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Transitioning Out of Active Duty during COVID-19

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University

Transitioning out of active duty during the novel coronavirus pandemic is likely to require additional planning before being discharged. The future of the coronavirus remains uncertain so servicemembers have a lot to consider when preparing to re-enter civilian life.

While these challenges are surmountable, it is important for servicemembers to recognize what makes departing active duty during the pandemic different than in normal times and to create a plan to address these challenges.

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Among the First Considerations Is the Need to Purchase Civilian Health Insurance

One of the first challenges servicemembers should consider is healthcare and its costs on the civilian market. While medical coverage is one of the most significant benefits while on active duty, health insurance after military service can be expensive and may consist of fewer benefits than while on active duty. It is especially critical to ensure that a healthcare plan is in place for servicemembers who are departing the service with a family.

From my experience, one of the best ways to address this healthcare challenge is to transition into the Reserves. After eight years of active duty service, I found that the Reserves was an excellent solution to my healthcare needs and I was able to apply my active duty years toward a Reserve retirement.

Reserve healthcare is available through Tricare Reserve Select,  a premium insurance plan available worldwide that provides excellent healthcare coverage to Selected Reserve members and their immediate families. There is a monthly premium but the cost is substantially less than other healthcare plans on the civilian market.

Departing active-duty members should also consider the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the civilian job market. If the member is departing active duty to pursue a college education or use the available military education benefits, then the coronavirus may have less of an adverse impact.

It Is Essential to Research How the Coronavirus Has Affected Job Availability

However, if a servicemember is planning to enter the civilian job market, it is essential to research how the coronavirus has affected job availability; different job sectors are likely to be affected differently.

To take full advantage of servicemembers’ time on active duty, retiring members should research how the skills that they developed on active duty can translate into civilian employment.

Utilizing the servicemember’s military network of contacts established while on active duty and employment-based social media platforms such as LinkedIn are helpful resources.

For example, first responder occupations are likely to offer increased opportunities for employment while service-related jobs may be more challenging to find. In addition to researching the specific job market that the servicemember is interested in entering, it’s also a good idea to take advantage of programs that hire veterans. Many states have websites and programs set up to support servicemembers transitioning into the civilian job market.

Another important resource is Military One Source, which has a list of organizations for servicemembers and veterans seeking employment. In addition, the Veteran and Military Transition Center helps servicemembers understand how their military experience and specialties can transfer into the civilian job market.

To gain a deeper understanding of skills that can be transferred into the civilian workplace, servicemembers might want to use a Transferable Skills Worksheet. This is a helpful resource with terminology that can be used to create a civilian resume. It is important to avoid using military jargon on civilian resumes and job applications.

Transitioning out of active duty during the coronavirus pandemic requires additional strategic planning, but it can be done successfully. Utilizing the servicemember’s military network of contacts that were established while on active duty and employment-based social media platforms such as LinkedIn are also helpful.

About the Author

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor with American Public University in the School of Security and Global Studies. Jarrod was selected as the Coast Guard’s Reserve McShan Inspirational Leadership Award recipient for 2019. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Europe, and Central America on the topic of human trafficking, local law enforcement’s response to domestic terrorism, and promoting resiliency from police stress. Most recently, he presented at the 2019 International Human Trafficking Conference. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering.

Jarrod Sadulski

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies and has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. For more information on Jarrod and links to his social media and website, check out

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