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Unit helps Soldiers make move to civilian work force

Sharon McBride
Fort Richardson PAO

Unit helps Soldiers make move to civilian work forceIn order to provide Soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit with the best possible options for future job employment if they are medically separated from the Army, the Army Career and Alumni Program began offering expanded services within the unit earlier this year.

Ilka Paniptchuk, ACAP counselor at the WTU, came to the job knowing she would have to hit the ground running.

 “Returning to civilian life can be difficult, especially when it’s a surprise,” Paniptchuk said. “I took this job at the WTU knowing I would have to be creative and be willing to implement programs and resources as needed.”

Soldiers at the WTU all have unique needs, and ACAP is constantly adapting to them, she said.

The first step for Soldiers assigned to the unit to get appropriate services is filling out a DD Form 2648, or a pre-separation checklist, she said. The form identifies areas of interest a Soldier might have and provides the basis for a transition plan.

“Soldiers going through a (MOS/medical retention board) need fill out a DD Form 2648 as soon as possible,” she said.

Department of the Army guidelines state it should be filed within 90 days before a transition, but if a Soldier is being medically boarded they have the option to fill it out sooner.  

That way, Paniptchuk can line up a variety of services geared toward making them more successful whether they stay in the Army or get out.

For example, the checklist can reveal a Soldier’s need for additional education or financial planning.

Once a Soldier knows for sure he is being medically separated, ACAP is there to make the transition to a civilian job as smooth as possible, she said.

“We always start by identifying a Soldier’s transferable skills and experience they have gained while in the Army,” Paniptchuk said.

Most Soldiers are surprised to learn there are many other Army skills and values they learn beyond their MOS which are highly sought after by civilian employers.

Qualifications like leadership training, and being able to work as a team member, getting along and working with all types of people, working under pressure to meet deadlines, giving and following directions, staying drug free, having a security clearance, planning and organizing, working safely and having a familiarity with records and personnel administration are all highly-marketable skills, she said.

Paniptchuk is careful to note, however, the transition she helps plan for each Soldier is unique and consists of several phases with different imbedded opportunities.

Getting additional education or vocational training, resume writing, job search skills, filling out a federal job application and securing internships are just a few of the things Paniptchuk can help a transitioning Soldier with as he negotiates through  each phase of the process.

To date, Paniptchuk said, there have been several success stories.

For example, she said one WTU Soldier who used to work as an electrical engineer for the Army had injuries which kept him from staying in. The skills he learned in the Army translated very well into a job as a civilian building inspector. 

There are 35 WTUs across the Army, and each WTU ACAP program is definitely not one size fits all.

 “Our program is completely different from Fort Hood’s or Fort Lewis’,” Paniptchuk explained.

 Currently, there are 164 Soldiers assigned to the WTU at Fort Richardson, Paniptchuk said, adding she will help each and every one with their varying transition plans.

“Their main mission is to heal,” she said. “Mine is to help with smooth transitions.”