Commentary

Launching MilGears — a simple yet powerful tool

Last month, following 31 years of service (mostly as a Navy training officer), I made the difficult decision to leave federal employment having served from the most junior enlisted rank to the founding dean of DoD’s College of Allied Health Sciences. During that time, I have watched the quality and effectiveness of military training and education for our service members vastly improve.

But for decades, the Department of Defense has struggled to document the outcomes of our military’s high-quality training and education system for our service members in a transparent way. Service members have had no simple transcript that has adequately captured and validated their training and educational experiences.

The lack of such a transcript often limited the ability of military members to access their personal record of accomplishments, experience, and credentials — and to better plan for their military and post-military careers.

This is now finally changing, thanks to the game-changing development of a new online DoD platform called MilGears. This department-wide tool is expected to be fully released this summer, based on the input and collaborative support of all the services, as well as other key partners, working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense. A preliminary beta version is available at https://milgears.osd.mil/.

The MilGears tool was initially developed by the Navy Education and Training Command to assist sailors with obtaining personalized records and assessments of their military training and experience, including education and skills credentialing. The Navy’s proof of concept has been remarkably successful, demonstrating its ability to capture and support the service member’s entire military career lifecycle, and potentially beyond.

What makes MilGears so powerful?

MilGears, for the first time, aggregates a service member’s entire unique record of training and education accomplishments into a single, secure, centralized, and accessible location. It then provides an individualized assessment of recommended professional growth opportunities and future career pathways tailored to each service member based on their military education, training, credentialing, and experience. Even after leaving the military, if veterans want to add further civilian accomplishments to their service record, they can include these accomplishments, as well.

The U.S. Coast Guard command master chief, Edward Lewis, last month wrote in an article about the importance of MilGears that he was convinced that it will “revolutionize military HR.” I heartily agree.

Once I saw a MilGears demonstration, I realized MilGears could greatly improve the business practices of military education and training. As a career Navy training officer, I knew firsthand how critical accurate and accessible training records are for manpower management, from the deck plate to the Bureau of Naval Personnel. And as the dean of the DoD’s first and only all-service undergraduate college awarding associate’s and bachelor’s degrees to enlisted medical personnel, I could see MilGears was a game changer both in and out of the military.

MilGears uses industry and open-data standards that are fully transparent and privacy-protected — making military data useful not just within DoD but beyond DoD.

The outcomes of our military’s high-quality education and training system can now get recognized within our nation’s private academic, professional, and industry sectors. Being able to include military outcomes from an accredited DoD college into this database, for instance, removes a key barrier for militarily trained personnel. MilGears allows transitioning service members the ability to easily share records with potential civilian employers and educational institutions — and to better compete in the civilian world.

Having these irrefutable outcomes identified and documented also greatly reduces the time and cost of service members receiving an education degree and non-degree skills credential for voluntary and required education and training.

There will be no need to take redundant courses to complete a certificate or degree; the information is now all there. That saves significant amounts of education benefit and time, translating into improved force readiness, faster promotion, and better retention and morale. MilGears — which will, of course, continue to be refined and built out over time — makes it possible for our service members to realize their full potential in the military and well beyond service.

I’m thrilled I worked long enough to see the development of a desperately needed tool like MilGears — and to see the department’s leadership deliver on a promise of lifetime benefit to those willing to sacrifice everything for our nation.

Dr. Mitchell Seal recently left federal service, having served as the founding dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences, and is an independent higher education consultant.

Editor’s note: This is an op-ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, haltman@militarytimes.com.

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