FORT MEADE, Md. –- Soldiers can now access up to $4,000 in assistance each year to voluntary pursue industry-recognized credentials through the new Army Credentialing Assistance Program.Championed by Army senior leaders, the program focuses on readiness and retention by providing the total force with improved credentialing opportunities, said Col. Chuck Rambo, director of Army Credentialing and Continuing Education Services for Soldiers (ACCESS) at Army University.Back in 2015, the Army credentialing program only authorized Soldiers to receive certifications through MOS specific requirements, or through professional military education, officials said. Army leaders sought to eliminate that requirement. It led to a one-year user test in Texas and Tennessee in 2018, which later evolved into the new credentialing process."Active-duty, Guard and Reserve Soldiers can now secure a competitive advantage -- on and off the battlefield," Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston said about the program.Soldiers have access to more than 1,600 approved credentials through the Army Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, or COOL, website, Rambo said. Through the site, users can discover a wide range of certifications by entering their MOS into the site.The website's unique filters organize each query. Some of these filters include:If a credential is mandatory for a specific MOSThe level of demand for each credentialIf promotion points are tied to a given credentialThe skill level necessary to obtain a given certificationHow easy it is to obtain a specific credentialThrough credentialing assistance, Soldiers in specific career fields can remain competitive with their civilian counterparts. Soldiers who obtain essential qualifications will increase their employability when they transition out of the force, Rambo said.Individuals who are interested in credentialing assistance should start by contacting their local education center, Rambo said. From there, they can then access the Army COOL site and start applying online. In total, 1,400 Soldiers have submitted a certification assistance request, which includes 1,200 active-duty, 150 National Guard, and 50 Reserve Soldiers.Some of the top requested credentials include a private pilot's license for single-engine aircraft, security and personal trainer certifications, and accreditations through the United States Parachute Association, he said."This is a self-development program, and credentials do not need to be aligned to the Soldier's MOS. Credentialing proves to the civilian workforce our Soldiers for life are 'career ready,' Grinston said.“Credentialing assistance is one of many ways our Army continues to invest in our greatest strength -- our people," he added.Related linksArmy.mil: Worldwide NewsArmy News ServiceARNEWS ArchiveArmy Credentialing Opportunities On-LineArmy.mil: Talent