Congressional, Army and Fort Hood leaders gathered on post Tuesday to unveil a new program to help soldiers get the credentials they need in a variety of jobs to make them workforce ready when transitioning out of the Army.

U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, joined Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey in revealing “The Great Place” as the limited user test site for the Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program, which is set to go into effect on Sept. 6. The program will give active-duty soldiers on Fort Hood, soldiers in the Texas Army National Guard and Army reservists serving in Texas the opportunity to get critical job certifications highly-sought after by civilian companies through credentialing assistance, similar to tuition assistance for higher education.

Soldiers wanting credentials for jobs such as emergency medical technicians, overhead crane operators and even food service management have had to pay out of pocket for it because it is not covered by tuition assistance. Credentialing assistance will not only make up for that lack, but will also help provide a more educated force for both the Army and civilian employers once the soldiers leave active service, said Dailey.

“This is a great day to be a soldier,” said Dailey. “This is a journey that Congressman Carter and I have been on for over two years, and I’m happy to say we’re doing a good thing. We’re doing a good thing for American young men and women ... someday they’re going to go home, and our job is to make sure that when they go home we give a better product back to America than what they gave us.”

Helping get the program started was able to give McCarthy personal as well as professional satisfaction.

“My father was a Vietnam veteran who struggled when he got out of the Army because he didn’t have a program like this,” he said. “I saw as a young boy the challenges he had of getting the types of technical skills he needed to make him marketable in the workforce. Really, that’s what this comes down to — is giving the tools to our men and women, because at some point, whether that’s three years or 30 years ... you hang the boots up and transition. We have a responsibility to give them those opportunities.”

Carter said he was excited to see this day finally come, as he had been working on getting a program such as this in place for several years before Dailey approached him to make it become a reality.

“I just left a computer lab full of soldiers pulling up their records on the computer to see if they can match up what they’ve accomplished with a certification they are interested in getting, so they can get a good job when they get out of the Army,” the congressman said. “It just made my heart proud. It’s extra work but ... the American soldier is always doing extra. Hopefully, we will give them a little better start than we have given soldiers in the past.”

Fort Hood was chosen for the test site because of the record of the post’s education center, the number of soldiers in diverse jobs assigned to the installation and because of the community surrounding the post, Dailey said.

“As soon as we can prove our systems, we will expand our capabilities and go back to the secretary of the Army to (institute the program) at various installations and eventually, hopefully, across the Army,” he said.

Although Fort Hood is the test site for the program, both McCarthy and Dailey said they fully expect it to be successful enough to start opening the program Army-wide by fall of 2019.

“These are skills our soldiers utilize, and will continue to utilize, on the battlefield every single day,” Dailey said. “These things, I believe, are going to build on the readiness of the Army. If you invest in people, they will stay. And they know when they leave, they will have the confidence that when they transition, they will be sought after by industry because they have valuable skills to give back to the community.

“I think this is a win-win in three directions for the United States Army,” he added. “Building readiness, making a better force and allowing our soldiers to make a proper transition when the time comes.”

The program is open to officers, enlisted personnel and warrant officers stationed at Fort Hood and to any Army Reserve or Army National Guard soldier currently serving in the state of Texas. For questions on the program and how to take advantage of it, soldiers can talk to an education counselor at the Soldier Development Center, Building 33009, to set up a plan. The center can be reached at 254-287-4824.

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