ARLINGTON, Va. -- Beginning in January, Army National Guard Soldiers will be eligible to take part in an Army-wide program allowing them to obtain civilian, industry-specific credentials and certifications.Through the Credentialing Assistance Program, Soldiers can receive additional training or take exams to earn credentials such as Lean Six Sigma, certified logistics technician and a commercial driver license as well as certifications in more than 1,600 other programs.Army Guard members stand to benefit tremendously from the program, said Kenneth Hardy, chief of the Army National Guard's education branch."We are embedded in the community [with] two-thirds of our force working in civilian occupations," he said, referring to traditional Army Guard members.Having those credentials, he added, can mean the difference for Soldiers when trying to advance their civilian careers."It can be that distinguisher when you are going for a job application or promotion, [or] competing next to other candidates," Hardy said.The program can be just as valuable for full-time Army Guard members who may be nearing retirement, he said."It preps the Soldiers for civilian life by making those skills recognizable on the civilian side when they transition," Hardy said. However, Soldiers can only pursue credentials that reflect their rank and military education, he said.For example, Army Guard members who complete courses such as the Advanced Leaders Course or the Captains Career Course have different options in selecting credentialing programs than junior members.Regardless of rank, Soldiers are able to pursue programs outside their military jobs -- a feature that is especially beneficial for those whose military job doesn't have a civilian equivalent."There is simply not a credentialed system for those who cock a cannon," said Hardy.The program can also benefit Soldiers who may wish to transition to a new military career field."[This program] opens it up for Soldiers to have lots of opportunities while they are serving, and lots of opportunities when they get out," said Hardy.Hardy said Army Guard members should be mindful of funding limitations when taking on credentialing programs.Soldiers can use both tuition and credentialing assistance concurrently as long as they don't exceed a $4,000 cap per fiscal year. There are other limitations as well."Tuition assistance pays for tuition only," he said. [Credentialing assistance] pays for tuition fees, books, supplies, and tests -- everything associated with getting that credential," he said.Hardy added that even for Guard members who have a college degree, a credentialed designation next to their name can help them achieve greater success."With credentials, it's a little bit of a game-changer," he said. "[When] you put initials next to your name, you show who you are, what you know and what you can bring to the table."Soldiers interested in the program should contact their local education service office to schedule a credential assistance counseling session.