New bill could help soldiers transition from military to civilian lifestyle

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, April 18, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Soldiers find themselves in scary situations all the time, dodging gunfire and putting their lives on the line, but sometimes the scariest thing a soldier can face is transitioning out of the military and learning to readjust to life as a civilian.

A new bill in Georgia is hoping to make that change a little smoother, and soldiers are welcoming it.

"It's kinda like throwing a fish up on a riverbank," said 1st Sgt. Douglas Elkins.

That's how Elkins describes transitioning out of the military. After more than 25 years in the Army, Elkins is getting ready to retire.

"It's a big adjustment," he admitted.

After a lifetime working in the Infantry, Special Forces and Military Intelligence, Elkins will have to find a new job as a civilian.

Before a recent bill, that meant a lot of extra training on skills he already has.

"For somebody like me, it's very frustrating. It would kind of be like taking a soldier out of the military and telling him, well we don't know if you can shoot a weapon, so you have to go through all this weapon training and shoot again," he explained.

That's where the Troop Talent Act comes in. It's a new bill designed to help align the skills soldiers learn in the military with the credentials they need to get civilian jobs.

"It's a great bill. It is very important because it can be a win-win for both the soldier or spouse and the employer," said Transition Services Manger Ella Freeman.

For a husband and father of four, it would help in more ways than one.

"Probably raise my salary by about $10,000 to $15,000 a year. That would increase my ability to support my child and also make the transition a little smoother," he said.

Aside from the job, the bill will help soldiers conquer what may be their biggest fear.

"The unknown. It's basically the fear of the unknown. Soldiers, you pretty much know what's going on most of the time. As a civilian, it's all on you," Elkins said.

The bill was introduced to the Senate earlier this week. If passed, it will also apply to military spouses. So, if they have a license in one state and then get based in a different one, they'll be able to get a job there, too.

As for the soldiers, the certifications would give them the proof they need to begin a career outside of the military.

Click here to read the Troop Talent Act.

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