FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- For many, education is the cornerstone to being successful in any career, and that's why the Fort Rucker Education Center provides the flexibility necessary for those in Army life.

"We offer training and education, and we have colleges and universities that are contracted with us to offer classes and courses to try to meet all the needs of the community here," said Randy McNally, education center supervisory education specialist. "We want to move people forward, hopefully as early as possible in their military career. Regardless of when they plan on getting out, they need to start today."

McNally said the Army Continuing Education System is designed to help Soldiers and spouses find the best quality schools and programs that fit their needs by providing a means to meet their educational goals.

The center offers online classes, as well as face-to-face classes, which McNally said can benefit some students when it comes to the learning process.

"I'm a big pusher of face-to-face classes," he said. "The idea of people doing classes online is great … and sometimes online can be easier, but if you have the support of that direct instructor there working with you, some people prefer that and it makes it easier for them to learn.

"It takes a lot of self-discipline to do online classes, and for many, there is always an excuse as to why you can't, a lot of Soldiers end up paying a lot of money back," said the education specialist, adding that Soldiers can't simply withdraw from classes without just cause. If a Soldier withdraws without a military-approved reason, that Soldier must repay the cause of the class.

"We have double the amount of face-to-face classes now on Fort Rucker than before," said McNally. "Not everyone can travel (for classes), so those are things we are working with different institutions to try and facilitate more face-to-face experiences here for those that want it."

In addition to providing classes and link ups with different educational institutions, the center provides various programs, including Fast Classes, which are three-week courses that assist Soldiers in raising their general technical degree scores, as well as provides in-service ASVAB testing, which also helps increase GT scores, said the education specialist. There is also a general education program held Tuesdays and Thursdays that runs continuously.

The center is set up to provide both academic and vocational opportunities, which include many technical schools, as well, said McNally.

"One of the new programs that we have at the education center is we have Global School of Aeronautics coming in, and they offer Airframe & Powerplant certification training here that can be set up," he said. "It's required in a lot of (military occupational specialties), and it opens up Soldiers to a lot of job opportunities in the civilian world."

Making sure those in the Fort Rucker community are aware of what the center provides is important, said the education specialist, and people will have the opportunity to see what the education center has to offer with its Spring Fling April 26.

The education fair will feature more than 20 educational institutions that will provide people with information on programs they offer, said McNally.

"Education fairs are just a chance for community members to come out and talk to other institutions that are here to find out what they may offer them," he said.

During last year's education fair, then-Sgt. Toni Green, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, was able to peruse various colleges and institutions to find the right fit in the pursuit of her master's degree.

"I'm just looking to find a program that I can get into that's online that is military friendly because this helps you to go higher in rank faster and quicker than your peers (who don't have a degree)," she said during the fair. "That's not to say that you can't make rank without an education, but it just sets you apart from everybody else -- this is helping me do that."

Being able to provide that ability to set oneself apart from others through education is exactly why the education center exists, said McNally.

"We want (the Soldiers) to go out there and go to school, and continuingly be here so we can support them through that long-term commitment," he said. "That's what one of the benefits of education is -- it's evidence that the individual can complete long-term commitment, and that's why we're here."