In 2017, I co-authored a book on military transition…Warrior to Patriot Citizen. (Shameless plug…you can find it on Amazon.) When we were writing the book, our intention was to focus on the population separating from the military. This is the population that needs to do the most planning to avoid the big crash and burn. Yes, yes…everyone needs to plan. However, the theory (maybe more assumption) is that those retiring have a little savings and a retirement compensation to provide a little cushion during transition. (I was going to add VA compensation, but if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that might be awhile.)

It also seems like everything is geared toward the retiring population. There is a separate TAP program, ETAP (executive transition assistance program), for Colonels and SMSgt and above. I’ve looked through books the TAP class gave away. Yep, you guessed it, the focus was geared toward the retiring veteran looking for their corporate job. My friends retiring had no lack of corporate head hunting companies offering them assistance.

All of it is fine. Everyone needs the assistance, but not everyone is retiring or has a skillset requiring the assistance of headhunters. In my TAP class, at least a third were separating. Some had terminal careers (e.g. pilots, nurses, docs) others did not. If you have not had the joy of the TAP class yet, here’s the summary… it is basically a firehose of a mass amount of information you attempt to digest in a week. There is not enough time to get into great depths about anything specific. Hence, why it is highly recommended to take more than once.

Here’s the point I am not so quickly getting too. Very few of us have an exit strategy when we first sign on the dotted line, nor do we make one while we are serving. Oh I’ve heard a few, “I’m coming in to do my 4 years to get my GI benefits to go to college.” Awesome. I’ve even seen one or two stick to that game plan. The majority find out they want to serve longer or get comfortable with the security and stay longer. Even the ones that stick to their plan struggle when they lose the regular paycheck and benefits.

The opposite may also happen…they plan an entire career and it is unexpectedly cut short for one reason or another. From my experience working with service members, this is often the most devastating.

Either way, separating comes with some major stressors. So, what do you do?

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