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Academic credentialing for soldiers

Program could boost soldier retention, says SMA

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey speaks about retention and academic credentialing at the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare breakfast in Arlington, Va., June 26. Photo credit: Luc Dunn, AUSA

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The Army could add to its record retention numbers by providing more incentive for soldiers to stay on duty, the service's top enlisted leader said last Wednesday.

The Army has been testing a pilot program for academic credentialing at Fort Hood, Texas, and plans to extend the program to several major installations by the end of 2019, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey. The Army plans to spread the program to all installations in fiscal year 2020.

Last week, the Army provided 110 bachelor's degrees to senior NCOs who attended the Sergeant Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. Dailey said the Army will be providing soldiers with some college credit or professional credentialing for each level of NCO training.

"The expectation is we give something back for that service," Dailey said at an Association of the Army breakfast in Washington, D.C. "Not just be able to say that you served and sacrificed, but (getting) tangible results. That's what we owe to the American people; is a better product, to be more productive in their hometowns."

Dailey said the Army has still been working out the finer points of the program to ensure higher quality training for servicemembers and decide how agencies will receive payment. The program will also be available to National Guard and Army Reserve members.

Dailey said the Army has been working with each of the military centers of excellence to provide technical skill training equitable to academic skills.

"We thought we need to build on that more, because 60 percent of the Army is combat arms, so what tangible technical skills do they leave with?" he said.

Dailey cited that 80 percent of American jobs require skilled labor, and that soldiers can become productive members of the work force after leaving the Army.

"There is a great opportunity for many of our soldiers to fulfill the ranks of those skilled labor requirements in our hometowns of America, and they have the tangible skills," Dailey said. "We just need to make it official.

"We saw the opportunity to be able to capitalize on the great skills our soldiers have now and translate those to civilian-sector skills which we had not done."

Last year, with the help of Congress and the Army Continuing Education System, the Army created the credentialing assistance fund which gave the service the authority to finance credentialing assistance for soldiers. The program gives soldiers the opportunity to earn professional civilian licenses and technical credentials.

Dailey said the Army has already exceeded its retention goals for 2019 and could come close to its record numbers of last year. Additionally, Dailey said the Army remains on track to meet its fiscal 2019 recruiting goal of 68,000 active-duty soldiers, along with 15,600 for the Reserve and 39,000 for the National Guard.

Dailey said the retention and recruiting successes can be credited to the Soldier for Life program, which the Army will continue to support. The Army reviewed surveys of junior soldiers that showed a higher trust in Army leadership. And finally, soldiers cited greater career advancement opportunities as reasons for re-enlisting.

The recently updated promotion board system will also help retain soldiers, Dailey said. For decades, soldiers earned promotions based more on time in rank and length of service. The changes focus promotions strictly on merit, potential and individual achievement.

"Most importantly, there's opportunity for upward mobility," Dailey said, "which we found is the critical key to retaining our good soldiers."

Finally, the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army will integrate soldier pay and personnel management into one system to help better manage soldiers' careers, Dailey said.

The Pennsylvania National Guard has been testing the system, and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville met with Guard leadership to discuss fielding it. The system will eventually be fielded throughout the Army.

Dailey said the service has plans to keep NCOs at the same duty location longer, but would have to examine each soldier's career model and their professional development. The service recently announced plans to extend overseas duty assignments in Japan and Europe by a year for unaccompanied soldiers, in order to increase readiness.

"Our goal is to try to suppress some of the movement that we have around the Army," Dailey said.

He said much of the movement in the Army is driven by requirements to strengthen the force in Korea, add more drill sergeants to train increasing numbers of new soldiers and to add recruiters to meet the Army's recruiting goals.

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