FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Oct. 28, 2010) -A,A The Army sees the state of education nationwide as an issue of national security and wants to participate with leaders in education to improve that quality, said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commanding general of Army Accessions Command.

Freakley spoke to members of national education organizations and business leaders at the third annual "Strong Students, Strong Futures, Strong Nation" conference to improve post-secondary outcomes for students. The conference took place Oct. 25-28 at the Lewis and Clark Center on Fort Leavenworth and a Kansas City hotel.

Freakley said the focus on high school graduates and college graduates' education wasn't simply because of recruiting goals, which have been met or exceeded in recent years. He told education professionals not familiar with the Army that each new recruit must have a high school diploma and be able to meet the physical, emotional and mental challenges of service.

"They need to be ready as possible to learn the skills required of a 21st century workforce - for the military is, after all, the largest employer of youth, 17-24, in the nation," Freakley said. "And if they meet these qualifications, we will invest tens of thousands of dollars in training and educating each of them. But fewer than three in 10 can qualify for military service because of lack of diploma, educational shortcomings, fitness issues or character issues - having a criminal record."

Brenda Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, said the first two conferences focused on basic training and how a civilian becomes a Soldier. This conference focuses on leadership, she said, and educators looked for what needs to be taught in the education systems to meet Army standards.

"State boards of education have the responsibilities of forming policies ... learning about issues we can apply to our policy initiatives is a big plus," she said.

Philip Dana, human resources manager for, was one of several business leaders at the conference there to find out more about the transition of Soldiers into the business world.

"I've always been part of employers that have great relationships with the Army," Dana said. "We're always looking for the best human capital in the world and we have a strategic plan to recruit people with military backgrounds."

Participants met in small group panels to learn about the educational expectations of Soldiers from students attending the Command and General Staff College. They also learned about Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, training leaders through gaming technology, Junior ROTC and other programs. Lt. Gen. David Huntoon, superintendent of the United States Military Academy, and Col. Barrye L. Price, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, spoke on "Educating Young Leaders in an Era of Persistent Conflict."