Total force approach is enhancing leadership in Fargo

  • Published
  • By SMSgt David H. Lipp
  • 119th Wing
The 119th Wing training office is blazing a trail in conjunction with the Etchberger Airman Leadership School at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., by hosting an Airman Leadership School in-residence class at the North Dakota Air National Guard Base in Fargo, N.D.

The ALS course is being taught by U.S. Air Force active duty professional military education instructors to a flight of ANG students in Fargo simultaneously with a flight of active duty students at Grand Forks AFB during a five-week class culminating with the students coming together for a formal graduation ceremony at Grand Forks AFB.

The course is designed to prepare junior enlisted members for leadership and supervisory roles as they become non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard.

According to the course description, lessons are divided into five units of instruction providing students the knowledge, understanding, and skills necessary to succeed as supervisors in the military environment. It covers things like military standards and responsibilities, Air Force history, communication principles, management practices, writing and speaking skills, and various leadership techniques.

'We give them the tools to deal with arising situations with other Airman regardless whether it is their subordinate or not. While at Airman Leadership School we set them up to be successful Airmen and non-commissioned officers. After they graduate, it is up to them how successful they want to be,' says Tech. Sgt. James Richey, an Airman Leadership School instructor.

ANG members throughout the country have the option of doing the course-work through distance-learning programs without attending any actual class-room studies, but attending the classroom course allows them to interact with an instructor and other students as they practice applying what they read in the text.

The hands-on application of the classroom material gives the students a realistic experience to draw from when they encounter situations while on duty later in their careers, and the instructors can share experiences they have had in similar situations.

Non-commissioned officers who become ALS instructors are trained for the special duty in addition to their Air Force specialty, such as the one Tech. Sgt. Richey attended at Air University on Maxwell-Gunter Annex AFB, Alabama.

'When I talked to the training people at the National Guard Bureau, they said they have not heard of another Air National Guard base doing it this way,' said Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Miller, the 119th Wing non-commissioned officer in charge of training.

'I believe we develop better leaders for our unit by having the Airmen attend an ALS class rather than by doing the training through correspondence because it gives the Airmen an opportunity to benefit from the interaction with an instructor and their peers in the classroom - and it is a great opportunity to be able to do that at our home station,' said Sergeant Miller.

'It doesn't fit into every the life circumstances for every Guard member, but it is beneficial for those who can do it in the classroom,' added Miller.

The students apply their instruction through interactive course activities involving realistic scenarios addressing issues like suicide prevention, substance abuse, stress management, sexual assault prevention and response, and identifying concerns in their fellow Airmen so they can help them organizational find support.

'It is crazy how much you can learn in this class to become a better military member and the material in the lessons transfers back to make you better in your civilian job.' Says Senior Airman Tyrell Martin, of the 119th Operations Support Squadron, who is also a business manager for Titan Machinery in Wishek, N.D. 'I hear about things going on with friends in their civilian jobs and think, you should be taking these class - but they can't,' he adds.

The concept of having one active duty instructor travel to the Air National Guard Base in Fargo to teach a course rather than having several Air National Guard Airmen travel to Grand Forks Air Force Base, and stay there to attend the course arose from discussions between Senior Master Sgt. Miller and Master Sgt. Aaron Holmes, the Etchberger ALS Commandant at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The benefits became apparent to the pair of senior NCOs as they discussed the financial savings for the U.S. government as well as the job satisfaction of contributing to the improvement of leadership training for the N.D. Air National Guard members and the total force concept of active duty interaction with the ANG.

'Providing this inaugural in-residence course here in Fargo is going very well and we are looking at continuing it in future years down here, as well as keeping watch for opportunities to offer it in other locations,' said Master Sgt. Holmes.

'I find it very rewarding when Airmen tell me, no kidding how they have been able to use the material from the course in real-life situations in their Air Force careers.' said Holmes.