Frustrated? Confused? Be prepared for the transition process.

I had a terrible time the other day, trying to get my orders for separation.  I’d received my REFRAD approval last year, begun the ACAP process and registered for classes, prepared myself for interviews, and kept my bosses up-to-date on my timeline.  But, it turns out, I had missed a step.

No one had told me that I needed to submit specific documents to the transitions personnel, who create the orders.  This was something I could have done last year, but I never got a handout, checklist, or anything to tell me so.  I only found out because a fellow officer showed me a document she’d received.  I was frustrated!  How could I have missed a step?  I’d been so organized, so prepared!  How did this happen?

I was beginning to think that people stay in the military because it’s easier than trying to get out!

After I calmed down a bit, I was able to gather all of the necessary paperwork to receive my orders.  As I talked to other personnel in the ACAP/Transitions area, I realized I wasn’t the only one confused about it all.  There seemed to be so many agencies involved and a total lack of organization.  And based on feedback from my friends, it’s like that everywhere.

Since it seems like no one else has a checklist, I’ve come up with a short one to get you started.  Hopefully it will help you out, because I wish I’d known this last year when I started.

How to Get Out of the Military!

  1. Submit your REFRAD paperwork.  I suggest you do this 6-12 months in advance, because you need to plan for it to take a few weeks at your level, plus longer at the higher level for approval.  It involves several memos and counseling by your commander.  Make sure you get a complete list from your S1 (or HR equivalent) on what is required, and turn it in early.
  2. Sign up for ACAP classes.  There are a ton of useful classes that are required or voluntary.  The earlier you start, the better, because some of these fill up quickly.  Spacing them out leaves you more time to focus on your personal goals/job hunt/transition.  I highly recommend (varies by duty station) the VA Benefits classes, the basic Employment Workshop, the Resume Writing Seminar, and the Interview Seminar.  If you want to land a Federal job or start your own business, sometimes there are classes offered for that.  These classes are all FREE, so take advantage while you can!
  3. Contact Transitions for your orders.  Once you have that REFRAD approval, find out what other documents you need to turn in for your official orders.  For me, I needed that approval memo, my Oath of Office, my original military orders, a copy of my DD93/SGLI (varies by service), Officer Record Brief, and a copy of my signed terminal leave form.  Different Transitions offices will require different things, so contact them well in advance of your ETS/Retirement date so you can get everything together.
  4. Request your service medical records. Find out where to get these, and request them, because it takes time to receive them.  That way, you can identify any conditions/industries that you can claim for disability.  From there, you can make an appointment with the VA to see if you qualify, get a physical, and square away your possible benefits well in advance.
  5. Prepare your gear for Central Issuing Facility (CIF).  This one is a big deal!  You typically can’t turn everything in to CIF until you have your orders, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait to get your gear ready.  Get a list from CIF of everything on your record for turn-in.  Take a weekend and enlist the help of a buddy to help you lay out everything at home, take things apart, find out what needs cleaning, etc.  By having everything done ahead of time, you will be able to clear CIF quickly and easily once your orders arrive.
  6. Remind your boss about your evaluation and award.  I still struggle with this one, because I’ve been waiting on an evaluation for months.  For many installations, you need that award/eval in order to clear, and most awards have a 60-day turn-in requirement.  Remind your boss MONTHS in advance, provide a ‘shell’ or pertinent information for those documents to them early, and keep bugging them.  Your transition will be your focus, but everyone else will forget until the last minute.  They’ll be like, “What?  Why won’t you be coming to JRTC with us?  You’re clearing?!”  Even though they signed that REFRAD a year ago…

I think clearing is the easy part.  They usually give you two weeks, but it usually only takes a couple of days.  CIF is the big headache, so preparing ahead for that one will mean smooth sailing.  Just breathe, and it will be over soon!

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