Soldiers who plan to continue their education in search of a college degree now have an additional asset. Fayetteville Technical Community College announced recently that experience received in certain military occupational specialties are now awarded up to 65 credit hours.

According to officials at the school, it was important that the program was offered to Soldiers, as FTCC and Fort Bragg have a long history together.

“Fayetteville Tech has been on Fort Bragg since the early 70s. We began with some early continuing education classes and, in about 1974, we expanded to our curriculum program and through the ensuing period, we understood that there was always an inherent educational piece that Soldiers go through in their normal military training,” explained Richard Rice, associate vice president for military programs at FTCC. “Now there is a lot of just pure training, but we understand that Soldiers are comprised of three things: their training, their experience and their education. For today’s Soldiers, the training that they go through, is probably the best in the world.

“They are the best trained Soldiers that we’ve seen in any number of years. They’re experienced through combat rotations, training exercises and other things that they go through. But for the most part, they’re an undereducated Army and education brings the last piece to what we call a warrior ethos,” Rice added.

He said officials at the school decided in 2010 that it was time to consider the possible educational outcomes within that military training process that was creditworthy for Soldiers pursuing a degree program at FTCC.

Rice said initially, the school partnered with the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School to create a pilot program to determine what educational qualities existed in the courses that were being taught at the special warfare school on post.

Rice said military occupational specialties that were involved in the pilot program were the 18 series (Special Forces) and the 37 series (military support operations) and the 38 series (civil affairs).

“We took their program of instruction at the SWCS, looked at it, broke it down and gave it to our academic departments. Under the auspices of the Servicemembers’ Opportunity College and the American Council on Education, the primary national organizations that oversee education, we determined that in those course of instructions, we could award 48 credit hours on a 65-hour degree,” Rice said.

He explained that by awarding the 48 credit hours, it leaves Soldiers with only 17 credit hours to earn their two year degree, which can then be applied towards their bachelor degree at a four-year college.

“Based on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools requirement, which is our accrediting agency, you can only transfer 75 percent of a degree program,” he continued. “That’s the 48 hours. So the Soldiers need to complete 17 hours with us to complete an associate’s degree that is transferable to multiple institutions on four-year programs.”

He said officials at FTCC do not want Soldiers to get the idea that the associate’s degree that they get from FTCC is a terminal degree, meaning it is non-transferable and only counts for two-years of study.

“It is merely a stepping stone towards multiple degrees for the Soldier, maybe bachelor’s or master’s degrees and perhaps, a PhD,” Rice said. “So we determined that it was important for us to look at what Soldiers received in their training and educational opportunities, to award that to them and give them that kick start for moving on to a bachelors degree program.”

Rice said that in the two years the program has been offered to the SWCS program, they have seen about 2,500 Soldiers go through the program. He said he expects an increase now that it is offered to more MOSs.

“We’ve always worked with individual Soldiers as best we could, but we’ve just started these new programs  to formalize what we knew existed out there and we used that model that we built at the Special Warfare Center and School to go back over the last couple of months and start looking at all the other MOSs, particularly those high-density MOSs, and we’ll work with any Soldier out there in any MOS in getting them as much credit as we can,” he said.

Rice said the Soldiers are deserving of a program that provides a service to them.

“We think they deserve it. They do a lot of hard training and when they leave the Army, whether it be after a four-year stint or after they stay a career in the Army,” he pointed out. “Then they need to move on to something else and (we hope to) give them that education that will take them further.”

Rice said FTCC hopes to include all MOSs into the program.

“I’m with this program 100 percent,” said  Charles McMillan, a former staff sergeant and current student at the school. “I think Soldiers need a program like this. It makes them a more well-rounded person. It gives them more marketable skills as they transition from military to civilian life.”

McMillan said it’s important that the leadership stand behind Soldiers who participate in the program, which currently encompasses 13 of the MOSs found at Fort Bragg. Included MOSs are: Career management fields 11 (Infantry); 13 (Field Artillery); 25 (Communications); 31 (Military Police); 35 (Intelligence); 42 (Human Resources); 91 (Mechanical Maintenance) and 92 (Supply and Services).

Others being assessed include CMFs 14 (Patriot); 21B (Engineer); 68 (Health Care specialist); 88 (Motor Transport operator); 92Y (Unit supply specialist) and 92G (Food Service specialist).

For more information about the program, contact Fayetteville Technical Community College at 678-8400 or the Fort Bragg campus at 678-1050/1053.