FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Counselors at Fort Leonard Wood’s Truman Education Center hosted information sessions this week on some of the programs available here, in celebration of American Education Week.
According to Channa Ringo, an education technician at the center and one of the organizers of the event, the four, 30-minute walk-in sessions — held between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and today in Bldg. 499 — offered answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions the education center staff are asked.
“Those are the questions we get quite frequently here in the center,” she said. “So, we felt they would make great topics to meet that demand.”
The four sessions covered the basics of using ArmyIgnitED, applying for federal student aid, the differences between the Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bills, and how to schedule a College Level Examination Program, or CLEP, test, and a DANTES Subject Standardized Test, or DSST. The sessions were repeated in an alternating order each day, Ringo said.
“We wanted to make sure there was a time slot for each session during the lunch period this week to accommodate all the service members and spouses who wanted to come in and attend,” she added.
Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Rudy, 14th Military Police Brigade, was one of the attendees at the Wednesday session on ArmyIgnitED, which replaced GoArmyEd earlier this year as the one-stop shop for 24/7 access to educational opportunities, support and guidance.
“I’m impressed with how they continually advance,” he said. “For me, I was in GoArmyEd, and I hadn’t taken college for a couple of years. I came back and there’s a whole new program. To have someone here to show me how to use it is really helpful.”
Rudy, who has been in the Army for 22 years, is looking to retire in the Fort Leonard Wood area soon and wants to finish his bachelor’s degree and possibly go on to complete a master’s degree.
“I’ve been working on this degree for about 20 years,” he said. “I’d like to finish something that I started. When I came in the Army, I had a GED (diploma) — school was very hard for me — but the Army paid for my associate degree. That was a big step for me, to actually have a college degree.”
One of the best things about the Army, Rudy said, is anyone can plug away a little here and there toward education goals when time permits.
“Yes, we have deployments and different requirements that take us away, but you can always start again where you left off,” he added.
On the opposite end of the career spectrum, Pfc. Alexis Gonzalez, 515th Sapper Company, has been in the Army just a little more than a year. He attended the ArmyIgnitED session Wednesday to begin his higher-education goal to one day become a construction manager in his hometown of Austin, Texas.
“I’ve thought about college for a while, but this is the first time I’ve taken action on it,” he said. “Everyone here has been really helpful. I know I can do my degree online and that it will work with my schedule.”
Richard Amponsah, one of four counselors at the center, said the Army has a lot of education benefits for its Soldiers.
“We have the tuition assistance, the GI Bill,” he said. “There’s no need for somebody to say they have no money to go to school. If there’s a need for school, there’s money to pay for it.”
In addition to an education in a traditional classroom setting, Amponsah said many service members also apply for what’s called credential assistance, which TA also covers.
“The Army understands that some people don’t want to go to school to get a degree,” he said. “Some want to go to trade schools. So, if you want to do (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) work, for example, the Army can pay for licenses, certifications.”
Amponsah added that if a service member wants to go to school — just about any kind of school — the education center is the best place to start.
“Most of the time, we have service members come in who say they don’t know what they want to do,” he said. “They want to pursue schooling, but they don’t know which degree to get. We can put them in general studies while they figure that out, and they can get their core classes out of the way.”
Beyond simply offering information on higher education and certifications, Amponsah said the center also offers other programs, including the Basic Skills Education Program. Commonly called BSEP, the three-week, half-day course offers Soldiers an opportunity to retest and boost the General Technical score on their Armed Forces Classification Test, which determines career paths in the Army.
A GT score of 110 is needed for enlisted Soldiers to “drop packets,” or submit applications, to be considered for Officer Candidate School. That score would also keep Soldiers eligible for most of the Army’s nearly 200 different military occupational specialties, if that individual wanted to reclassify.
“The positive for the Army is these Soldiers can now reclass, or maybe drop a packet for warrant officer school, for OCS,” Amponsah said. “Having a higher GT score opens doors.”
Amponsah said he and the other counselors always try to go above and beyond for their customers.
“When we don’t have the information they need, we reach out to find it,” he said. “It’s all about taking care of the service members, their families, veterans, retirees — they can all walk in here for information. If you’re part of the community, we’ll do our best to take care of you. They may not all get tuition assistance, but we like to help guide people to their education goals.”
Putting together the sessions this week was a collaborative effort from everyone at the education center, Ringo said.
“It’s a huge national week for all education centers, so we wanted to make sure that we are getting out the information our service members need,” she said. “I like to think of our center as your local resource to all of your education and credentialing goals. From the very beginning, through the entire process of selecting a degree program and finding out which schools would be most beneficial, our counselors are here to help.”
The education center is open to assist customers from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Ringo said colleges and universities with a physical presence at the education center include Columbia College, Park University, Drury University, Ozark Technical Community College, Webster University and Lincoln University. She added that the Missouri University of Science and Technology has a presence in the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence building.
Call 573.596.0172, or visit Bldg. 499, for more information on education benefits available here.