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AFICA partnership delivers COOL program for Airmen

Russell Gray, Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line director, explains the AF COOL program to an Airman following a briefing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The Air Force Installation Contracting Agency recently partnered with Air University and The Barnes Center for Enlisted Education to deliver a follow-on contract for AF COOL. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Gaddie)

Russell Gray, Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line director, explains the AF COOL program to an Airman following a briefing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The Air Force Installation Contracting Agency recently partnered with Air University and The Barnes Center for Enlisted Education to deliver a follow-on contract for AF COOL. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Gaddie)

A screen capture from the Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, or AF COOL, program web page shows what enlisted Airmen will see before registering or logging in. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A screen capture from the Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, or AF COOL, program web page shows what enlisted Airmen will see before registering or logging in. (U.S. Air Force photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- In partnership with Air University and The Barnes Center for Enlisted Education, the Air Force Installation Contracting Agency recently delivered a follow-on contract to help enlisted Airmen get civilian-recognized credentials for their post-Air Force careers.

The Air Force Credentialing Opportunities On-Line, or AF COOL, program was created as an alternative option for Air Force members to earn civilian industry recognized credentials and licenses. It’s part of the Air Force Virtual Education Center.

Prior to AF COOL, Airmen could use credentialing programs through the GI Bill, as well as a program that had little to no restraints, said Russell Gray, AF COOL director.

“The problem with the latter program is that there was little to no return on investment for our military members or the military,” Gray said, since Airmen were getting licensures for things like real estate and small engine mechanics that they couldn’t use in support of their Air Force jobs. 

Additionally, many only thought to get the credentialing at the end of their careers.

“AF COOL has created a paradigm shift,” Gray said, “helping our enlisted Airmen obtain certifications earlier in their careers and exercise those credentials and licensures to show industry representatives that our military members have the proficiencies to support their needs in the civilian sector.”

According to the AF COOL website, credentialing “continues to professionalize the enlisted force by providing up-to-date industry-recognized credentials” in an Airman’s Air Force job and it “provides a way for Airmen to prepare for civilian life by ensuring that they are ready for work in the civilian sector.”

“Through industry recognized professional certificates and licenses, civilian employers can immediately recognize the skill sets that veterans bring to our communities nationwide,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Fahrner, AFICA’s 42nd Contracting Squadron commander. “I’m excited that our Airmen have access to this important transition program.”

Through AF COOL, enlisted members can get background information about credentialing and licensing, to include eligibility requirements and resources to prepare for exams, and identify licenses and certifications for their specific Air Force specialty codes. Airmen will also find information on how to fill gaps between their Air Force training and experience, and civilian requirements, and find resources to help them gain civilian job credentials.

Although Airmen can only receive tuition assistance on approved credentials, they can view specialties they may be interested in for future planning, the AF COOL website noted.
 
Since the launch of AF COOL in March of 2015, the program has grown over 300 percent and garnered the attention of senior Air Force and industry leaders, Gray said. 

More than 9,000 Airmen have used AF COOL since its inception, saving them more than $15 million in individual costs associated with credentialing and licensing.

“The ability to provide the world’s best Airmen with the world’s best academic resources is key to the ability of the U.S. Air Force to continue our core values of being able to Fly, Fight, and Win,” Gray said.

According to Gray, the AF COOL program wouldn’t be operational today if not for the support and dedication of the Maxwell AFB, Alabama, AFICA team. 

“From senior leaders to Airmen working in the back office, the contracting team here, as a whole, became a lifeline for the more than 280,000 enlisted Airmen and the benefits that are provided to them through AF COOL,” Gray said. 

To find out more about AF COOL and the support it provides to civilian credentialing, visit the Air Force’s Virtual Education Center at https://afvec.us.af.mil/afvec/Public/COOL/.