proper planning, thought, and knowledge of available resources and support.

For more information about Reserve Retirement Services and Army Reserve Pre-Retirement Training Seminars, visit www.SoldierForLife.army.mil/Retirement