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The Mathies NCO Academy graduated the very first class of Technical Sergeants as part of the four-week Intermediate Leadership Experience course here on October 23.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody was the guest speaker for the graduation of 34 students, which included students from across the US Air Force.

After months of collaborative preparation between leadership Mathies NCOA and course developers at the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama, the ILE Professional Military Training Course was built to teach the skills of leadership and management in a completely new way.

“This is not the structured, pedagogical style of development that students are used to,” said Staff Sgt. Douglas Schmidt, Education Systems Designer at the Barnes Center. “This new course will challenge them to step out of their comfort zones and be more conative, more active – not just correcting – but voluntarily improving themselves and their work centers.

“More passive leadership. We need more active mid-level leadership.”

This is what conative means; it is the natural tendency to direct action. The goal of the new training is to instill adaptive leadership skills as a rooted reflex in the middle management of the US Air Force.

The ILE course was created for a different style of education.

“One of the main changes and goals of this education is not just to know the principles, but to act on those principles when it comes to acting,” said Bonnie Houser, director of education at the Barnes Center.

The informational knowledge for the course will be done through an online distance learning platform, Course 15. It provides technical sergeants with the terms, concepts and tools they will practice during their time in the ILE course at the Academy of NCOs.

Students will still receive homework, write essays, and make presentations during the residency course at the NCO Academy, but the emphasis will be more on discussion and reflection.

“Students no longer have to worry about passing a test,” Tech said. Sgt. Thomas Bebin, Mathies NCOA instructor. “The course focuses on how they work as a team and how they use the experiences they share to accomplish a task.”

Instructors should inspire class discussion and guide group problem solving, but it is the students’ responsibility to know the terminology and concepts of the course.

Students in the first class agreed that removing the tests allowed them to really focus on learning through discussion.

“It’s not about coming out with 90 percent,” Tech said. Sgt. Ernest Coleman, 362nd Recruiting Squadron, March Air Reserve Base, Calif., And recent ILE course graduate. “You’re not here to haggle over grades; it’s not about being successful. It’s about coming off as a better person and learning from everyone.”

Reflection is as much a part of ILE learning as cooperation.

The core of the program is designed to build self-awareness and to equip students with the right tools to lead, said Alisha Webster, Barnes Center ISD.

“Our mid-level leaders are sitting in what some are calling a pressure cooker,” Schmidt said. “It’s pressure from all sides: their subordinates, superiors and peers are counting on them in a whole new dimension. They must therefore be adaptable, resilient and critical thinkers. “

Although the course emphasizes critical thinking rather than right and wrong answers, students urged incoming technical sergeants to remember their course 15. The 4-week Undergraduate Academy course officers is devoted to applying the information learned from Course 15.

The ILE course came into being for various reasons.

The course saves money; it saves time; he teaches more effectively; and teaches communication under the new Airman Comprehensive Assessment performance feedback tool released in July.

“We are redefining success,” Schmidt said. “We do this through a more participatory effort in the classroom, with the use of effective feedback and the willingness to accept feedback. “

The adoption of new educational technologies has made these innovations possible.

By facilitating Course 15 material through Blackboard, the online resource used by civil higher education, all courses have been digitized. Classrooms are truly paperless. In addition, the technology allows for rapid course and program updates, said Master Sgt. Rebecca Sargent, Mathies NCOA ILE manager.

“Blackboard adds a more interactive distance learning experience and saves on printing costs,” Lenz said.

The Air Force will save money and time by shortening the duration of temporary assignments at the academy from six weeks to four. The course allows NCOs to receive SMEs while quickly returning them to their organizations to apply what they have learned and continue their mission.

None of these savings take away the intent of the new higher education experience. This allows the internal part of the course to be immersive and more personal, Schmidt said.

The course is really more of a learning retreat than a course.

“In today’s environment where people are constantly deploying and going to different work centers, we need to be comfortable working with different groups and learning about team dynamics, team roles, learning to overcome your differences and try to achieve a common goal, ”Coleman said.

The ILE course is set up for the first time in Keesler.

“Keesler was selected for many reasons,” Schmidt said. “The Keesler team, through their past experiences, have shown flawless proactivity and camaraderie hard to match.”

The Barnes Center team worked with Mathies NCO Academy throughout the preparation of the course and had worked for almost a year before.

John Wilson and Marvin Williams, the ILE project managers, were responsible for the design and development of the course for the past 18 months, Houser said.

In the five months since Keesler was selected to host, the Barnes and Mathies teams had weekly teleconferences to review the course and its modifications.

“They kept us in the loop like we were at the Barnes Center working with them on the process,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Nolen, Commander Mathies NCOA.

“When program developers conceptualize and assemble something, then watch it unfold, it’s important to take the feedback into account and tweak the course to make it more effective. “

There was a lot of back and forth during preparation before the course started, and 14 members of the Barnes Center development team came to Keesler to train instructors before the course started on September 30.

The Barnes Center has five NCO academies: Lackland AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas; Tyndal AFB, Florida; Peterson AFB, Colorado and Keesler.

Eventually, ILE will move to other NCO academies, Houser said.

The second class of ILE technical sergeants will begin in mid-November and the Barnes Center will keep representatives in Keesler to continue refining the course as needed.

“Because we put a lot of preparation into the transition, it was a lot easier for the staff,” Bebin said. “This course is so different; it has really been a mind shift for all of us.”

Professional military training in the US Air Force will continue to innovate over time, and the new ILE course is a step in that direction.

“It sounds like a glamorous version of what we were already doing, but it’s not,” Schmidt said. “It’s a whole new in-house experience for students that targets the higher order of thinking. ”

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