An Explanation of Education Advancement Exams

Service member taking advancement exam

You’ve been tested before and have the determination it takes to study hard and be prepared. Doing so on education advancement exams, which assess your skills, can help you earn your degree faster. Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or DANTES, offers free or discounted tests for military members. By learning which tests to tackle and how best to prepare, you’ll be ready to master exam time and be one step closer to your higher education goals.

Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support exams

Completing particular DANTES-sponsored exams allows you to earn credits toward a college degree so you may be able to get your degree faster. Here are the basics on these tests.

  • ACT. The ACT is designed to assess general educational development and measure performance of intellectual tasks required of a college student. The ACT is composed of four academic tests that measure academic development in English, mathematics, reading and science. Funding eligibility for service members varies based on type of testing location.
  • College-Level Examination Program. The CLEP exam allows you to test out of 33 test titles in subjects where you may have gained knowledge such as from work, education or military experience. Administration and examination fees are DANTES-funded for eligible service members for the first attempt on all titles only.
  • DSST, formerly known as the DANTES Subject Standardized Tests. Prometric’s DSST test is a form of prior-learning assessment offered via 38 college-subject exams. This nationally recognized credit-by-exam program grants college credit for learning outside of the classroom like on-the-job training, military experience or independent study. DANTES funds fees for the first attempt on all DSST titles only, for eligible service members.
  • General Education Development Tests. The GED test consists of four content areas designed to measure the high school level of adult learners who are not high school graduates. The content areas are math, science, social studies and language arts. DANTES reimburses the test fee one time for eligible service members.
  • Graduate Management Admission Test. The GMAT is available through some college and university test centers. This computer-adaptive test includes verbal, quantitative and analytical writing questions. The GMAT is reimbursable (one time) for eligible service members.
  • Graduate Record Examinations. The GRE is a computer-based test available through select college and university test centers. DANTES will pay for one GRE General and one GRE Subject exam per lifetime for eligible service members.
  • PRAXIS I and II. The PRAXIS I is a Pre-Professional Skills Test, or PPST, with three separate subject-area tests in reading, math and writing. Some states require students to pass the PPST before starting a teacher education program, or as a teacher-licensing exam. The PRAXIS II is a timed subject assessment focused on principles of learning and teaching. The exam offers more than 100 test subjects. Some states require you to pass this exam before teaching certain subject areas. Both PRAXIS exams are reimbursable one time for eligible service members.
  • SAT. The SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The SAT assesses critical thinking skills needed for success in college and future career success. The test is based on knowledge developed through coursework in the following areas: reading, writing, language and math. Funding eligibility for service members varies based on type of testing location.

Test prep scams

Protect yourself as you prepare and sign up for these exams. Be careful to avoid scams that could potentially waste your time and money. Keep an eye out for any test prep program that attempts to:

  • Pressure you to buy test prep materials for exams you don’t plan to take
  • Give you purchasing credit with a third-party vendor
  • Contact you at home with direct sales
  • Promise college credit without enrolling in a college or university
  • Include dictionaries or encyclopedias on book lists.

Before you spend your hard-earned money on any test prep materials, contact your education services specialist. A specialist may be able to guide you to no-cost or low-cost materials through the education center, installation library or local college bookstores.

Your education is a worthwhile investment of both time and money. Save a little of both by taking advantage of the available DANTES-sponsored exams. Get more information on these exams at www.dantes.doded.mil.

Recovering from a Drug or Alcohol Use Problem

An open alcohol and drug abuse self assessment workbook.

If you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, change is possible. It typically takes treatment, support from others, commitment and hard work.

Mental health tips during COVID-19

Learn what to watch for and how to support yourself during the pandemic. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers help.

If you’re a service member, you’re not alone. You’ll find treatment and support through your service branch’s substance abuse program. Treatment for military family members struggling with addiction is covered under TRICARE. Eligible veterans can find substance abuse programs through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Making the decision to change

The first step toward recovery is making the decision to get sober. This means changing familiar behaviors and creating a new lifestyle. If you want to escape a substance that controls your life, you must also:

  • Give up people, places and things that trigger cravings.
  • Become totally honest about your addiction with yourself and others.
  • Learn how to deal with stress in new and healthier ways.

Getting treatment

Treatment helps you rebuild the brain’s connections that have been altered by addiction. Treatment may be intensive and span weeks or months followed by long-term support. There is no single treatment approach that fits everyone’s needs. Treatment may include:

  • Detoxification
  • Medication
  • Inpatient care
  • Residential rehabilitation
  • Outpatient service

An effective treatment program will address more than just your substance use problem. At a minimum, you can expect your treatment program to provide:

  • Education and therapy sessions on addiction, getting sober and preventing relapse
  • Counseling to help you develop new coping skills

Self-help groups for drug and alcohol addiction

Joining a support group can be an important part of recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are widely available on military installations and in civilian communities. These follow a 12-step model that involves:

  • Admit that you cannot control your addiction or compulsion
  • Recognize a higher power (as you understand it) that can give strength
  • Examine past mistakes with the help of a sponsor (experienced member)
  • Make amends for these mistakes
  • Learn to live a new life free from old, unhealthy habits and behavior
  • Help others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions

Staying sober

Having support from family and friends, getting involved in new activities like a hobby or volunteering, and taking care of yourself by exercising, eating right and getting enough sleep will help you stay sober.

If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, start your recovery now by contacting SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) to find the resources or support programs that will be right for you.

This Memorial Day: Honor Heroes and Make Meaningful Connections With Your Service Member

American flag

Current as of May 1, 2020

Memorial Day weekend 2020 will likely look different this year. Parades, concerts and public ceremonies may be canceled because of the coronavirus 2019 disease pandemic.

If some of these traditional events won’t be happening in your community, you can turn to other ways to remember and honor those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms. Whether your service member is near or far, you can mark the day together in ways that are particularly meaningful to you.

Talk about who you will honor on Memorial Day

We remember all of our fallen heroes on Memorial Day, but your service member may be mourning a specific loss this year. Talk about family members and other loved ones who are on your mind. Ask if you can join your service member in honoring anyone special.

Let your service member know the ways you will observe Memorial Day. You may decide to take time to quietly reflect on those you’ve lost. Or you and your service member may find comfort in connecting with others.

Ways to honor someone important to you and your service member

Here are a few ideas to consider while you and your service member talk about ways to remember a fallen hero.

  • Post a tribute on social media. Online platforms are virtual gathering places where we celebrate life’s joys and mourn our losses. Create a tribute page for your fallen loved one. Share pictures, memories, favorite songs and other remembrances.
  • Reach out to others who share your loss. Connect through a phone call, text, send a card or write a letter.
  • Send flowers from you and your service member to the family of someone who lost their life in service to the country.
  • Make a donation to a nonprofit that was important to your fallen hero. Or ask about possible volunteer opportunities.

Marking Memorial Day 2020 in times of social distancing

Following the rituals of Memorial Day tells your service member that you are proud of our military and thankful to those who served. Here are ways to share this important day despite the miles that separate you.

  • Make and send poppies for your service member to wear on Memorial Day. Typically made from red crepe paper, poppies are worn to honor the sacrifices of American service members during war. Look for instructions online. You might even make enough for your service member to pass out to others to wear on Memorial Day.
  • Fly the American flag. If you have a flagpole you may want to follow the formal flag-raising ceremony. Raise the flag briskly on Memorial Day morning, then lower it to half-staff to honor the fallen. At noon, raise the flag to full staff for the remainder of the day. If you’re unable to be with your service member, consider sharing this moment on video chat.
  • Observe the National Moment of Silence. Stop what you are doing at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, and observe one minute of silence. Use this time to reflect on those who lost their lives.

Important holidays bring us together, even when we are physically apart. For more information about Memorial Day, see Remember America’s Military Heroes on Memorial Day Weekend.

Service members and their families can stay up to date on all the latest military-related information on COVID-19. For Department of Defense updates for the military community regarding the virus that causes COVID-19, view the following sites:

Whether your service member is near or far, you can mark the day together in ways that are particularly meaningful to you.

Rebuilding Community: Army Personnel Accountability System for Disasters

soldier stands next to truck

In today’s world of frequent natural or man-made disasters, it is essential to have a plan of action for reducing the impact of such events on Army personnel and their families. The Army Disaster Personnel Accountability and Assessment System, or ADPAAS, was developed to account for personnel and family members after catastrophes and assist the Army in a rapid return to recovery and stability.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Department of Defense mandated that each of the services develop an automated accountability system. ADPAAS is designed to account for personnel, assess needs and assist the Army in making a rapid recovery. It is the only way the Army will accept status reports from soldiers, civilians, families and overseas defense contractors. Since 2008, ADPAAS has been used during numerous disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and events like the Boston Marathon bombings.

If directed to do so by the Secretary of Defense or their major commands, all soldiers, civilians, family members and overseas defense contractors must report their status and whereabouts following any natural or man-made disaster. Army preparedness using the ADPAAS system increases the resiliency of America’s fighting forces, supports soldiers who are forward-deployed and offers reassurance to deployed soldiers about the safety of their families.

ADPAAS Aids in Disaster Help and Recovery

If an emergency or disaster occurs, the Secretary of Defense or Headquarters, Department of the Army, may issue a directive to the services and 4th Estate Agencies for all personnel to report on their status to their respective agencies. Army personnel will be directed to report their status either to their unit, directly to the ADPAAS website or through the Army contact center.

ADPAAS is a valuable tool for Army leaders who must make quick decisions following an emergency. The ADPAAS data allows commanders to access personnel status, thereby facilitating the delivery of essential services to areas of critical need in the disaster-affected area. The system enables them to assess needs such as housing, medical, financial assistance, employment, pay and benefits, transportation, child care, counseling and general legal matters. ADPAAS ensures contact is maintained with Army personnel and family members to guarantee that the required assistance is provided, and affected personnel are returned to a state of normalcy.

Training Now Available

Regional, face-to-face training is now available to both new and existing ADPAAS command officer representatives, or CORs, within your command’s area of operations through the ADPAAS Mobile Training Team, or MTT. This reoccurring annual training event is a time to address all ADPAAS concerns and to discuss new ideas. Completion of the training will result in ADPAAS COR course certification and commander’s appointment to assume ADPAAS COR duties.

Class schedules can be found on the ADPAAS COR site. For each training session, you can download instructions for how to register for open classes. Notifications will be posted when pending classes are confirmed. For more information, you may also contact Army G-1, PCC at 703-697-4246 or email ADPAAS customer service at USArmy.Pentagon-E.HQDA.MBX.ADPAAS@mail.mil.

Protect Yourself: Keep ADPAAS Up to Date

Army families need to maintain accurate, up-to-date contact information in ADPAAS.

To access ADPAAS, log on to https://adpaas.army.mil and click on the Army Military, DA Civilians, NAF Employees, OCONUS Contractors and their Families button. Once logged in, navigate to the My Info button to update your physical address. This contact information in ADPAAS can be updated at any time by the soldier or their family member. Accessing ADPAAS from an iPhone, Android, iPad or other mobile device with an internet connection? The ADPAAS mobile application is up and running for use at https://adpaas.army.mil.

Army leaders can access a downloadable poster to help remind personnel to log in to ADPAAS before and during an emergency.

For more information, contact the ADPAAS Information Line at 888-276-9472 or oraskhrc.army@us.army.mil.

On Your Side: Military Financial Support

Cashier helps soldier with debit card

Service members and their families have access to substantial resources to save money and manage your expenses. Learn more about different military pay and compensation benefits and ways to save and protect your family’s financial health with the following programs:

Pay Raise for 2020

Military personnel are receiving a 3.1% increase in their basic pay in 2020. This raise is for both active-duty and reserve service members.

More ways to save and take control of your finances

About to make a purchase? Or want to pay off your debt? Saving for college? Use a financial calculator to help manage your money. Better yet, meet with a personal financial counselor for free to discuss any money matter. Call Military OneSource 24/7/365 at 800-342-9647.

  • Achieve everyday savings by shopping at your military installation’s commissary and exchange. Shoppers typically save more than 30 percent compared to shopping in town.
  • Check out Benefits.gov, which houses information on the wide range of benefits available to active-duty military and veterans. A go-to resource for all service members and families, it has information on interest rate reductions, tax benefits, educational and medical benefits, and many other benefits you’re entitled to.
  • The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act also provides service members with a range of rights and benefits, from interest rate reductions to eviction protection. Know your rights and available perks.

Help with taxes

  • Military OneSource provides free tax preparation and filing services and tax consultations.
  • Military OneSource tax preparation and filing services is an easy-to-use online software product. Free technical assistance is available, if you need it, at 855-897-8639 and follow the prompts. If you have any personal tax-related questions, call 800-342-9647 to speak with a Military OneSource tax consultant.
  • If you prefer a face-to-face meeting with a military tax consultant, the military-based Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides no-cost tax advice and preparation, return filing and other tax assistance to military members and their families. Find a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location near you.
  • Learn more about free tax services available through Military OneSource.
  • The IRS has a detailed Armed Forces’ Tax Guide.
  • Earned Income Tax Credits are federal income tax credits for low- and moderate-income working individuals and families. The refundable credit can generate a refund if you do not have any taxes to pay. Service members and families may have an easier time qualifying for the credit because some military income, such as pay earned during service in a combat zone or basic allowances for housing, are non-taxable and are not included in an individual’s or family’s total income. To find out more about the credit or tax help for military members and veterans, visit the IRS website.

Prevent Identity theft and fraud

  • The Federal Trade Commission has a website devoted to reporting Identity Theft and getting a recovery plan.
  • Federal law entitles you to a free credit report each year. Check it for suspicious activity. If you’re a deploying service member and don’t plan to seek new credit while deployed, place an active-duty alert to reduce the risk of getting swindled.
  • Monitor your credit report for signs of identity theft—especially if you’ve lost important papers. All Americans are eligible for a free credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
  • Check out the Task Force on Market Integrity and Consumer Fraud for more information on scams that target the military.
  • File a complaint on the Consumer Complaint Database at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if you have an unresolved issue with a company about a financial product or service.
  • Contact the Homeowner Preservation Foundation at 888-995-HOPE (4673) for help with avoiding foreclosure.

Need help after a natural disaster? Find assistance via:

  • DisasterAssistance.gov helps you search for disaster relief by the type of assistance you need or by federal agency.
  • The American Red Cross provides disaster recovery information and specific tips for coping with different kinds of disasters, including fires, hurricanes, floods and winter storms.

Get financial counseling

Learn more about protecting your financial health. Schedule a free financial counseling session with Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647. OCONUS/International? View calling options

Plan Your Trip With Space-A Travel

Plane taking off on runway

Note: Effective March 21, 2020, Air Mobility Command temporarily suspended most Space-A travel due to COVID-19.

Service members and their families can use Space-Available flights – formally known as Military Airlift Command or MAC flights – to travel around the country and world at little to no cost. Though sometimes unpredictable, military flights are perfect for families with flexible plans and limited travel budgets. With the right planning and documentation, Space-A travel can be the best way to take a trip with your family.

Space-A Tips and Tricks

Learn how to take Space-A flights like a seasoned pro with these seven tips.

Space-A travel basics

These flights are not commercial, but rather military flights with a mission. That means there are certain restrictions to travel, including:

  • Only service members, retirees and their families are eligible. Only with certain qualifications are reservists, National Guardsmen and family members without an accompanying active-duty sponsor permitted.
  • Flights are typically free of charge, but you should contact your closest Air Mobility Command, or AMC, passenger terminal or the terminal at the location you intend to depart from for specific information.
  • Most terminals have a Facebook page where they post flight information, including their 72-hour flight schedule.

Space-Available travel eligibility

Once you sign up for a Space-A journey, you’ll be put into a category that determines your priority for a flight. A complete listing of eligible passengers by category is contained in DoD Instruction 4515.13. For the most recent instruction, search the DoD Directives Division website for “Air Transportation Eligibility.” Categories include:

  • Category I: Emergency Leave Unfunded Travel.
  • Category II: Accompanied Environmental and Morale Leave, or EML.
  • Category III: Ordinary Leave, Relatives, House Hunting Permissive Temporary Duty, Medal of Honor Holders and Foreign Military.
  • Category IV: Unaccompanied EML.
  • Category V: Permissive Temporary Duty (Non-House Hunting), Students, Dependents, Post Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence and Others.
  • Category VI: Retired, Dependents, Reserve, Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate Program and Civil Engineer Corps members.

Prepare for your Space-A flight

AMC has a travel page that includes the following important information about Space-A travel. You should review this travel page for up-to-date information, including what type of identification is required for you and your family, baggage allowance for checked and hand carried baggage, and prohibited items.

  • Travel instructions: travel eligibility; locations; required travel documents; registration, flight schedule and checking-in information.
  • AMC Form 140, Space Available Travel Request (fill out a form online and email it to your desired AMC passenger terminal)
  • Listing of Facebook pages for stateside and overseas locations.
  • AMC passenger terminal contact information.
  • Various travel information links.
  • Legal information for Space-A travel.
  • Operations security for social media and travelers.

Fly commercial with TSA Precheck

If Space-A travel isn’t right for your plans, take advantage of TSA Precheck to expedite your time at the airport when flying commercial. Use your Department of Defense ID as your known traveler number.

You’ll bypass long security lines without removing your shoes or jacket or taking your laptop from your bag. Family members under the age of 12 can pass through expedited screening with you.

Military Insignia: What Are Those Stripes and Bars?

National Guardsman salutes the flag.

The stripes and bars on a military uniform signify rank. If you’re new to the military, you know enough to understand that rank matters.

While it may take time to figure out what everything means, a working knowledge out of the gate can help you feel more at home in the military.

A quick vocabulary lesson

Here are some terms you’ll need to know:

  • Rank: Think of rank as the military’s organizational structure. The higher the rank, the more responsibility.
  • Insignia: Insignia on service members’ uniforms denote rank and include various emblems including chevrons, bars, oak leaves or stars. These are typically worn on the shoulder or collar of a service member’s uniform.
  • Pay grade: These are administrative classifications designed to equalize pay across the military service branches. Each pay grade is represented by a letter and a number. For instance, an officer at the first pay grade level would be referred to as an O-1.

Who Wears What and Why

Here’s a breakdown of the insignia:

  • Chevrons: Most enlisted personnel in every military service branch wear chevrons, or v-shaped stripes.
  • Bars: These are worn by officers in the lower pay grades. Officers at the O-1 pay grade wear one gold bar, O-2 wear one silver bar, O-3 wear two silver bars and warrant officers wear striped bars.
  • Oak leaves: Officers at the O-4 pay grade wear a gold oak leaf and officers at the O-5 pay grade wear a silver oak leaf.
  • Eagles: Officers at the O-6 pay grade wear a silver eagle.
  • Stars: Officers at the O-7 through O-10 pay grades wear one, two, three or four stars, respectively.

To see what these insignia look like for each rank in your service branch and to learn the names of each rank, go to the Department of Defense’s display of officer and enlisted insignia.

What are the rank categories?

There are four hierarchical categories:

  • Junior enlisted personnel: This refers to service members at the entry pay-grades. Each service branch has a different name for their junior enlisted personnel. The level at which service members are no longer considered junior enlisted personnel also varies. For instance, an E-1 in the Army and Marine Corps is called a private, in the Air Force an airman basic, and in the Navy an E-1 is called a seaman recruit.
  • Non-commissioned officers: Enlisted service members in pay grades E-5 through E-9, plus E-4 Army and Marine Corps corporals and Navy petty officers, are considered non-commissioned officers.
  • Warrant officers: Service members in pay grades W-1 through W-5 of the Army and Marine Corps are warrant officers. The Navy’s warrant officers hold pay grades W-2 through W-4.
  • Commissioned officers: Military commissioned officers hold the highest military ranks in the pay grades of O-1 through O-10.

How to greet each rank

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for how to address each rank in person:

  • Commissioned officers: rank (General, Lieutenant, Colonel) + last name
  • Warrant officers: Mr./Ms. + last name

It gets a little trickier with enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers:

  • Privates (E1 and E2) and privates first class (E3): Private + last name
  • Specialists: Specialist + last name
  • Sergeants, staff sergeants, sergeants first class and master sergeants: Sergeant + last name
  • First sergeants: First Sergeant + last name
  • Sergeants major: Sergeant Major + last name

Life After Basic Army Combat Training

service member looks at smoke

Following your Army basic combat training, you’ll take one of two paths, advanced individual training or Officer Candidate School to advance in your military career.

Advanced individual training

Advanced individual training is where you will learn the skills needed to perform a specific Army job, such as artillery or engineering. At your AIT school, you’ll receive hands-on training and field instruction to make you an expert in that career field. There are 17 career fields and the schools are designed to help you gain discipline and a work ethic that will benefit you for the rest of your career.

Where you train and for how long will depend on your job, called a Military Occupation Specialty or MOS. See this list of advanced individual training schools and what you will learn at them.

Training & Officer Candidate School May Be Impacted By COVID-19

Contact your recruiter or commander for the most accurate, up-to-date information.

Army Advanced Individual Training Schools

Learn more about AIT on the Army website.

Army Officer Candidate School

To become an officer in the Army, you must earn a degree from a four-year university. Then there are four different paths you can follow based on your goals:

Officer Candidate School is a rigorous 12-week program to determine your mental, physical and emotional potential as a leader. The Army is the only branch of the military that requires potential officers planning to attend OCS to first enlist and attend basic combat training. You’ll learn a variety of leadership skills and small-unit tactics, before beginning your officer training, which has two phases:

At graduation, you will be given a formal commission as a U.S. Army Officer and assigned to the rank of Second Lieutenant, the first of the commissioned ranks.

Learn more about becoming an officer on the Army website.

Learn more about advanced individual training on the Army website.

Army Officer Candidate School

To become an officer in the Army, you must earn a degree from a four-year university. Then there are four different paths you can follow based on your goals:

  • Attend Army Officer Candidate School after you have earned your bachelor’s degree from a traditional university.
  • Attend the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point, after high school.
  • Join the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps while attending a traditional university.
  • Receive a direct commission as a professional in a field such as law, medicine or religion.

Officer Candidate School is a rigorous 12-week program to determine your mental, physical and emotional potential as a leader. The Army is the only branch of the military that requires potential officers planning to attend OCS to first enlist and attend basic combat training. You’ll learn a variety of leadership skills and small-unit tactics, before beginning your officer training, which has two phases:

  • Phase One: You’ll learn the basic leadership skills and the physical and mental challenges required of a commissioned officer.
  • Phase Two: You’ll put your leadership skills to the test with an intense 18-day training mission.

At graduation, you will be given a formal commission as a U.S. Army Officer and assigned to the rank of Second Lieutenant, the first of the commissioned ranks.

Learn more about becoming an officer on the Army website.