Session 3: Option of First Choice: Education Requirements for Success in the Military
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Session 3: Option of First Choice: Education Requirements for Success in the Military


Mr. Willcox: Good afternoon, and welcome to
the Virginia Department of Education, Office of Career and Technical Education Professional
Development series. Today’s focus will feature the Military Science courses offered in the
Commonwealth of Virginia and the ASVAB exam. I am George Willcox, Coordinator for the Office
of Career and Technical Education. Joining me today is Mr. Aaron Hall who is here to
provide information that will be helpful to CTE directors and to school guidance counselors
pertaining to opportunities for students to enlist in the various branches of the military.
Mr. Hall, I noticed in the caption for today’s session that the term “Options of First Choice”
is used. Would you give us a little background on that catch phrase? Mr. Hall: Yes sir. So, I represent specifically
the Army, but for the Department of Defense as a whole, the Option of First Choice reference
is really the key terminology that we are using to recruit the nation’s finest, specifically
the Commonwealth of Virginia’s high-performing students. The technical requirements, the
educational requirements for promotion, and enlistment within the Army, have increased
at a rate that in order to stay competitive we have to recruit those that consider the
Army or the military their Option of First Choice, meaning high-performing students looking
for opportunities within the military. Mr. Willcox: Let me follow up on that with
two questions. The first would be what are the specific requirements to enlist in the
various branches, and also what type of score must students obtain in order to have a real
good opportunity in terms of career options and fields within the branches? Mr. Hall: The main educational identifier
or qualifier for anyone who wants to enlist in the military is the ASVAB test, and from
that ASVAB test, where they test, it is a vocational aptitude battery test. It is a
battery of tests that go in together and create an armed forces qualification score or AFQT.
Those scores for qualification, or the baseline for qualification, start at 31 and 32 for
the Army and the Marine Corps and go all the way up to a 50 for the Coast Guard. So, there
are different levels for qualifications, and again, that is just the minimum qualification
that a student would have to achieve on the armed forces, on the ASVAB, in order to enlist.
Once they get in and take the ASVAB, there different line scores that are associated
with their academic prowess that will identify certain positions within that branch of service
that they qualify for, so even though that branch may have a 31, like it is in our case
with the Army for initial entry, a lot of MOSs (Military Occupational Specialty) require
much higher line scores in order to open up all the opportunities for that student. Mr. Willcox: What are some of the higher scores
that a student would have to earn in order to take advantage of the different programs? Mr. Hall: So, within the Army most MOSs will
have their different requirements for each MOS. Generally speaking, a 110 GT score which
for the normal applicant the 110 GT score is not out of reach. For instance, our ranger
contracts currently require a 110 GT score. That shows that person has the ability to
learn and to react quickly and become a leader within our service. So those scores are required
in order to pursue those particular careers. Mr. Willcox: What type of educational programs
do branches of the military offer? Mr. Hall: The department of defense has recognized
that within our nation our priority is to have students stay in school. They must graduate
in order for them to be competitive for a military career, so we have developed certain
programs that encourage participation and continuation of their education at the secondary
level. Some things that we have incorporated into our secondary schools within the commonwealth
is the March to Success program. It is also available at marchtosuccess.com. And that
is for students who are looking to increase their standardized test scores, whether that
be the SOL offered through the Virginia Department of Education or the standardized tests, which
the ASVAB is since 1968 is the most commonly used standardized test in the nation. The
March to Success program is built toward helping those students increase their scores and open
up opportunities for them, whether that be directly after high school going in the workforce,
going into technical college, community college, four year college, or trying to go into the
military. The higher they can score the more opportunities that are open for them. The
March to Success program specifically can be done individually. There is no enlistment
requirements if you use this program. It can be individually used, an educator can set
up a classroom presentation where he or she monitors up to 20 students going through it
one time. They can assign coursework, they can assign practice tests, and they can monitor
that student’s progress and assign additional course load as they see fit. It is really
a supplement to the classroom environment for that educator, and it also increases scores
on standardized testing and opens up opportunities for students. Mr. Willcox: What are the procedures for the
release of those students’ scores? Mr. Hall: Within the Commonwealth of Virginia
we have options 1 through 8 for the ASVAB test. They are open to each individual school,
and it is really up to that school administrator, to the principal, guidance counselor, and
even open to the district level to make that decision on how those results are released
to the Department of Defense. Option 1 is the quickest release of those results, so
it is within seven days of testing those results will be released to the school and also to
the Department of Defense for recruiting purposes. All the way down to option 8 where those results
are never released to the Department of Defense, and that can be used as a tool for the school
to supplement their guidance program, to assess their student’s ability on standardized tests,
and to compare them across the nation, so each time that a student takes the ASVAB they
are compared to their peer group across the nation. If an 11th grade female takes the
test, she is compared against 11th grade females across the nation. It gives a little bit broader
perspective. A lot of times we see standardized tests that are really concentrating on one
geographical area. This allows the state of Virginia and that district within the Commonwealth
of Virginia to compare their students on a national basis. Mr. Willcox: If a student enlists in the military,
share with us some of the options that they have in terms of basic training based on their
MOS. Mr. Hall: When students make the decision
to serve in the military, they will, based off their qualification scores, that AFQT
that we talked about earlier, they will qualify for different military occupation specialties,
and whichever option is open to them and they choose, that will determine where they go
for basic combat training. If an applicant chooses something in the human resources or
on the personnel side, they would likely go to basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina,
continue their basic training at AIT, which is Advanced Individual Training where they
learn that specialty at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Then from there, roughly eighteen
weeks of training, from there go to their first unit of assignment. If it is in the
reserved component, that student will now come back into the Commonwealth of Virginia
with that extra training and job skill and come back into the Commonwealth of Virginia
immediately and serve in their reserve component one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.
If they decided to do active duty, they will go across the nation to different posts according
to their service. Mr. Willcox: Within the Career and Technical
Education program we focus highly on career clusters, 16 career clusters and 79 pathways.
How would military programs correlate to that, and how might a student select their occupational
choice within those 16 clusters in a military environment? Mr. Hall: Just like within the state of Virginia
for guiding all the guidance counselors that I’ve met over the past three years as I’ve
been talking about Army education programs, the goal really is early identification of
the career cluster of choice for that student. For us in the military, it is the same as
it would be for a student who is looking for a degree pathway or a career pathway when
they separate from high school. We are looking for what indicators does that student present
that would make them successful or have good passion for that career that they have chosen.
Within that we developed a subset for the ASVAB, so anyone in the Commonwealth who takes
the ASVAB test, it also opens up the Career Exploration Program for them, not unlike the
Virginia Wizard; its focus is not on the federal 16 career clusters that the federal government
has outlined. That student, once they take the ASVAB, you take their academic assessment,
and they now go onto a website that can be either individually directed by that educator
in the school or also led by someone like myself, as Education Service Specialist, or
one of the recruiters from any of the services across the state to walk that student through
a Career Exploration Program. The lead, the first step in that is to find your interest
inventory, and that find your interest inventories based off the Holland theory of six career
pathways for that student whether they are realistic enterprises, conventional, artistic,
investigative. Those six ideal codes develop through that student self-assessment and can
guide them into those career clusters, so now they are not just loosely associating
what they would like to do with one of those 16 career clusters. They are now able to select
individual career clusters and then jobs within that career cluster based off their interest
inventory. As long as they do a good honest self-assessment, the codes that will come
out of there will be one of those six, will be their leading code, to say that they would
have the most career satisfaction in that career cluster, and they can actually further
explore that. So, within the Career Exploration Program,
once they have decided what that career cluster is that they would like to focus on or two
career clusters they would like to focus on, they can further drill down using Department
of Labor Statistics to find out what jobs are of interest to them. If they go into the
healthcare profession, nurse practitioner is what they would like to do, it will also
help them to drill down and say okay, the Department of Labor is saying this job is
on the rise. They have had a 9 percent increase in positions available across the nation for
that position, so that is, you know, a good valid growing career field for them to go
into, and it will also help them explore what educational requirements they will have to
do in order to meet that goal. Our goal, just like all the guidance counselors in the commonwealth,
is to identify that early. The earlier we can identify that, the earlier we can guide
their academic pathway into being successful in that career pathway. Additionally, at the
end of the Career Exploration Program, once they have found those careers that they are
interested in, there is a link at the bottom that will guide them into military occupation
specialties (MOS) that correlate with that career field. Just like in the civilian side,
we have a nursing program within the army. If nurse practitioner would be one of those
goals that they have associated, we can guide them into a military career that may correlate
with that goal. If they would like to they could explore within the military. If not,
then it is not a big deal. They have dug into that 16 career pathways, and they can take
that assessment back into their guidance counselor, so that way they are not really starting from
zero. We all know that guidance counselors across the state are, you know, that their
time is very precious with the students that they have within their schools. Sometimes
they may have a lot of time to spend with some, sometimes they may not have as much
time as they would like. This is a way for us to supplement that guidance program to
make sure the students are making good career choices using an Army education program, the
Career Exploration. Mr. Willcox: Let me circle back around to
the AFTQ score 31 for the Army. How important is that score to being able to enlist in the
military? What if the student doesn’t earn a 31? Mr. Hall: There are a couple options for a student who doesn’t earn 31, and again, it
is very important that that student does achieve a 31. The goal would be to get as high as
possible on that scale; the higher that that student scores, the more jobs and opportunities
that are open to them. That 31 is the baseline score, but if someone does fail to achieve
that on their first exam, whether it be in the school or with a recruiter that they take
the ASVAB, they can retest at the 30 day mark to try to increase that score, and they can
also use the March to Success Program to try to increase that score above the 31, and again
that March to Success Program is a self-guided, self-initiated study, but then it could also
be guided and directed by an educator, recruiter in the area, or and education service specialist
like myself. Mr. Willcox: Okay, talk a little bit about,
we focused here largely on the Army, but talk about some of the other military branches
and specific requirements that they have. As we look, for example, at the Coast Guard
that has a minimum score of 40. If a person, for example, makes a 50, what would be the
difference in the options that student would have based on making a 40 and based on making
a 50? Mr. Hall: So, I think I misspoke earlier when
I said that the minimum cutoff for Coast Guard was a 50, and you are correct. It is a 40
for them currently. So, the difference being between those career opportunities that are
available really digs into and kind of links into STEM, science, technology, engineering
and math. So a lot of those jobs that require a high arithmetic ability, reading comprehension,
paragraph comprehension, science and technology, those MOSs that do require a level of applicant
that can comprehend quickly, learn quickly, and is most likely to complete that contract.
That score goes up for each one of those individual criteria. So, what we are looking for, what
you would see as far as job opportunities opening, you would see a lot of those STEM
opportunities opening up to applicants, a lot of your more technical and your more academically
rigorous job specialties would open up. And those also, you know, not surprisingly, those
job options actually correlate better into civilian careers as well after military service,
so any of our engineering jobs. I mean it is the same with each branch of service, whether
that be flight engineer for the Airforce, pilot, any kind of power plant maintenance,
so that working on turbine engines for the Airforce and the Army, those jobs that would
be opened up if you scored higher have a better civilian correlation on the backside of the
contract as well. Mr. Willcox: The military has been an all-volunteer
army, we’ll say, since the early seventies. How have the numbers maintained themselves
in terms of enlistment, quality of enlistees, and whether those enlistment numbers have
fluctuated in any given period or any combat situation? Mr. Hall: We are currently in a period of
right-sizing the army. And by right-sizing that means the size of the army for the army
should be directly correlated to its need. We have also went through an expansive or
extensive network of making an operational reserve component as well. So that way the
reserve component is ready to be operational at any point in time. We are currently in
a period that we are down-trending on the size of the army, and that is partly due to
just the MOS, or the Military Occupational Specialties that are available. And then also
just the requirement of soldiers, the official amount of soldiers that we need. For us, as
far as the recruiting battalion, those numbers will stay pretty steady. For us, as far as
the amount of people we have to initially get into the military, it may be on the other
end, where the longer you serve, the more competitive it becomes to remain in the service,
towards retirement or towards career progression, so that’s really where you would see the change
in the size of the army. For us the initial enlistment portion will remain pretty steady.
We saw some periods of increase in 2007-2008 where we were required during the surge to
have more general enlistments. That will come and go with the times. But the big thing right
now that we’re seeing is each of those military occupational specialties, the technology that
these soldiers will be dealing with, the level of education that is required for both promotion
and for just continuity of service has gone up, and so the quality of applicant has gone
up as well. Nationally we see only about three out of ten military aged males, 17 to 24,
fully qualify for military service, which is a little bit concerning. It could be health
and fitness issues, whether they be overweight and just can’t pass the physical assessment,
moral convictions, so if they have something in their background that would keep them from
service. All of our aviation mechanic positions require that there’s no history of alcohol
or drug abuse. So those are some of the disqualifiers that we see that brings that number down to
around three of ten are fully qualified to enlist in the Army, so really the competitiveness
to get into the military service, and that is why we termed this brief actually the Option
of First Choice. In order for an applicant to be fully eligible this really has to be
their first choice of what they want to do with their life, whether that be right after
high school or after college and going into the career field. Mr. Willcox: Once you enlist, are there any
requirements in terms of continuing education? Mr. Hall: There are. So within their military
occupation specialty, they are going to continue their career or their education automatically.
So as you progress in rank, there’s ALC or WLC, which is Warrior Leaders Course and Advanced
Leaders Course, and Senior Leaders Course, within that specialty where they are automatically
going to be going through an advanced education program. In order to remain competitive for
promotion as well, you have to continue your civilian education. I would say roughly 80
percent of our enlisted force are pursuing a degree of some sort whether being associate
or bachelor’s degree. In order to be an officer, the current requirement is a bachelor’s degree
from an accredited university. We have about 98 percent of our officers are qualified at
this point. Those that are not are either through the OCS programs who are working towards
degree completion or an early commissioning from one of the military schools. So, education
is the backbone of success within the military. We also, for those who were just enlisting
straight out of high school or actually coming off any gap in education, whether that be
a19-year-old that graduated 2 years ago or a year ago from high school and comes into
our office, we have the ConAP program which is called Concurrent Admissions Program, where
at the time of enlistment we are working with that applicant to apply to a college as well.
We have over 300 participating colleges across the nation that will assist that soldier or
that applicant in applying to their university to continue their education simultaneously
of enlistment within the Army. So, education is really the driving force for success in
the military, and it is almost a requirement to get promoted and to remain competitive
against your peer group. Mr. Willcox: One of the questions that quite
often comes to our office from local school divisions deals with the requirement for earning
a standard diploma and using the ASVAB to satisfy that requirement. And that is one
of the reasons that brought us together, in that in order to use the ASVAB to satisfy
the standard diploma, the student must also complete one of the military science programs
that are in the CTE manual. And when we explain that, we get the question, “Well, they can
just take the ASVAB and go straight into the military?” Does that run afoul to your theme
here of Optional First Choice? It tends to make me think that the military is not really
after students anymore that are just going to take the ASVAB without demonstrating other
academic and technical competence. Mr. Hall: I do not think it runs afoul to
it. I think it probably runs parallel to those and most of those students who are pursuing
a CTE stamp for their diploma are those people who are looking to make themselves career-ready,
which in reality the state, or the Commonwealth of Virginia, and with the military, all branches
of the Department of Defense, having someone who is career-ready as soon as they graduate
from high school is really key. So that, I do not think it runs afoul to it, but I do
think it runs parallel in the fact that the goal is to maximize career readiness as soon
as they exit from that secondary institution, whether that be they are ready to pursue a
career or to go into their post-secondary education, whether that be technical, community
college, or a 4-year institution. And really, I think it complements, you know, those goals
within the CTE program. It is great that within the state of Virginia, which is not common
across the nation, that we are able to certify a standard diploma and the CTE pathway would
be ASVAB. I think it validates the test, and I think it also expresses the rigors that
are required in order to be eligible to enlist in the military. Mr. Willcox: Wonderful. Could school divisions,
school counselors, or other personnel contact you directly if they have questions? Mr. Hall: Yes, sir. And that is really my
focus. I cover the majority of Virginia, and I do have the points of contact for those
up in Northern Virginia that I do not personally cover, and any also across the border into
West Virginia. I welcome people to contact me directly. It is really my job, so my focus
within my position as an Education Service Specialist is really to communicate with civilian
educators how they can use federal education programs, specifically Department of Defense,
ASVAB, Career Exploration, March to Success, the Concurrent Admissions Program, all those,
to fully integrate them into their guidance program and into their administrative platform
and able to use federal dollars, save local district and state dollars so that they can
be used in different ways and functions. We have so many federal programs that are available
that often go either not used or not used to their full potential, and that is really
my job, so I welcome any kind of direct contact or anyone who would reach out to me. Mr. Willcox: Great. We will show on the screen
your contact information, phone number, and email address. We have covered and array of
topics in this short period of time. Are there any closing comments that you would want to
reinforce or anything that we did not discuss that would be important to know? Mr. Hall: I think the biggest thing is that
we want to encourage administrators, guidance counselors, teachers to just fully consider
federal service as an option for the students. A lot of times we know military service is
not listed on one of the 16 career clusters even though within military service all 16
career clusters are covered. We want, the perception has to be that this is an Option
of First Choice for high-performing students. The eligibility requirements, the character
that is required, the physical fitness that is required, really limits us to around 30
percent of the population, so that is really the emphasis that I would like to express
is to help us fully ingrain the requirements that are already set for military service,
and the honor, the education, and the opportunities that are available to those that make that
commitment to the United States. Mr. Willcox: Wonderful. It has been a pleasure
to meet you, and we appreciate the partnership and assistance that you are providing our
office in terms of ensuring that we are providing local school divisions accurate and up-to-date,
current information about options to enlist in the various branches. Mr. Hall: Yes, sir. Thank you for the opportunity. Mr. Willcox: Thank you very much. We hope
that this program has been a benefit to CTE directors and also to school counselors. We
would ask that you take a couple of minutes to complete the evaluation of this program.
We utilize that information to continuously improve the type of professional development
that is offered throughout the year. Again, thank you for participating in today’s session,
and we wish you a very productive 2016-17 school year.

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