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Green to Gold adds to GI Bill possibilities

Being a Soldier in the U.S. Army is a daily learning experience. Thanks to the Green to Gold program, a Soldier has the opportunity to continue his or her formal education while still in uniform.

The program provides three options for enlisted Soldiers to pursue a college degree. Choices range from the Scholarship Option, where a Soldier leaves active duty to attend college, to the Non-Scholarship Option that allows higher education as a member of the National Guard or Reserves.

Then there’s the third and most popular possibility, said LTC Marsha DeFelice with Columbus State University’s Military Department. The Active Duty Option allows a Soldier to attend college while still on active duty. The Soldier is assigned to a school or college as a permanent change of station.

The Soldier can use the GI Bill to finance college and still retain Army pay and benefits while attending classes. But there are restrictions.

A Soldier must bring 54-60 hours of college credit to the program, and he has only four semesters to complete a degree program.

The program is highly competitive with only 150 Soldiers nationwide chosen. The application process includes rigorous, wide-ranging criteria that whittle down the list of candidates, DeFelice said.

Applicants must possess a 2.5 grade-point average and pass the Army physical fitness test without alternate events. The Soldier must be recommended by his chain of command and his last three NCOERs are also considered. He must have a minimum of two years of active duty and a maximum of eight years, though the latter can be waived and he must pass the DoD medical examination review board.

LTC Marsha DeFelice is the enrollment and scholarship Officer for Columbus State University’s Department of Military Science.

“The two biggest stumbling blocks are the Solder’s GPA and the DODMERB physical,” DeFelice said. “Many of them have 70-80 hours but may have a 1.98 GPA. The physical is a medical exam with the same extreme standards as West Point or the Air Force Academy. Unfortunately some people suffer an injury or develop some conditions that would eliminate them.”

Thousands of Soldiers apply for the 150 slots annually.

“The program is growing significantly,” DeFelice said. “In 2005, there were not enough applicants. There were 100 slots and they gave out 80.”

With a relatively small, select group of Soldiers participating at 270 ROTC colleges and universities nationwide, CSU has six Soldiers in the Green to Gold Program. Two have graduated using the active duty option. Two are seniors and the final two are just entering the program. The local ROTC program began at Columbus College in 1971, but the Green to Gold didn’t start until 2005.

DeFelice and Shannon Gardner publicize the program in a variety of ways. Gardner, with Army Continuing Education System, Directorate of Human Resources, fields inquiries from Soldiers and steers them toward the program.

“ACES guidance counselors tell them about it,” Gardner said. “We give them information about different degrees and majors for post-secondary study in area schools. If they want to become an officer, they have to get a bachelor’s degree and we tell them about the Green to Gold.”

“We work with ACES and have unit briefings,” DeFelice said. “We place ads in The Bayonet and at the PX there’s a digital sign advertising the program. We have a billboard on Fort Benning that floats to different locations,” DeFelice said.

The final means may be the most effective.

“We rely on word of mouth,” DeFelice said. “A lot of our graduates are stationed at Fort Benning.”

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