SALINA, Kan. — Active-duty, Reserve and National Guard Soldiers who take military occupational specialty conversion courses at the Kansas Army National Guard Regional Training Site for Maintenance now can walk away with more than a new MOS.
Students who enroll in the Synchronous Training for Academic Credit program and meet all requirements will be well on their way toward earning an Associate of Applied Science degree from Salina Area Technical College.
The program is in place for Soldiers getting the 91E Allied Trade Specialist MOS, which focuses on welding, machining and working with metal products. The RTS-M and Salina Area Technical College also recently expanded the college credit program to their other MOS course, 91C Utilities Equipment Repair, which focuses on heating and air conditioning systems.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brent Campbell, the officer in charge at the RTS-M, explained that through the partnership, Soldiers are able to enroll in college-level classes while they attend the roughly six-week MOS courses.
“Essentially what we’re looking at is equivalency for what we train here to what students who attend their courses go through,” Campbell said. “It’s becoming very popular as Soldiers are figuring out that it’s a great opportunity and it provides them credentialing and civilian credit. So it benefits them not just for promotion, but it also provides them a skill set later on in life should they look to use it in the civilian world.”
Greg Nichols, president of Salina Area Technical College, said the partnership between SATC and the KSARNG began several years ago when the college wanted to host a Veterans Day ceremony and asked the RTS-M to participate.
“We got to chatting about what the RTS-M does here in Salina and what we do,” Nichols said, explaining how they came to realize the similarities in the two organizations. “So we set up a meeting and said, ‘You guys are doing pretty much everything we’re doing. Why would we not want Soldiers to get credit for that when they are doing everything our students are doing?’”
Nichols said the 91E MOS emerged as the best way to try to grow the program and the partnership. “It was a brilliant, simple idea,” Nichols said.
As part of the partnership, SATC provides instructors who are certified inspectors to evaluate the work Soldiers complete in the 91E class.
Deloss Dulohery, a machine tool technology instructor, ensures that the Soldiers meet the same industry standards required of their civilian student counterparts.
“I typically look for proper procedures, if things are being done safely if things are being done to print, manufacturing principles are in place,” Dulohery said. “In my area, we’re looking at really, really small tolerances - smaller than a human hair. We have to go through with some fairly special tools and equipment to make sure that parts are being manufactured to print and that they would pass quality control standards.”
Campbell said the partnership has been mutually beneficial.
“We learn from them, and they learn from us as well,” Campbell said. “The administration has been tremendous. They’ve been willing to look at what our programs of instruction offer and how we train, and then find the equivalency to apply that to their college.”
Sgt. Autumn Cash — 91E Advanced Leaders Course student from the Maine Army National Guard — said it was easy to enroll in the STAC program, which she did before arriving in Salina for the 91E course.
“I reached out to the HR person and she sent me all the information I needed about what the classes would look like,” said Cash. “A lot of them crossed over with what we’re learning here. We’ll send our test pieces we create here back to the college to get graded, and if you pass, you’ll get credit for the college courses. So leaving here, I should have to take one more class and I’ll get my associate degree."
Eric Vannoy, a lead welding instructor at Salina Area Technical College, said having the experience and the degree can open a lot of doors for the Soldiers.
“You could get any type of welding and go coast to coast with it,” Vannoy said. “I don’t know how many thousand welding jobs are sitting there waiting to be filled by somebody. And that’s true with just about any state.”
“Having any education is great,” Dulohery said. “But skills run the economy; production runs the economy. Those jobs pay well, and they are rewarding. There’s a 30-year skills gap that needs to be filled. There’s more than enough jobs to be had, and they’re good jobs.”
For more information on the Synchronous Training for Academic Credit program, watch this video on the Kansas Army National Guard's Facebook page.