Benning recognizes first graduates of application developer’s program

By Ralph Bremer, ACES-ESS, Fort Benning Education Center /

FORT BENNING, Ga. –  The Fort Benning Education Center Career Skills Program, in partnership with the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, hosted a recognition ceremony and reception for transitioning service members who completed an 18-week Cloud Application Developer program.

Ten Soldiers and two Sailors, one of who traveled from Japan to participate in the course, were awarded completion certificates in a ceremony March 10 in the Soldier for Life Center on Fort Benning. A reception followed the recognition ceremony.

All 10 Soldiers and the two Sailors started and finished the program together. Each student was afforded multiple opportunities to interview with Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, Aetna and Facebook.

Col. Andrew Hilmes, Fort Benning Garrison Commander, addressed the MSSA graduates and guests March 10 at the recognition ceremony.

Col. Andrew Hilmes, Fort Benning Garrison Commander, addressed the MSSA graduates and guests March 10 at the recognition ceremony.

Besides the technical skills the participants learned during the course, they also developed soft skills such interviewing, resume writing and networking opportunities.

Ashley Molina, Associate Campus Director for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at Fort Benning, opened the ceremony by introducing the honored guests who were participating in the event.

Chaplain (Col.) Robert Hart, Garrison Chaplain, delivered the invocation. He was followed by Dr. Grey H. Edwards, Education Center Hub Chief, who welcomed guests and family members, and he applauded the Education Center staff who were instrumental in bringing the event to fruition.

Col. Andrew Hilmes, Fort Benning Garrison Commander, praised the partners who made the program possible.

“This has been a partnership from the outset and some thanks are long overdue,” Hilmes said in recognizing the efforts of the Fort Benning Education Center, Microsoft and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“Clearly, you recognize the talents of the men and women of the armed forces and what they bring to the table, and I’m probably a little biased in my opinion,” said Hilmes. “I really applaud (you all) for recognizing that and then also taking the time, effort and resources to do something about it,” he added.

Hilmes concluded by congratulating the class on their hard work and for completing the program, especially as the first group to complete the 18-week course.

Mike Sullivan, a Senior Field Engineer for Microsoft, was the keynote speaker.

Mike Sullivan, a Senior Field Engineer for Microsoft, was the keynote speaker.

Mike Sullivan, a Senior Field Engineer for Microsoft, praised the graduates on their accomplishments and for setting the standard for future students.

“You guys are setting the path here at Fort Benning for others to follow and the work you are doing today will help to not only make yourself great, but to make others that follow great as well,” said Sullivan, and he added, “Since 2014 when the MSSA program started, of the 450 service members and veterans that completed the program, 96 percent went on to attend a university or they accepted jobs within the first 60 days with starting salaries averaging $70K.”

Dr. Aaron Glassman, another ERAU representative and the Department Chair of Undergraduate Studies at the School of Business & Management, marveled about the pace and amount of information the MSSA students were exposed to during the four-month program.

“(The program) was actually designed, in my opinion, to ensure you have the right attitude, the right aptitude and the agility to manage a dynamic career in IT (Information Technology), and that really is what I believe we’re looking for in graduates,” Glassman said. “So even though there might be concepts that you may have not picked up, that’s okay, you will pick them up at the right time.”

Glassman also emphasized the importance of education and recognized Herberta Dukes, ERAU MSSA instructor, for her invaluable role in the program’s success.

Staff Sgt. David Porter, one of the course graduates, talked about how stress can make us stronger and how the course provided, whether intended or not, a welcomed challenge.

“The kind of struggle that requires learning concepts under the constraints of time and dealing with the complexities of working in teams and team environments,” said Porter.  “But the one thing it’s done is mimicked the real things that happen in the real-world and the problems we had here in this class, although painful at times, were no different than anything you will find in the civilian sector when it’s time to move out.”

Certificates of Recognition were presented to the following graduates: Bobby Allen, Mathew Horjsi, Jackie Marshall, Glen McCaskill, Nathan McNeal, David Porter, Randall Shuman, James Sikes, Sterling Smith, Jonny Steed and Daniel Viveros.

Service members or veterans who might be interested in this program should contact Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University representatives, Ashley Molina or Latoya Armstrong-Melvin at or contact the Fort Benning CSP Installation Administrator Yolanda Gossett at for more information.



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