Capt. Robert Hammerbeck, Officer Training School Commissioned Officer Training Course flight commander, gives feedback to 1st Lt. Leah Ordinanza, a commissioned officer trainee at OTS, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Oct. 24, 2013. The Academics Instructors Course teaches flight commanders to use the feedback session to provide the trainee with constructive criticism, and suggest possible improvements as well as lauding them for their strengths. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook)
AIC course empowers OTS instructors to train future leaders

by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/22/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- The Air Force needs leaders. It needs leaders who can make decisions at a moment's notice. There is no warning, heads up or reminder email for some situations; there is just do. The Air Force needs leaders who can do.

The Academic Instructors Course, a part of the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development on Maxwell, trains Air Force Officer Training School flight commanders how to effectively teach leadership skills to the more than 2,300 new officers they develop annually.

Officer Training School is the commissioning course for officer trainees who did not go through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program or the U.S. Air Force Academy. It teaches future officers the skills they will need to defend the nation and to lead Airmen to defend it, as well.

The instructor course, at eight days of instruction, is a prerequisite to becoming an OTS flight commander. It is the part of their initial training that qualifies them to be instructors.
"The airmen [in OTS] that they are teaching are tomorrow's leaders," said Houston Markham, leadership studies curriculum area manager. "They all leave here commissioned, they will go lead. They will be your boss, they will be my boss."

The course teaches the instructors methods and exercises to involve the student in the learning process. It teaches them how to relate the students' experiences from outside the classroom to the leadership theories being taught in the classroom.

"There is a tremendous difference between briefing and teaching," Markham said. "We want our students to be outstanding teachers so the future officers they influence and teach will retain and apply lessons learned from OTS in the field."

The flight commanders are taught to ask open-ended questions, said Capt. Robert Hammerbeck, OTS Commissioned Officer Training Course flight commander. Asking those types of questions encourages students to become more involved with what the instructors are trying to teach and what they are trying to convey. It draws the students into the lesson and helps the students internalize the subject matter.

"The skills we learned in the academic instructors course allow me to teach the students in a more effective way," Hammerbeck said. "We strive to impart knowledge in such a way where it becomes instinctual. We strive to have them react with the knowledge we have taught rather than having to stop and think back to a lesson."

The academic instructors course also helps flight commanders tap into the students' different experience levels and backgrounds. The course teaches them to draw on the difference of life experience students in the class have and to develop a way to harness it.

It is a defining moment for an instructor when the student gains that level of understanding, said Ricky Lewis, leadership studies curriculum area manager. When the instructor sees the students have that eureka moment, they know that they have been successful; they know that learning has taken place.

"At the end of the day, especially at OTS, leadership is about making decisions and possessing the confidence to lead others," Hammerbeck said. "The Air Force does not recruit people simply for their skill sets. What the Air Force is trying to do at OTS is develop leaders. The flight commanders are developing leaders who are able to deal with stressful situations and make decisions that can have an immense impact on the lives of the Airmen who they lead."