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Witness Testimony of BG Robert Hedelund, Director of Marine and Family Programs, U.S. Marine Corps

 

 

STATEMENT OF

BRIGADIER GENERAL ROBERT F. HEDELUND

DIRECTOR, MARINE AND FAMILY PROGRAMS

 UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

BEFORE THE

SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY, 

HOUSE VETERANS’ AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

ON EXAMINING THE RE-DESIGN OF THE

TRANSITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

 

20 SEPTEMBER 2012

 

 

 

 

 

NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL

RELEASED BY THE HOUSE         

VETERANS’ AFFAIRS COMMITTEE


Executive Summary

As our Nation’s force in readiness, Marines always stand combat ready.  The Commandant is committed to ensuring they also stand transition ready.  The Marine Corps is transforming its approach to transition assistance to one that engages Marines throughout the military lifecycle.  We will help our Marines develop long-term education and career goals and will equip them with the skills needed to successfully reintegrate into civilian life.  Our first phase was to revolutionize our end of cycle transition readiness course, which now contains both core and track content that tailors a Marine’s transition experience to his or her goals.  We are confident in our approach and are working hard to ensure Marines and families are ready for the demands of their post-active duty lives.

 


Chairman Stutzman, Ranking Member Braley, and distinguished Members of this Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to describe the steps we are taking to transform our Transition Assistance Program (TAP).  As our Nation’s force in readiness, Marines always stand combat ready.  The Commandant is committed to ensuring they also stand transition ready.  Partnering with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and our sister services, the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Labor (DOL), and other federal agencies, we are transforming our program from a single event toward the end of a Marine’s service to one that engages Marines throughout their military lifecycle.  From their entry into the Corps, we will help Marines establish long-term education and career goals and will equip them with skills to ensure they are career ready to successfully reintegrate into civilian life in communities throughout our country.  Along the way, we will provide counseling and advisement services plus critical resources such as tuition assistance and credentialing for selected military skills.  This is important work; we are determined to get it right.

Revolutionizing Our Approach to Transition Assistance

We have been at this for some time.  In keeping faith with our Marines and families, the 2010 Commandant’s Planning Guidance directed a review and improvement of the transition assistance we were providing.  The Commandant personally reviewed results of three Transition Assistance Operational Planning Teams and approved plans to correct deficiencies with legacy programs through a conceptual framework to improve services and integrate personal and professional development services.    

Effective transition assistance is not achieved simply by completing a training course at the end of one’s service, thus simply checking a block.  It requires continuous deliberation and planning of one’s future goals, quality advisement, and a thorough understanding of available resources and tools.  Because 75 percent of our Marines transition from active service after their first enlistment, we must ensure these Marines have the tools needed to return to civilian life and be productive citizens.  Our Marine Lifecycle Model will engage our Marines at designated touch points during their service and will focus on the knowledge, skills and abilities they will need to effectively translate their Marine Corps experience into meaningful careers or transition to new pursuits.  This model positions us to better support both the advancement of a Marine’s military career and the eventual reintegration into civilian life upon leaving active duty service.  Transition will no longer be a culminating event to a Marine’s career; it will rather become a vital part of a Marine’s continuous personal and professional development from recruit to veteran.

 Our Revised Transition Readiness Course

In migrating to a Marine Lifecycle Model, we directed our first plan of action at revolutionizing our TAP course.  As our overall intent is readiness of the individual Marine, our redesign began with our transition readiness course.  Initially piloted in the Marine Corps in January 2012, our five-day course incorporates the learning objectives and standards required by the Transition Goals Plans Success program, which requires Marines to reach certain milestones in order to be fully transition ready.  Our incorporation of these objectives ensures we will comply with the requirements of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act and the President’s Veteran’s Employment Initiative (VEI). 

One of the essential elements of our course is track choice.  Via their feedback, our Marines have been most supportive of these tracks.  Therefore, our overall goal is to balance core and track content to allow Marines to individually tailor their training experience to meet their personal goals.  Following completion by all attendees of mandatory core curricula including the DOL’s Employment Workshop and the VA’s benefits brief during the first three days of the program, Marines choose the track that is most aligned with their post-service goals and objectives: Education; Skills and Technical Training; Employment; or Entrepreneurship.  During the remaining time of the course, Marines further explore their chosen pathway. 

The Education track, for example, gives more detailed information on the college admissions process, determining the right college or university, and important considerations in standardized testing and accreditation.  The Entrepreneurship track gives advice on developing an effective business plan and finding sources of capital.  The Skills and Technical Training track distinguishes certification, licensure and apprenticeship and assists with online resources.  The Employment track expands upon the mandatory DOL Employment Workshop and explores in greater detail best practices in finding jobs including opportunities and hiring practices with the Federal Government.  Because all tracks require Marines to interact in professional settings whether seeking work, applying for small business loans, or discussing education goals with school administrators, all tracks train Marines in effective interview skills.  Marines may participate in the transition training curriculum more than once, must complete pre-work requirements to enhance the transition experience, and are encouraged to bring spouses.

In August 2012, the Marine Corps piloted its revised course at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and generated important lessons learned.  These insights will form the basis of our revised transition program that will be implemented at other Marine Corps installations beginning in September 2012.  The core elements of training will include pre-separation counseling, a crosswalk of military occupational specialty skills to civilian jobs, a re-designed DOL employment workshop, and a VA benefits brief.  Our  tracks will remain relatively unchanged.  In partnership with the DOL and VA, transition training will be introduced at Marine Corps installations throughout Fiscal Year 2013. 

Making Marines Transition Ready

We are confident that our Marine Lifecycle Model and our revised transition program will make our Marines transition ready.  We are working hard to ensure they are prepared for the demands of the post-active duty phase of their lives.  Whether they choose to be reservists, students, business owners, or employees, our Marines will return as quality citizens with a plan for success.  Thank you again for your sincere concern in our transition efforts, concern which was most recently demonstrated by the presence of two of your professional staff members, Mr. Jon Clark and Ms. Orfa Angelica Torres-Jaen, at our August Miramar pilot.  Their insight and presence were helpful to both the pilot staff and the training participants.  Cooperation in this effort is key because only by working together will we be able to provide our service members and their families with the transition support they need after giving so much in dedicated service to our Nation.