Unemployment compensation for Soldiers leaving the Army during fiscal year 2016 dropped to the lowest amount recorded in 13 years. Of the largest Army installations, Fort Bragg has the lowest number of Soldiers drawing unemployment.

The Army ended the year at $172.8 million, according to the Department of Labor’s unemployment compensation report. Army expenditures had peaked in 2011, at $515 million. This is the first time expenditures dropped below $200 million since 2003.

When Soldiers receive unemployment compensation from a state agency, the DoL bills the Army for reimbursement. Reducing the number of Soldiers receiving compensation by assisting them in their transition to the civilian sector benefits both the Army and the federal government in cost avoidance savings.

In 2016 alone, over 6,000 Soldiers successfully transitioned into the civilian community using Fort Bragg’s SFL-TAP services, according to Bill McMillan, director, Fort Bragg SFL-TAP.

McMillan credits the success of the SFL-TAP program to its two-fold approach of preparing Soldiers for the civilian job market and connecting them with potential employers.

“If you prepare but don’t connect, you only complete 50 percent of the process, but if you just connect and don’t prepare, then (Soldiers) won’t be prepared when they get the job,” McMillan said. “The secret is both preparing and connecting.”

It is important for transitioning Soldiers to start SFL-TAP at least 12 months before they get out of the Army, according to McMillan. He said that retirees are eligible to start SFL-TAP 24 months out and all other Soldiers can start 18 months out.

Although Soldiers can wait until 12 months, McMillan recommended beginning the transition process as soon as possible. This allows Soldiers to take advantage of all programs, rather than just mandatory ones.

“Then they can participate in career skills programs,” McMillan said. “These are an important part of the success of the program because they get a chance to get trained before they leave active-duty for the jobs they are going to be doing on the outside.”

Although experience shows veterans generally enjoy a favorable employment rate in the nation’s job market, many veterans initially find it difficult to compete successfully in the civilian labor market.

IMCOM executes SFL-TAP by providing resources, guidance and support to 73 centers worldwide. The command markets the program to Soldiers, provides direct funding and manpower, develops standardized training and monitors the execution of the program.

SFL-TAP centers help Soldiers alleviate many employment-related difficulties and prepare them for success.

IMCOM SFL-TAP centers have partnered with the DoL, DoD, the Small Business Administration, and Veterans Affairs to provide employment and training information to Soldiers and their eligible spouses within one year of their separation or two years of their retirement from the military.

Fort Bragg’s SFL-TAP works with businesses to register their job requirements on a portal. Soldiers and spouses are then able to tailor their resumes to these job requirements, McMillan said.

“That way, companies can pre-screen resumes before the hiring event and invite Soldiers or spouses to interview during the time period of the hiring event.”

McMillan said his office also offers regular lists of jobs with specific requirements. These lists are available on Facebook, sent out as rosters through career counselors and via a mass email available for Fort Bragg personnel.

For more information about the Soldier for Life program, visit http://soldierforlife.army.mil.

How SFL-TAP supports Fort Bragg:

The Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program is a Department of the Army-level program run by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command and executed locally by the Installation Management Command. For more information about SFL-TAP, call 396-7188 or 396-2227, or visit them on the first floor of the Soldier Support Center. Upcoming events include:

Ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new career resource center on March 28

Hiring event on March 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Iron Mike Conference Center

Transition Summit from April 25 to 27 at IMCC and April 28 at the Hall of Heroes. The summit will include a one day class on job search planning, panel discussions, a job fair and a workshop for entrepreneurs presented by American Dream U.

To find out about the events on Fort Bragg, visit www.bragg.army.mil/index.php/my-fort-bragg/all-services/soldier-life-transition-assistance-program.