FORT LEE, Va. - Credentialing starts here was a recurring message April 2 as Sen. Tim Kaine toured the Combined Arms Support Command to learn about initiatives designed to help Soldiers translate their military skills to the civilian sector.

Maj. Gen. Larry D. Wyche, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, hosted the Armed Services Committee member in his first visit to Fort Lee as a senator. Kaine, who was elected to Congress in November 2012, received an overview of the game-changing work being done here supporting service members. Credentialing is part of the overarching Soldier for Life program, which promotes lifelong learning from a Soldier's induction into the Army, throughout their career and beyond.

"It's a wonderful opportunity when we have members of Congress visit us to learn about our programs and see how our service members train," Wyche said.

The visit began with an in-depth dialogue about CASCOM's mission and Soldier for Life programs. The command is responsible for training over 180,000 students annually through 541 courses taught by the Ordnance, Quartermaster and Transportation schools, Soldier Support Institute and Army Logistics University. CASCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

After meeting with senior leaders from CASCOM, Kaine had the opportunity to learn about two pilot credentialing programs first hand -- food service specialists and welders.

While touring the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, Quartermaster School, the senator spoke to service members in the Advanced Culinary program about their training and lifelong learning opportunities.

Over 500 Soldiers are currently enrolled in the American Culinary Federation program that certifies food service specialists in progressive degrees of skills.

He then journeyed to the Ordnance School where he was able to don the equipment and reminisce about his family's history in welding. The senator was able to try his hand at performing the critical tasks of a welder using the state-of-the-art virtual welding simulator. Although the equipment is much different than he used as a young man, Kaine was able to gain an appreciation for how technology is supporting Soldier development.

For the metal working certification program, administered through the National Institute of Metal Working, Soldiers demonstrate their knowledge and practical abilities as they move through multiple levels of training.

During his time at Fort Lee, the senator also learned about the Transportation School's efforts in coordinating Commercial Diver's Licensing across the nation. There are 37 states who already accept military CDL waivers and the school is currently working to expand the program in nine additional states.

The visit to Fort Lee was a part of the senator's tour of military installations in the region, which focused on discussing credentialing opportunities, budget and family support programs. The visit concluded with Sen. Kaine announcing his first bill at the American Legion in Richmond. Troops Talent Act 2013 is a measure to help ease the transition of service members from active duty to the civilian workforce.

"Our nations' service members learn and specialize in critical skills while on active duty that more than prepare them for a wide range of employment in the civilian workforce," Kaine said. "Aside from their technical talent, the leadership, integrity and decision-making skills of our troops is too valuable to let fall through the cracks."