AR - Good question I forgot to ask. I would guess this SM is ETS'ing and not retiring.
gforan - I was set to ETS DEC07. I'm sure you will get better input from others here in these forums but here is what I can tell you.
I started The Army Career Alumni Program (ACAP) as soon as I had a solid plan for my future and I was 12 months out. You can NOT ETS unless you have competed these courses. You're not allowed to commit yourself to any job during this time but you can network and see what's out there. When you are 90 days out I think that's when you can commit to a job but don't quote me on that.
I can tell you this, I have never heard of the army releasing you early to work in the civilian sector. Sounds like someone is fishing for ideas. Don't trust that idea!
The ACAP process takes a lot of time. That's why you start early. They teach you how to create a winning resume and how to market yourself. There is much more and you will find out all about it if you take that road.
I will tell you this from my own experience. I was ready to ETS but I still owed 4 years to my 8 year obligation. If you ETS and still owe the army time there is a good chance they will pull you back. Especially with all that's going on these days. Think about it. You are already trained. That would save the army a lot of time and money.
I wrote down all of my options, pros and cons etc. I wrote down what I make in the army and what I will make as a civilian. I also took the potential bonus and choice of assignment into consideration. If you have family you have to think of them as well. When it was all on paper it made much more sense to stay in. I would have made much more as a civilian but what if I was pulled back? I would not have received the bonus, choice of duty assignment and I would probably be sent somewhere I'd hate. Talk about some serious regret. When you start to think about all the benefits we recieve while in active status, we really have it pretty good.
I'm not retention so I don't have the drive to talk you into staying. But personally I think it's smart to complete your 8 year obligation and then consider ETS. That gives you time to complete college and earn that great job, it gives you time to adjust to the army. Maybe you'll like it and stay??? It gives you time to save for your future. It simply gives you more options.
Hope my story helps out. If not, I'm sure someone will send you the info you need.
Bring it on!