U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell

The process of separating from the military is complex and can become overwhelming for service members. Ensuring every box on a checkout sheet is signed off on takes time and effort from transitioning service members. Service members only have one chance to get this process right and create the best conditions for success in the civilian world. While the current formal transition model is already flawed, it is not agencies like the departments of Defense and Labor alone that are contributing to a suboptimal process of turning service members into veterans. Military leaders from noncommissioned officers through high-ranking commanders can have a greater influence on the individual experiences of their subordinates than any agency. Military leaders and commands regularly fail to provide the right climate for transition and offer little support once service members decide to separate rather than reenlist.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Jo Jones

Every service member shares two experiences over the course of their military career: the transition from civilian life into the military and the transition from the military back to civilian life. Running off the bus to the yellow footprints and picking up discharge papers are both ingrained in memories; yet the transition out of service remains overlooked. To the detriment of service members, the military has under delivered with its transition programs. I recognized this issue during the transition course I attended in 2012 as a Marine at Camp Pendleton — the same year that the Pentagon’s unemployment insurance expenses nearly reached $2 billion.

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