Soldier for Life: Making soldiers strong after they leave the Army
Greetings from the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA), our Army’s association for education and professional development, and a major supporter of the Army’s Soldier for Life (SFL) efforts.
What is Soldier for Life and why is it important to you; the soldier, the veteran, the retired soldier, the gold star family, the surviving spouse or the family?
The Army established the Soldier for Life program in July 2012 to maintain trust with our Army family during and after service.
This trust comes from a holistic approach aligned with the four quadrants of a soldier’s career and their life while in and out of uniform.
The Army takes care of their own by ensuring soldiers start strong, serve strong, and reintegrate strong so they remain Army strong serving their communities after they leave the Army.
The program is designed to enable soldiers, retired soldiers, veterans and families from all three components – active, National Guard and Army Reserve – to leave Army service "career ready" and connect to an established network to find employment, education and health resources.
While many of the most recent articles published about the SFL program have focused on transition assistance and reintegration when leaving the Army, the totality of the SFL program is focused on the entire life-cycle of the soldier.
From accession into the Army and throughout their initial term of service, soldiers start strong as they learn and live the Army values, the warrior ethos and a multitude of soldier and leader skills gained through on-the-job experiences.
The foundation for this strong start begins with quality recruits who have the educational, physical and moral qualifications coupled with a strong desire to become a soldier.
Last year the active Army met their recruiting goal of 59,000 but fell about 7,000 short in their goals for having recruits staged in the delayed entry program (DEP).
Looking forward to the 2016 Fiscal Year, this shortfall in the DEP will have an impact on the 62,000 soldiers needed for this year, and the ability to maintain the premier all-volunteer Army.
Both the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve had similar challenges last year in meeting their recruiting goals and the societal impacts this year will make recruiting a priority.
For these newly recruited soldiers, once they are in uniform and throughout the length of their service beyond their initial term of service; soldiers serve strong as they gain tactical, technical and leadership experiences through challenging assignments, professional military education and civilian education and credentialing opportunities.
The Army continues to invest in every soldier throughout their Army career as they continue their service and grow from learned experiences and increased levels of responsibility.
After their Army service, soldiers re-integrate strongly into our civilian communities through the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program, which formally begins a year prior to the end of a soldier’s term of service.
While some may view a year prior to retirement for preparation as excessive, what is not taken into consideration is the complexity and understanding of your retirement benefits and the multitude of decisions that must be made that ultimately impact, the value and success of your return to the civilian sector.
SFL connects Army, governmental, and community efforts to build relationships that facilitate successful reintegration of our soldiers, retired soldiers, veterans, and their families to keep them Army strong.
The connection between SFL and the communities across the nation creates opportunities for transitioning soldiers, veterans and retired soldiers to connect with those organizations and businesses who seek the high quality, experience and training of an Army service member.
The goal is for soldiers, veterans, retired soldiers and families to leave the Army career-ready.
For a transitioning soldier and their family to be career ready, the SFL program must serve as an active part of every soldier’s career throughout their time in uniform.
Every duty station, every professional military school and every opportunity to broaden and learn new skills, continues to contribute to the soldier’s success in life after the Army.
Whether they serve four years or 30 years, they have a plan for life after the Army to connect with education, employment and health care.
As part of AUSA’s education mission, check out the November issue of ARMY Magazine or the Retiree & Veteran Affairs Newsletter dated Nov. 2, 2015 at the following URL for more information on transition.
The end-state of the SFL program is all retired soldiers, veterans and their families remain Army strong and instill their values, ethos and leadership through continued service in our Nation’s communities.
The Army’s promise to the 1.2 million retired soldiers and surviving spouses is to never break faith and continue to provide them information and assistance until death.
The SFL webpage at https://soldierforlife.army.mil provides the link between the Army, soldiers, the retired soldier, the veteran and their families.
The Army Retirement Services Office in the Army G1 oversees all retirement programs and retirement services officers across the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve, are now nested in the SFL program.
The Army just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the retirement services program that officially began on Nov. 14, 1955.
Designed as a one-stop-shop for information, the SFL webpage provides links to all affiliated resource links like the "Army Echoes" magazine, Reserve Component Retirement Services, my Pay, Tricare, Delta Dental, My Army Benefits, etc.
Every Army installation plans for a retired soldier appreciation day each year; the SFL webpage publishes those dates and the services available.
Of special interest to many is the access portal to the Army’s "White Pages" that allow soldiers, retired soldiers and veterans to find those buddies they served with in year’s past.
While the SFL webpage provides a wealth of information, it also provides the means to communicate with the Army: to ask questions and receive answers, and to provide feedback on how to improve the system for future generations.
As an example, the "Army Echoes Blog" provides three to five new posts each week and the "Frequently Asked Questions" feature provides answers to the most needed questions.
Ultimately the success of the SFL program plays a key and essential role in sustaining the all-volunteer force of the future.
All soldiers and their families who have had a successful Army career and subsequently transition back into the civilian sector serve as ambassadors and role models within our communities.
The Army’s strategic imperative of sustaining the all-volunteer force is directly affected by how well our veterans reintegrate back into our nation’s communities.
As Gen. George Washington said: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."
The Army created the SFL office to enable Army, government and community efforts to facilitate successful reintegration of our soldiers, veterans, and their families to keep them Army strong.
Success of the SFL program is measured through the soldier’s transition success to find education, employment, health and wellness opportunities.
The Association of the United States Army and our 119 chapters across the nation and around the world, have a unique responsibility and opportunity in supporting the SFL program.
Just as the SFL office enables Army, government and community efforts to support soldiers, local chapters can provide the continuity to connect corporate sponsors and the community to the SFL program and the installation leaders.
Local AUSA chapters also provide a unique opportunity for veterans, retired soldiers and their families to continue their service to our nation as volunteers in support of the chapter activities that support Army and military leaders in their areas.
AUSA chapters equally provide an opportunity for our Army civilians who transition from their Army career into the next chapter in their lives in our local communities.
Many times our Army civilians are not recognized by society for their huge contribution to the Army mission.
The partnerships in our communities established by local AUSA chapters provide an Army link to help in the integration and transition of these patriots and their families.
Like our soldiers, many of our Army civilians look for opportunities to continue their service supporting the Army through volunteer service.
April 10-16 is National Volunteer Week this year.
This week is especially important for recognizing our volunteers in our communities for the service they provide – a service our Army and our communities could never provide without an increasing budget or sacrificing other aspects of our quality of life.
Success breeds success and finding these heroes throughout our communities inspires others to step forward and contribute in their own special way.
AUSA chapters provide the opportunities for retired soldiers, veterans and their families to continue to serve our nation at their own pace and time available.
The Army vice chief of staff, Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, hosted the first Soldier for Life (SFL) Summit on Feb. 9, 2016, in the Pentagon Library and Conference Center.
The purpose of the summit enabled a collaborative discussion among Army leaders to determine the future azimuth for the SFL concept across the Army.
As the number of soldiers in uniform and their families living on our military bases get smaller, now more than ever the Army needs the help of all of us who have worn the uniform and our families to support the programs they may no longer have the resources to fund.
Now more than ever America’s Army needs AUSA and AUSA needs your membership support.
Membership is the volume knob to ensure your voice is amplified many times over and heard throughout the halls of Congress, from sea to shining sea across this country, and throughout every small town and community in-between.
Keep America’s Army Strong!
Take a Stand!
Still Serving, Still Saluting!
Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, USA, Ret., Director, Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier Programs