ARLINGTON, Va. — An Army program set for next year will allow soldiers to use their military experience to earn professional credit from colleges and technical institutes, according to Lt. Gen. Ben Freakley, commander of the U.S. Army Accessions Command.

Under the program, “every soldier who comes in [to the Army] will be afforded the opportunity to pursue either a technical certification — say, a welder — or a college degree,” Freakley told defense reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

“The idea would be, by the time you’re a staff sergeant, somewhere between six and 10 years in the Army, you’re going to have your associate’s degree,” Freakley said.

“And by the time you get ready to retire, as a master sergeant or sergeant major, you’ll have your bachelor’s degree, so you’ll be ready to re-enter the work force with the discipline, with the Army values, with the leadership training you got in the Army — plus a degree.”

The program, dubbed “The College of the American Soldier,” will be administered through the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., Freakley said.

The Army is now “working with colleges to get our training programs certified,” and the program will “probably start about February 2008,” Freakley said.

The way the program would work, Freakley said, is for colleges to grant soldiers semester credit hours toward a degree for certain levels of regular Army training.

For example, he said, soldiers going through basic training would get 17 hours of college credit, given “for the leadership, for the first aid, for other things they’re learning in basic training,” he said.

At the Sergeants Major Academy, meanwhile, soldiers could get up to 45 hours of college credit, because “they have to write, they have to do literature work, they have to do public speaking, they have to do leadership,” Freakley said.

The number of semester hours it takes to earn a degree at accredited universities and colleges varies by the degree earned. The typical minimum number of hours required for a bachelor of arts degree is 120.

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