Alabama Army National Guard Specialist Priscilla White receives a U.S. Army Central/U.S. Third Army (ARCENT) certificate of training from Commanding General Brigadier General Christopher R. Kemp and Command Sergeant Major Damon R. Owens at Camp Arifijan, Kuwait.
Army Specialist Priscilla White was stationed in Kuwait with the Alabama Army National Guard for several weeks before she learned about U.S. Army Central Command Signal University, a school at Camp Arifjan where she could learn new computer skills, earn IT certifications and gain points toward promotion within the military.
Since 2006, ARCENT Signal University has offered the latest IT and technology training to military personnel and civilians working for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in the Middle East. “The main focus of the University is to provide soldiers valuable skills to maintain the communication networks of the military,” said Audrey Ezzo, project manager for Knowlogy, the IT training company (and CompTIA Authorized Training Partner) that runs Signal University. “Over the years, the school has evolved with soldiers getting their CompTIA and Cisco certifications.”
When White found out about the school, "I jumped on it," she said.
Signal University offers training for CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ (three key IT certifications approved for the DoD Directive 8570.01-M for information assurance personnel), and also CompTIA Project+. The University also offers training for Fiber Optics, Cisco and Microsoft certifications, REDCOM IP telcom networks, Promina multi-service communications networks, and ITIL IT service management. Ezzo expects to add training for the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) in January, as the certification was recently added to the directive's list of approved certifications.
Pursuing Knowledge, Skills and A Promotion
With her supervisor chief’s support, White organized her responsibilities as a human resource specialist at Camp Arifjan so she could take Signal University classes in the evenings and (for two weeks during each month) during the workweek.
By late June, White had completed ITIL and CompTIA Security+ courses, was preparing to take the Security+ exam, and had earned nearly 60 promotion points toward her goal of being promoted from a E-4 Army Specialist.
“I plan to stay long term to get promoted to E5 and go to Warrant Officer School,” she said, adding, “These classes are great! They offer knowledge, skills and promotion points.”
Before her deployment ends in October, White is slated to take five other courses—CompTIA Project+, Microsoft Office Suite – Intro & Intermediate, Excel and MS Project.
She believes the training will help her civilian career as well.
A resident of Birmingham, Ala., White is married with two children (ages 9 and 4). She holds an associate degree in paralegal studies and works full-time, processing legal paperwork as an organ donor referral coordinator at University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.
But in addition to her service in the National Guard and her full-time job, she also works part-time from home, as a contract help desk and customer service provider for companies like TurboTax and AT&T.
She plans to use her IT certifications earned through training at Signal University to help her negotiate better help desk contracts and pay, and in the long term become a help desk manager in the business world.
“I would like to become an expert in ITIL and be able to teach this class in the future,” she said.
Training's Wide Impact
Only a few Signal University classes have any prerequisite IT skill or knowledge requirements, and students come into its classes with a wide range of skill levels.
“Most of time our students come in at the request of their commander, who wants them to get training to assist them in the work that they do within his or her unit,” said Vernon M. Riley Sr., a retired Army First Sergeant who teaches at Signal University, “Some students come in because the desire a change.”
Working in Kuwait since 2007, Riley currently teaches Fiber Optics and Promina courses at Signal University, and is gearing up to teach CompTIA courses.
Training students at Signal University results in “Fewer network outages, fewer security breaches, and revamped help desk procedures,” Riley said. “The client who calls in for help is being better served. Those things are happening—I know that for a fact.”