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The Army has introduced a computer-based training program aimed at teaching information technology to soldiers and other Defense Department employees.

The SkillSoft program — formerly known as MySmartForce — offers roughly 1,500 courses free of charge to active-duty soldiers, reservists, National Guardsmen, Department of the Army civilians and local nationals.

More than 60 of the courses can be completed for certification as a Microsoft certified systems engineer, or in such operating systems as Cisco or Oracle.

The certifications are the same as in the civilian job world, which may help a soldier pursue an information technology career once out of the Army. Users seeking certification must pay for the certification tests, but the Army may foot the bill in some cases.

“It’s the same test that anyone would take,” said Sgt. Maj. Daniel Hingtgen, U.S. Army Europe information technology program facilitator. “You’re going to have to study, just like you would if you were in a classroom environment.”

Training, without completing a full course, is also available for those who just want to brush up on programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel or Access.

Added bonuses, Hingtgen said, are that soldiers can earn college credits, and for every five hours of training they earn promotion points.

To register, users must have an Army Knowledge Online account, which can be obtained at https://www.us.army.mil/portal/portal_home.jhtml.

Once an AKO account is obtained, users can register for training at https://www.atrrs.army.mil/channels/eLearning/smartforce.

SkillSoft lists all training completed on an individual online resume and remembers where the user left off so he or she can continue training at a later time.

“An infantry soldier can become an information technology guru online,” Hingtgen said. “Just because he’s out there firing his weapon, shooting tanks and whatever, does not mean that on his downtime ... he can’t be training online.”

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