By Brandy Cruz

Fort Hood Public Affairs

FORT HOOD, Texas – In an unprecedented move that will dramatically improve the future of U.S. Army Soldiers and veterans, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey and Rep. John Carter announced at a press conference here, an assistance program that will prepare Soldiers for life outside the military.

“I’m proud to announce Fort Hood will be the pilot site for the Army’s new Credentialing Assistance Program,” Carter announced.

The program is a brainchild of Dailey’s, who said he had a vision two years ago of being able to ensure Soldiers use the well-earned skills they learned from being in the Army to transition into the civilian world. Soldier education has been an important focus of Dailey’s since he became the sergeant major of the Army in January 2015.

“The limited user test (at Fort Hood) will serve as an indicator of the resources we need to potentially roll out a broader program across the Army, as well as gauge the interest of our Soldiers, industry and academic partners and it will provide a baseline for any future requirements we need to expand this program,” Dailey explained. “Next to academic equivalency, this is one of the most important things we can do for our Soldiers and their Families, in terms of employment and education. It’s directly tied to readiness, as well as the transition of our Soldiers.”

Credentialing will allow Soldiers to attain certain professional and technical certificates through the Soldier Development Center, credentials they can use toward promotion points and are recognized by civilian industry.

“We’re very excited about this credentialing assistance program,” Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “We’re honored to test this program on behalf of the Army. The initial response to this credentialing program is strong. We know credentialed Soldiers strengthen the III Corps, Fort Hood, our Army and the nation.”

Fort Hood has been selected for the limited user test of the CAP due, in part, to its overall size, abundant amount of military occupational specialty designations and the community support of its surrounding communities. CAP will provide Soldiers up to $4,000 per year to pay for credentials needed to prepare them for a successful life outside the military.

Soldiers wanting to pursue their education may use the already established tuition assistance, though tuition assistance cannot be used to pay for credentials. The CAP funds can pay for academic, vocational and technical courses which lead to a credential or license, on top of the exam Soldiers need to take to complete the course. Credentialing assistance has more flexibility in what it can be used to pay for, such as the “boot camp” pre-certification training. If Soldiers are already proficient in the subject matter, they may choose to take the test, without the full course.

During the test cycle, Soldiers serving on active duty at Fort Hood, as well as those serving in the Texas Army National Guard and Army Reserves will be able to choose from 28 different credentials the CAP will pay for, although there are currently more than 1,600 different credentials listed under the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program. Dependent on how well the limited user test performs, the remaining credentials will be offered when the program is fully implemented in fiscal year 2020.

“I’m excited to see the results of the limited user test. I believe what starts here at Fort Hood will be an opportunity for Soldiers across the Army and will have a profound impact on our men and women in uniform and their Families,” Carter said.

The limited user test will launch at Fort Hood on Sept. 6, though courses cannot begin until Oct. 1. Dailey and Carter said their hope is make the transition as smooth as possible for Soldiers transitioning to civilian life.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we mean when we say Soldier for life,” Dailey said proudly. “It represents our commitment to our Soldiers and their Families, by ensuring the American values – their skills – when they take this uniform off and go home.”

Although Soldiers may choose to take credentials in areas related to their MOS, it is not required. As they prepare for life outside the military, they may choose a different professional industry. The program will allow them to begin working on their chosen professional credentials. While the transition from military to civilian life is not always easy for Soldiers, the hope is the CAP will successfully improve the transition by making Soldiers more competitive in the civilian workforce.

Sharing a personal story, the Army’s under secretary said his father was a Vietnam-era veteran who struggled when he transitioned out the Army because he didn’t have the credentials necessary for the civilian world. He said he called his dad last night to let him know it would be a reality for Soldiers today.

“I saw that as a young boy, just the challenges he had, just getting the technical skills he needed to make him marketable in the work place,” McCarthy said. “And through hard work and perseverance, he did just that and helped me go on to become the first college graduate in our family.”

Currently, approximately 20 percent of Fort Hood Soldiers are pursuing a degree. Mike Engen, Fort Hood Education Services Officer, said the goal is for 40 percent of Soldiers currently stationed at Fort Hood to use this program.

Spc. Lewis McDonald, a radiology specialist who works at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, said though he already has the credentialing he needs when he chooses to transition from the Army, he sees the value of the program to those starting it in the fall.

“This program will help benefit everyone going through, who can get this credential and continue this career when they’re done with the Army,” he said. “It’s a great program and I think it will benefit a lot of people.”

Community leaders were on hand for the announcement, showing their support for the program.

“This program is only possible,” Kamper said, “because of our steadfast community partners from academia and industry surrounding Fort Hood. They are champions and advocates of our Soldiers and Families.”

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