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Soldier for Life fields Facebook town hall

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 4, 2015) -- "If you could give only one piece of advice to a Soldier preparing to transition back into the community, what would it be?"

This question regarding the transition, from being a Soldier to being a civilian, was emblematic of dozens of questions posed online by Soldiers, veterans and Family members during the first Soldier for Life Facebook town hall, June 3.

The Army's "Soldier for Life" program is about the entire "lifecycle" of being a Soldier: from the moment a Soldier shows up at basic training, to the day they arrive at their first command and begin their Army career, to the moment they make the decision to transition from a uniform-wearing Soldier back into a productive member of civilian society, and finally to their separation or retirement from Army service and conversion to veteran status.

Subject matter experts within the Soldier for Life, or SFL, office - located in Arlington, Virginia - answered questions about education, employment and health, online, as they came in from the field. The event turned out to be a "success," said Col. Adam Rocke, SFL's director. He said he hopes to have another online town hall in about six months, and then hold them twice a year into the foreseeable future.

For the questioner asking for just "one piece of advice" regarding transition, Soldier for Life experts said "start early. Leverage your network, and visit your SFL-transition assistance program."

Questioner Kimberly Holdeman asked where Reserve Soldiers, often located far from an Army installation, might connect to for employment assistance.

Soldier for Life experts pointed Holdeman to two websites for further information. The first, a service provider network, points users to local brick-and-mortar resources in their community, such as Army National Guard Family Assistance Centers. The second online resource is hosted by the Army Reserve Private Public Partnership office.

Dan Piston wondered what programs SFL recommends to veterans looking for transition assistance "beyond TAP [transition assistance program]" in the private sector.

There are numerous programs at the local and national level, SFL replied. Included among those are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "Hiring our Heroes" program; the Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran Employment Center; and American Job Centers.

Nick Zevely asked what resources are available for veterans, who want to continue serving in some capacity after leaving the military.

"You can continue military service through the National Guard or Reserve," SFL replied. "They are always looking for great Soldiers like you. Also, look for volunteer opportunities in your local community." Zevely and other veterans might check out websites for the Mission Continues and Team Red, White and Blue for more information, SFL said.

Jack Veljkovic Barry, a recently-separated Army officer, said he currently is working a $15-an-hour job at a nonprofit.

"How can I better my income using Soldier for Life programs," he asked. "As a recently separated veteran, you will receive 'Gold Card Service' from your local American Job Centers, also known as 'Workforce Development Boards,'" wrote SFL. "Also, [we] recommend you visit your local SFL-TAP offices. They both assist with resume writing and targeted job searching."

Tyler Balensiefer wondered how many organizations assist veterans.

About 46,000 organizations exist to support veterans, SFL replied. "Some are large national organizations and many are smaller grass-root organizations."

Following the town hall, Rocke said that transition is inevitable for all Soldiers.

"Whether a Soldier serves three years or 30," he said, all Soldiers eventually transition out of the service. He asked Soldiers to remember "you are Soldiers for life! You understand the value of service. This mindset is what makes our Soldiers and Veterans the trusted professionals, who protect and serve our nation while in uniform, and what makes them invaluable to employers and communities as civilians."