By Alexandra SheaNovember 7, 2019
Fort Jackson, the Army's largest Basic Combat Training center, transforms roughly 60,000 civilians into Soldiers annually. This can mean a lot of paperwork for both trainees and the staff of the 120th Adjutant General Battalion, also known as the Reception Battalion, who process everything needed to ensure a trainee's pay, benefits, life insurance and personal records are in order.
"We handle all the human resources onboarding for all newly assessed trainees who are arriving for basic training," said Mike McMaster, chief of the 120th AG Battalion personnel branch.
From the time a potential Soldier talks to an Army recruiter, paperwork is started to document contact information; any testing scores or college transcripts; interviews and the contract a potential Soldiers signs to enlist in the Army. Most of these records are paper and transported with the trainee to Fort Jackson as they begin BCT. The process currently in place has the potential for paperwork to be lost or damaged and could prevent the timely pay and start of benefits for trainees.
However, McMaster and representatives from other BCT sites, along with the National Guard, Cadet Command and Training and Doctrine Command, are working to change the current process into a completely digital one through the use of the Ascensions Information Environment and the accompanying program, Integrated Pay and Personnel System-Army. McMaster said there are 42 separate programs in use today to manage the human resource needs of trainees and Soldiers. Once the programs go live, they will replace those 42 programs with only two. This will save time and money for human resource specialists and prevent the loss or damage of paperwork for Soldiers and trainees.
AIE will handle all trainee needs while IPPS-A will handle all Soldiers needs from the time they leave reception until they leave service or retire.
"The two programs are currently being designed and at a future point in time they will interface," McMaster said. "Within the next five years, everything we've known about how we manage our careers, how we handle life insurance and assignments will be changed. It's a modernization of our human resources processesWork on the project began in March. Once all representatives were identified, they gathered to discuss how the new program will look and perform.
The Cloud-based programs will also offer users the ease of accessing their information from a smart phone, computer or tablets from any location and offers heightened security to prevent the theft of a Soldier or trainee's sensitive information such as a social security number and date of birth.
"(Soldiers) will have access to all of their information," McMaster said of the potential benefits of the new programs. "They will know exactly what information the Army has gathered on them and have the ability to modify and add documents."
For human resource specialists who will use the systems daily, they will be able to use the systems wirelessly. McMaster said this will provide opportunities to gather a trainee's information and process the information with a table or small laptop. This will allow specialists to onboard a trainee standing in line for another onboarding activity such as uniform issue or vaccination clinics.
"The future is mind blowing," McMaster said. "The capabilities that AIE will bring to the table are absolutely mind blowing."
A live version of the AIE system is scheduled to make its debut in February 2020. McMaster and the design teams will have an opportunity to use and test the program and identify any additional changes needed with the program engineers before it is released Army-wide.