FORT LEE, Va. -- Department of Labor representative Terry Gerton, Veteran's Employment and Training Service deputy assistant secretary for policy, toured the "Home of Army Sustainment" on May 20 to learn more about military training and the many credentialing initiatives that give service members a career boost in the civilian sector.

CASCOM is responsible for training more than 180,000 students annually through 541 courses taught by the Ordnance, Quartermaster and Transportation schools, Soldier Support Institute and Army Logistics University. It is also a major subordinate element of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Shortly after her arrival at Fort Lee, Gerton met with senior leaders at CASCOM to discuss the continued partnership between the Department of Labor and TRADOC in the development of credentialing and training programs for military troops.

To date, TRADOC's Soldier for Life credentialing initiatives have resulted in more than 78 career-enhancing certifications and licensures across 43 military occupational specialties offered at CASCOM.

During the meeting, Gerton emphasized the close working relationship between her department and the military. She discussed how the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their Occupational Information Network are critical to the research used by the Army to select the right credentials that not only enhance a Soldier's war-fighting readiness but also veteran transition requirements.

"Documented credentials mean higher wages for transitioning veterans," said Col. Reed Hudgins, CASCOM Credentialing, Certification and Licensing director. "A watercraft operator without credentials can get a job, but will earn about $38,000 per year. With documented credentials the number of job opportunities not only double, but also the starting salary (grows to) almost $70,000 per year."

The individual cost for each credentialing enrollment is less than $200, Hudgins added.

After the meeting, Gerton toured the Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, part of the U.S. Army Quartermaster School. She learned about military food service training and the partnership JCCoE has with the American Culinary Federation.

Military personnel attending the culinary school are given the opportunity to earn accreditation as chefs while performing their daily routines. The training curriculum coincides with ACF certification standards and can be continued at the service member's assigned duty station.
ACF certification and credentials are certificates issued by independent agencies after they evaluate a Solder's knowledge, experience and skills. Soldiers must pass examinations that measure required skill sets that have been established by private industry, federal regulations or international standards.

Gerton's next stop was the U.S. Army Ordnance School where she learned about the many opportunities for service members to advance their skills through the Stryker Maintenance Course. While touring the facility, she viewed Soldiers training in hi-tech classrooms. Students in the course virtually troubleshoot problems with the vehicle using computer simulation before completing the hands-on portion of the training.

Gerton, a former ordnance officer herself, stated she is impressed with the interactive multimedia instruction that has been established for today's Soldiers.

Also providing a demonstration during the tour was the CASCOM Technology Integration Branch. David Garrison, instructional design specialist, showed how his department uses existing gaming and application (app) technology to create virtual training environments. The apps enable students to enhance their training in a variety of subjects from their mobile and wireless devices. They also design and create interactive training disks that can be used on the Xbox 360, Play Station 3 and other gaming consoles to simulate real-world missions.

Finishing her tour of the "Home of Sustainment," Gerton viewed the Allied Trades Course, which instructs Soldiers in welding and machining skills. Entry Level Welder credentials are offered to advanced individual training Soldiers at the completion of the course. The American Welding Society provides the criteria that a Soldier must accomplish to earn the certifications.

The credentials help Soldiers keep pace with their civilian business counterparts, and is also part of their continuing education while in the Army. The training keeps Soldiers up-to-date on the latest industry standards and provides self-paced development of job-ready skills as they transition to the private sector.

For the future, the Army's partnership will expand to include the Department of Labor's Office of Apprenticeship and Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration. Together with the Army, they are working with private rail employers to train and certify newly transitioning Soldiers to replace the industry's aging workforce.