The Army is working on a new, universal transcript that would better catalog a soldier's education, training and experience — and hopefully earn the soldier more college credits.

This new transcript would be different from and in addition to the existing Joint Services Transcript, and it has already gained the attention of officials in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The effort is part of the Army's new Army University, which is designed to improve soldier learning.

"We’re coming out of many years of war," said Brig. Gen. John S. Kem, Army University’s first provost. "We’re in a very complex world, and even though we’re reducing in size, we’re doubling down on education.," said Brig. Gen. John S. Kem, Army University’s first provost.

Kem, an engineer officer and 1985 West Point graduate, said Army University is starting by focusing on early- to mid-career enlisted education. Army University also is also working with civilian colleges and universities in an effort to build relationships and learn best practices on issues such as accreditation, developing top-notch faculty, and producing relevant curriculum.

On Dec. 2-3, Army University will host its first symposium, bringing in experts from various colleges and universities, including Kansas State University and the University of Oregon.

"We've invited hundreds of colleges, universities … to come work with us on some of these hard challenges," Kem said. "How do they think we should address universal transcripts? What are their best ideas on staff and faculty development? We want to pick their brains."

The effort already has drawn the attention of the other services.

Brig. Gen. John Kem, right, is the provost of Army University.

Photo Credit: Stephen P. Kretsinger Sr./ Army

"They're interested in what we're doing," Kem said. "We're trying to make it more comprehensive and across all cohorts. That really hasn't been done by the other services, so they're waiting to see how this might evolve and maybe then adapt some things to their own service."

Recognizing expertise

When the time comes for a soldier to leave the service — whether at the end of their first enlistment or after a 20-year career — Army University will help ensure soldiers are credited for their education, training and experience, Kem said.

"You don’t want just the military to recognize it," he said. "You want everyone to recognize it, because you have education and expertise.," he said.

Army University's universal transcripts will outline every soldier’s training, education and experience in a language that can be easily translated by civilian colleges, universities and employers. Army U. The university also aims to offer credentialing opportunities for soldiers in most, if not all, military occupational specialties, and to boost the development of the staff, faculty and instructors who teach at the Army’s numerous schoolhouses.

Pfc. Jerome Cuthbert (right) and Spc. Daniel Malek (left), mortar gunners assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, fire 60mm mortar rounds during training alongside Lithuanian forces at Pabrade Training Area in Pabrade, Lithuania June 21. The exercise provided an opportunity for U.S. and Lithuanian Soldiers to train together and increased interoperability between NATO forces. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brett Hurd, 173rd Airborne Brigade)
Pfc. Jerome Cuthbert (right) and Spc. Daniel Malek (left), mortar gunners assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, fire 60mm mortar rounds during training alongside Lithuanian forces at Pabrade Training Area in Pabrade, Lithuania June 21. The exercise provided an opportunity for U.S. and Lithuanian Soldiers to train together and increased interoperability between NATO forces. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brett Hurd, 173rd Airborne Brigade)

The Army is looking at generic credentialing opportunities for MOSs that don't have a natural civilian equivalent, such as infantry or armor.

Photo Credit: Spc. Brett Hurd/Army

Administered by the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Army University is not a brick-and-mortar institution. Instead, it organizes the Army's professional military education programs into a university system.

Included under the Army University umbrella are all of the Army's centers of excellence, the Sergeants Major Academy, the Defense Language Institute, the Command and General Staff College, and the Warrant Officer Career College.

Here’s a closer look at some of the top initiatives underway at Army University:.

Universal transcript

While the Joint Services Transcript lists the courses a service member has taken throughout their career, the new transcript will include notable stats and highlights from a soldier's education and job experience.

The universal transcript could include how many hours a soldier may have driven a specific vehicle, or how many hours they spent maintaining helicopters.

The transcript "sounds relatively easy, but as you wade in, it's a lot more complicated," Kem said.

It's not difficult to capture a soldier's experiences, education and training on a piece of paper, he said.

"The challenge is making is universally recognized," Kem said. "We’re trying to be very aggressive., We were asked to really work that hard over the next two years."

"It's just much more complicated than people think, when there are 5,000 colleges in the U.S., and you're trying to do something all 5,000 will recognize," he said. "That's not easy."

Increased rigor

Right now, the American Council on Education recommends a certain number of credits for every level of noncommissioned officer education system courses.

ACE is one of the most visible and influential higher education associations in the country, according to its website. It evaluates programs for virtually every college across the country that has regional or national accreditation.

Many colleges and universities honor credit recommendations from ACE, but they don't have to, Kem said.

Army University's goal is to ensure courses have the right rigor to not only produce "the best NCOs and officers" but are recognized and accepted by civilian educational institutions, Kem said.

Photo Credit: Kris Gonzalez, Fort Jackson Leader Staff Sgt. Retha Anderson, of Fort Jackson's Warrior Transition Unit, takes notes during a Western Civilization class Monday at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center. The history class is the first in a new program that brings condensed college classes to Fort Jackson for wounded warriors and their family members.
Photo Credit: Kris Gonzalez, Fort Jackson Leader Staff Sgt. Retha Anderson, of Fort Jackson's Warrior Transition Unit, takes notes during a Western Civilization class Monday at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center. The history class is the first in a new program that brings condensed college classes to Fort Jackson for wounded warriors and their family members.

The Army is looking at ways to increase the "rigor" of professional military education.

Photo Credit: Kris Gonzalez/Fort Jackson Leader

"We want to make it where it is so good, they can’t turn it down," he said. "The challenge for us, is [that] just giving a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything. You have to do it the right way."

"False credit cheapens the prestige of soldiers everywhere," he said. "It has to mean something inside the military and ...mean something outside the military."

Another challenge Army University is tackling is to make sure Army courses are user-friendly to civilian organizations.

"Does it translate well?" Kem said. "We're still going to do what [training] the military needs, but we're working on lexicon and rigor so it stands by itself."

Credentialing

In recent years, the Army has stepped up its efforts to give soldiers credit where credit is due by boosting the Army Credentialing Program. This program gives soldiers opportunities to earn civilian-equivalent certifications and licenses.

The service also is looking at more non-traditional credential opportunities for MOSs that don't have a natural civilian equivalent, such as infantry or armor.

"The trade ones are kind of easy," Kem said.

This includes credentials in truck driving, plumbing, or in the medical and engineering fields.

The combat MOSs are the toughest ones to tackle, Kem said.

"The reality is, if they were easy, somebody would already be doing it," he said. "But they're not impossible."

Kem cited as an example an infantry NCO as an example.

"What are you doing every day?" he said. "You’re a leader of men and women., You have skills in communication, in managing things — , those translate well," he said. "The Army does the best leadership training there is, and those are the ones where it’s not necessarily going to be technical, but it may be more in the management and leadership arena."

Growing the credentialing program helps soldiers after they leave the service, but it also benefits the Army while soldiers are still in uniform.

"In order to get a license or certificate, whether it's hands-on or essay or practical application, you have to prove your knowledge," Kem said. "All that will help us have better soldiers."

Staff, faculty and instructor development

About 150,000 people go through the Army's schools each year, Kem said.

"When you want to raise the rigor and relevance and quality of PME, how do you touch 150,000 people and really make a difference?" he said. "You do it through the quality and efforts of the staff and faculty."

The Army continues to look at ways to improve the way it trains soon-to-be instructors for the schoolhouses, and it is studying ways to better deliver education to students, Kem said.

"If most people only retain 25 to 30 percent of what they hear when someone's talking to them from a platform, how do we improve that?" he said.