Myth: you cannot begin the ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program) process until you are six months away from your ETS date (the day that you supposedly are a free man once again).
Fact: You can start the briefings as much as a year out.
I sat in an office, spilling my guts about Iraq, my sleep habits and everything else that was even potentially fucked up about me as a result of my epic and heroic service. In a babbling vomit, I spewed up everything I could get out while he nodded before steering the session to ensure that he got to lunch on time. We had a few laughs about everything I had to report. He certainly did, and at that point all you can do is follow along.
Answer all the questions honestly, they tell you, but really I don't think it matters, because they're just going to return you to normal duty. Most blokes aren't going to find the Morgan Freeman poetic passphrases that land you a Get Out Of Service Free Card.
Before he even finished asking what I was going to do when I got out, I was punching him with the word "school". That's when he mentioned ACAP and clarified exactly when one can begin.
Hit the Next Chapter button on your remote a couple times, and there I am, ordering food from a drive-thru puke vendor with a friend, body ravaged and sore from extended PT sessions, usually two per day, when I decided that we needed a morale booster.
I found my first line supervisor and told him that we had to go make an appointment and away we went. When we finally found the office we were looking for, civilians eyed us suspiciously, demanding to know what in the name of all things demonic was it that we wanted. When we told them that we were working on getting out, their defenses dropped and they mystically transformed into the warmest, kindest people you'll ever find on a military installation. Overly gushy daycare ladies aren't this kind.
We were led to another cushy office and given lots of printouts, gave our basic information, and were handed appointment slips. Hell, we even marveled at the lady's electric stapler. You laugh, but that thing was pretty fucking impressive. It's a Swingline.
Anyway, I thought it was time I threw myself a bone, so I did. I did my own thing, AND I LIKED IT. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got menial tasks to half-ass my way through, then I've got an appointment in the afternoon, guaranteed to eat up a healthy portion of the workday.
I can't get out until next spring, but good God, I just took the first step towards redemption. It's like blindly grabbing a low-hanging branch after you've become fully submerged in quicksand: there's still a chance!