FORT BENNING, Ga., (Jan. 13, 2016) -- The Ordnance Training Detachment, or OTD, with 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, is leading an initiative to provide Soldiers with more college-level education early on in their military careers.

"We are trying to expedite their career opportunities," said Rodney Maupin, OTD director.

The OTD has partnered with the Columbus Technical College, or CTC, to provide quality, higher education to cadre and Soldiers, said Capt. Tomika Robinson, OTD commander. The partnership is nested with the Army Learning Concept 2015 and supports the 21st Soldier Competencies, she said.

The college will conduct a six-week English class twice a week for cadre and for advanced individual training, or AIT, Soldiers twice a week starting Jan. 26.

The initiative was born from the fact that AIT Soldiers earn a total of 18 college credit hours from the American Council on Education once they complete AIT. Maupin said the OTD will use that partnership with CTC to fulfill the Soldiers' general education requirements. For those Soldiers to receive an associate degree of science and applied technology, all they have to take is five classes from CTC and OTD will provide them with the rest.

"We are looking to provide 20-level training that is going to provide [the Soldier] with professional credentialing - a degree," Maupin said.

The 20-level training pertains to military occupational specialty, or MOS-specific training within the Army.

The Soldier will benefit because they won't be constrained by the traditional semester and quarter constraints, Maupin said, which can be interrupted by deployments or other training. The benefit for the Army is that the Soldiers are being trained on things that are going to make them better at their military occupational specialty, such as industrial safety and electronics.

"It mirrors the requirements for a technical degree," Maupin said.

For the partnership, a college professor will assist with lifelong learning, oral and written communication enhancement, and critical thinking and problem solving skills.

"Traditionally, in the past, all we did was give them technical training and tactical training," Maupin said. "We are looking, now, to develop our training to embrace all 21st century Soldier competencies."

One of the 21st century Soldier competencies is communication, written and oral.

The partnership with CTC is one of the first initiatives toward developing well-rounded Soldiers, who are capable of operating in a complex world, Robinson said.

Maupin said through this initiative, the OTD could plant the seed for lifelong learning.

The classes will be delivered online, through Blackboard. Maupin said the vast majority of the testing would be in written essay format rather than multiple choice.

"We're looking at refining our approach to training so that we are more successful at developing [Soldiers'] critical thinking skills," Maupin said. "We are looking at holistic development of the Soldiers' capabilities and competencies."