Sailors all join the Navy for different reasons. Some join to make a career out of the military, others for college money or just to get away from home. No matter the reason a Sailor joined, the process starts and ends with a piece of paper. At the beginning, the contract is all laid out waiting to be signed, and once a Sailor’s contract ends, a different piece of paper waits to be signed in order to become a civilian once again.
Transitioning out of the Navy and back into the civilian world is a big decision. Paper work has to be done, a job needs to be found and a plan set up. The Navy has come up with a process to help Sailors make the transition, but the Sailor still needs to be ready.
“Preparation is key,” said Senior Chief Navy Counselor Dean A. Miller, command career counselor of USS Nimitz (CVN 68). “The process is long and it is a big decision. It helps to know all the options.”
Transitioning out of the Navy requires classes such as the Goals, Plans and Success (GPS) class. GPS is a five-day class that consists of 13 career readiness standards; such as budgeting, schooling options, and helping find a career path. The 13 standards are the same for each branch of the U.S. armed forces when any service member wants to transition out.
“The GPS class helped make the transition easier for me,” said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan B. Holloway, a Sailor assigned to Nimitz, who is currently going through the transition process. “GPS showed me how to use my schooling benefits to finish my degree once I get out, it also showed me the benefits of staying in the Navy.”
One of the most popular options for Sailors separating from the Navy is getting or furthering their education. Sailors can use their tuition assistance while in the Navy and Sailors transitioning out can use their benefits such as the Montgomery G.I. Bill or their Post 9/11 G.I. Bill to help them get a degree in the field they want to be in once their transition is complete. Many Sailors get an associate’s degree while in the Navy and finish their degree once they transition out.
“Sailors have so many options to get schooling done within the Navy,“ said Miller. “The goal is that if they want to get out of the Navy they already have their degree in the field they want to work in, or they are really close to completing it before the transition.”
Tuition assistance isn’t the only benefit that Sailors get while serving in the Navy; they also get health care, food, and shelter. Getting out of the Navy means they will have to start providing these services for themselves.
“I think the hardest thing for Sailors to understand about getting out is how to budget their money well,” said Miller. “It can be overwhelming, especially if someone joined right out of high school and this is their first time living on their own.”
Sailors apply for a c-way quota 15 months prior to the end of their contract, which if approved, gives a Sailor the option to re-enlist. Sailors have the option to transition out, re-rate, or re-enlist depending on whether or not they get a quota.
“Once Sailors get their c-way quota, I want them to put down that they want to stay Navy even if they intend to separate,” said Miller. “They can go through all of the required classes and prepare to get out, but if their job offer falls through in the civilian world or something goes wrong they still have a job.”
Every Sailor’s contract is different, but deciding whether or not to transition out of the Navy when their contract comes to a close can be a difficult decision that all Sailors must face.
“I knew when I joined how many years I wanted to do, but for other Sailors they have no idea and that’s okay,” said Holloway. “It’s a hard decision and sometimes things happen whether it means getting out or staying in.”
Going through courses and talking to people about the decision to stay in the Navy or become a civilian again can help make it easier.
Once the paperwork is all finished and a Sailor decides to become a civilian again, it’s important to take the skills he or she learned while in the Navy with them. They’ll take skills such as being punctual, following specific rules and knowing who to talk to first when a problem occurs. Every Sailor’s experience within the Navy is different, but every Sailor learned something new that they can take with them back to the civilian world.
Story and photos by MCSA Liana Nichols