WASHINGTON — The Army’s NCO Professional Development System will soon have a new line of effort to better prepare Soldiers once they decide to leave the service, senior leaders announced Tuesday.
The system, which is an overhaul of the NCO Education System that began in 1973, now plans to push a greater emphasis on transition services to help Soldiers map out life after the Army.
“What we’re trying to do is … reinforce to Soldiers and their chains of command that there are certain requirements that Soldiers must do in order to transition properly,” said Command Sgt. Maj. David S. Davenport Sr., the top enlisted advisor for Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Career maps for Soldiers currently follow five lines of effort: military life cycle, military and civilian education, broadening assignments/experience, credentialing and joint professional military education. Progress and requirements of those efforts can be found under the Army Career Tracker, or ACT, at actnow.army.mil.
Davenport likens ACT to a course catalog for Soldiers to plan out their career — from what Army job they should do, what military school they should attend to broadening opportunities they should take.
Starting this month, Soldiers will see a line of effort for transition in their career maps. “If they make the decision that they’re going to [separate],” he said, “then what do they need to do to transition themselves and their families?”
TRADOC has partnered with Installation Management Command to help guide Soldiers to the necessary resources.
Davenport said the initiative will not only be for younger Soldiers but also for career Soldiers, like him, who will eventually transition to the civilian world.
“I’m going to retire after over 30 years,” he said after an NCO professional development forum at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Washington, D.C. “There are things I need to do in order to plan my transition.”
The move supports Soldier for Life, an Army priority to set up Soldiers for success outside the military.
“If you transition them the right way,” Davenport said, “the more committed they are to be advocates and spokespeople for what we do in the Army.”
Army University is also developing a “universal” transcript to better tie in military education to civilian academic degrees. Universities outside the Army can sometimes struggle to find academic credit for military training. The new transcript attempts to make that process easier.
“What we’re trying to do is clean all that up,” Davenport said, “so when that Soldier transitions and they go to an academic university, it’s clearer what they did while they served our great country.”
A pilot to test the transcript is being planned for the Army Armor School at Fort Benning, Georgia, he added.
Work is also underway to offer more credentialing opportunities to Soldiers, which leaders believe would improve readiness and give Soldiers better odds at employment in the civilian sector.
There are about 28,000 credentials completed by Soldiers each year through efforts done by TRADOC and other major commands. That’s a small number, according to Joe Parson, who works for Army University’s special programs division.
“About 40 percent of our Soldiers are combat arms, who don’t have a credential directly aligned with them,” he said at the forum.
The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of over 11,000 certifications or licenses. Of that, the Army has identified about 1,600 that line up with military occupational specialties and additional skill identifiers, he said.
“Those credentialing programs authorized by the Army will be opened up to every Soldier,” he said, adding they will be available on Army Credentialing Opportunities On-Line at www.cool.army.mil.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey and others are working to have the Army be allowed to use tuition assistance for credentialing. Current legislation, however, prevents Soldiers from using tuition assistance for credentials that do not fall under a nationally or regionally accredited school.
“Some of those things will have to be updated,” Dailey said of the legislation. “We’re moving forward, but it is very complex.”
A working group plans to put together a pilot program to test the credentialing program, he said. Army officials have also reached out to the Office of the Secretary of Defense in hopes of creating a Defense Department-wide credentialing program.
Credentialing must benefit both the Army and Soldiers, who won’t be allowed to pursue just any credential they wish, Parson said.
For example, Soldiers likely won’t be able to go for a credential to become a real estate agent, but they could be trained to be a plumber, welder, physical fitness trainer or even an instructor for small arms training.
With 17 percent of the U.S. population having one or more credentials, Parson said, he wants Soldiers to someday be part of that workforce.
“We don’t want our seasoned Soldiers to be unemployed,” he said, “because every one of them was a valued member of our team and we want them to be a valued member of society as well.”