Service members: We all know you’re busy with your many duties day to day and while serving on deployments. If you’re considering educational opportunities available to you, but you’re not sure you have time to squeeze them in, you do. Here’s an example of how:
The touchdown of landing gear on the runway wakes Marine Corps Sgt. Rose Padilla out of a sound sleep. She hears someone shout, “Where are we, Gunny?” and the gruff reply, “Naples. That’s 30 minutes to stretch your legs and take aboard elements of Charlie Company, then we’re on to the garden oasis of Qatar.”
Rose pulls her backpack down from the overhead and fishes out her tablet. “What can I do in 30 minutes?” she wonders…
30 Minutes Remaining: After getting situated in the passenger terminal, Rose logs on to her United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) account and records her tasks and hours from the previous week. She notes that her running tally of 4,300 supervised hours is only 700 hours short of the total required for a Department of Labor certificate as an Internetworking Technician. Rose reflects that if her assignments pan out just right, she should be complete by the end of this deployment.
26 Minutes Remaining: Rose logs on to the USMC’s Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) webpage to confirm that the Corps will provide payment for the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) exam she’s interested in. She’s not sure if she can find a suitable proctor for the exam while deployed, but she is relieved to know that the exam is available. She explores other companion certifications while logged in and makes notes for further research.
18 Minutes Remaining: Rose logs on to a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation website to confirm her request for free gap training materials. Rose knows that her military training and experience, while excellent, have only prepared her for about 80 percent of what her counterparts in the civilian industry would be expected to know on the CISM exam. With six months to prepare and adequate study materials in hand, Rose is confident that she will be ready for the exam.
13 Minutes Remaining: Rose logs on to her university portal to verify that her tuition assistance payment was received by the registrar and that last night’s assignments were properly uploaded. She knows that she cannot finish a bachelor’s degree in the 13 months she has remaining on her enlistment with the Marines. Nevertheless, she is proud to be enrolled in college classes. Rose knows that if she keeps working hard, combining the credit recommended on her Joint Service Transcript with coursework and CLEP/DSST examinations, she just might be able to matriculate as a junior when she transitions back to civilian life.
6 Minutes Remaining: Rose reflects for a moment on “The Plan.” She’s a little worried about making ends meet for her family during the years of university study if she leaves the Marines next year. Knowing that she is well ahead of the promotion curve makes the decision to stay or go all the more difficult. If she transitions, she knows that the GI Bill will help tremendously, and she has chosen a university in a part of the country where her USMAP and COOL credentials will be in high demand. Her family will be counting on the income from shift work in local industry while she completes her degree. She concludes her thoughts with the usual mental pep talk: “Suck it up, buttercup! The only easy day was yesterday!”
3 Minutes Remaining: Rose wonders out loud, “Can a girl find an iced coffee and a croissant in this place?” The mocha-mustache grin on Pfc. Johnson’s face looks promising.
Education Counselor’s Notes:
This is a gal with a plan! She is making simultaneous use of two major DoD Personal and Professional Development programs, together with three additional augmentation programs. It is clear from this 30 minute slice of Rose’s life that she has thoroughly researched all of the available programs and dove-tailed them nicely into the fabric of her life.
Let’s recap the programs that Sgt. Padilla is using:
Certification & Licensure (C&L) Assistance: Through title 10, U.S.C. § 2015, DoD can pay for certain C&L programs and their related expenses. DoD provides payment for professional accreditation, federal occupational licenses, state-imposed and professional licenses, professional certification and related expenses, including classroom instruction, hands-on training and materials, manuals, study guides, textbooks, processing, testing and other related fees. DoD’s C&L program operates under this authority as part of a joint service initiative administered through the Military Services’ COOL programs.
- Service members pursuing certification can use “e-learning” programs to complete training and examination requirements. The Military Services work with outside entities to provide computer-based training in information technology and telecommunications-related subjects to active-duty military, reserve and authorized civilian personnel.
- A registered apprenticeship is a formalized, structured training program that can greatly enhance a service member’s access to skilled jobs after military service. It combines on-the-job training and related technical instruction in which the apprentice receives practical and technical training. Most apprenticeships require in excess of 4,000 work hours to complete. DoD’s apprenticeship program is called the United Services Military Apprenticeship Program. You can find a link to it above.
Tuition Assistance: The Military Services pay for academic courses in preparation for licensure, certification and academic degrees under title 10, U.S.C. § 2005, 2006a, and 2007. Current DoD policy permits the Military Services to pay tuition for college courses (part of a degree or certificate program) of eligible service members up to $250 per semester-hour of credit with a maximum $4,500 for each fiscal year.
- The Joint Service Transcript lists all formal and informal military training that a service member has received, and it translates that training into recommended college credit that educational institutions can consider for college credit.
- Through a formalized testing program called CLEP/DSST, service members can demonstrate the knowledge and skills they’ve already acquired and earn college credit without ever setting foot in a classroom.
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