Marine Reflects on COOL Opportunity

Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) helps Marines find information on certifications and licenses related to their military occupation and civilian careers.

SSgt Joseph Stich, a lead instructor of the Force Fitness Instructor Course (FFIC), Martial Arts and Fitness Center of Excellence (MAFCE) pursued the Tactical Strength and Conditional Facilitator (TSAC-F) certification and the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification, both available through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

SSgt Stitch was prompted with a few questions regarding his experience with COOL, and below are his responses.

  1. Do you feel your military training and experience prepared you to take the certification exam successfully?

My formal military education through the FFIC and my experience as a Force Fitness Instructor Trainer (FFIT) laid a solid foundation to aid in formal study for the exam. Much of the FFIC curriculum is contained within the TSAC-F exam, and I believe the curriculum inadvertently prepares Marines for the exam. The CSCS exam contains questions that require deeper understanding or experience. Serving as a FFIT has provided me with ample experience. I believe exam preparation was made easy due to my experiences.

  1. Do you believe the preparation and completion of the exam provided you with confidence and spiritual fulfillment?

I have always been confident in my abilities and knowledge. While preparing for the CSCS exam I used the NSCA’s exam handbook to structure my study sessions around the sections and sub-sections of the exam. While reading the handbook, it was brought to my attention that the first-attempt pass rate for both parts of the CSCS exam is 38 percent (NSCA, 2023, pp. 13). My confidence took a massive blow after reading that statistic. What followed was me learning the importance of trusting the process of studying, and not concerning myself with the outcome of the exam. I leaned on a good friend, who is a fellow Marine currently studying to become a Certified Mental Performance Specialist, who helped me find tools to overcome my performance anxiety and ultimately pass the exam (183/190 questions correct). Studying for and taking the CSCS exam revealed to me the importance of having a process and trusting the process. It also revealed to me the importance of believing in myself and my abilities. It was the hardest I’ve worked for any academic achievement, and it was the proof I needed to know that I have the capabilities to achieve things far greater than I have.

  1. Do you believe your certification(s) will enhance your career and promotion potential?

Having both of my certifications will enhance my career whether I continue service, or not. I believe they’ll help with promotion potential as well because they’re something different that most, if not all, of my peers do not have.

Additionally, having my certifications has helped bridge the gap between military and civilian practitioners. Civilians had little understanding of what a FFIT was. The certifications help to translate what it is I do as a Marine to my civilian counterparts. This has improved relations and will ultimately strengthen the program.

  1. What advice would you give to junior Marines that have yet to take advantage of the COOL Program?

Find what you’re even moderately passionate about, commit to a study plan, and take the exam. I wish I would have taken advantage of the COOL program as a lance corporal, but I never committed. There are great organizations and certifications out there. COOL has done a fantastic job at streamlining and simplifying the program. It’ll help your career in and out of the Marine Corps.

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