Story by Christian DeLuca on 02/07/2019
Less than one percent of the public serve in the military and only a fraction of them stay in active duty until retirement. When a member is ready to separate, a visit to an in-service recruiter can be a valuable resource to make sure they're ready for the transition, and learn about the benefits the Reserve has to offer.
"A lot of people get out without having a fully-realized plan. They don't think it all through. They don't think about insurance and bills, ect." Master Sgt. Hakim Tutt, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in-service recruiter said. "They say they're planning on going to school, or they're planning on getting a job. I say That's fine', but you have to be prepared for the unknown. You have to have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C."
Tutt, a Reserve Citizen Airman in the 514th Air Mobility Wing, works with active-duty members and facilitates the Palace Front and Palace Chase programs for the joint base. The Palace programs enable qualified active-duty members to transfer into the Reserve with little to no hassle.
Palace Front allows members that have a separation date to transfer to the Reserve within 6 months of that date.
Palace Chase is a program for members without a separation date that would like to leave active-duty service and join the Reserve. If they've completed at least half of their enlistment contract, they can transfer into certain career fields, based on manning needs.
For Tutt, his main priority is providing information so people can make educated decisions about their future.
"A lot of people don't know all the benefits the Reserve has to offer. When I was active-duty, I knew about the Reserve, but I didn't know all the benefits, which could have helped me when I separated," he said.
When Tutt left active duty, he thought he had a secure future with a good paying job and plans to finish school. He acquired his college degree, but found himself living in a shelter for a few months when his paycheck didn't cover his expenses.
"I thought I was doing good with the job I had, but once they took the insurance out, once I paid my union dues, and the taxes, and child support, my check was so small I couldn't live off of it. I didn't know how real it was out there," he said. "I want to make sure that people know the situation and that they're prepared."
Tutt said the Reserve can be a good financial buffer while transferring into the private sector, providing extra income and health benefits for individuals and their dependents. Based on the commitment time-frame, joining the Reserve can also increase and extend G. I. Bill benefits.
"If you sign a six-year commitment you can get an extra 12 months of the G.I. Bill. So, instead of 36 you get 48 months," he said. "So, if you're going to school in New York, that's $3,600 a month you're getting for another 12 months. That's almost another $45,000."
Tutt added that the Reserve can act as a safety net for individuals who run into financial issues, or are between jobs. Through military orders and other programs, they can work fulltime within the Reserve for an extended amount of time, to fill in any financial gaps.
Active-duty members transferring over, create a positive situation for the Reserve as well.
"What happens when active-duty members transfer to the Reserve, they get someone who's fully qualified, already trained and ready to go," Tutt said. "Even if they want to cross-train into a position, they still know the military culture. They can come in and supervise Airmen off the bat, depending on the rank, and they can hit the floor running. Which helps the Reserve a lot."
Tutt said the process of transferring is seamless in most cases.
"All they have to do is contact me we'll go through their documents, make sure they're eligible, make sure they're cleared medically, and I'll find them a position based on if they are staying locally or relocating," he said.
To search the nearest AF Reserve operating location by zip code, visit www.afreserve.com.
Active duty members transitioning out of the military should see their in-service recruiter at least six months before their separation date, but Tutt said anyone that's curious or interested in the Reserve can contact him anytime to talk through it.
"Come see me 12 months prior and I can give you an idea of what's out there. Then at the six month date, all we would have to do is go through the paperwork," he said. "You think you have time, but it moves fast. It's good to get ahead of it all. Even if you don't think you're going to do it, you should come and get all the information so you know what all of your options are."
Master Sgt. Tutt's office is located in 1840 Robert M. Bond Dr., Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. 08641. He can be reached via email at email@example.com, or by phone at 609-738-5878.