MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
In late 2018, Tyndall Air Force Base sustained severe damage from Hurricane Michael, affecting nearly every building and mission on the installation. Among those impacted by the storm, the Airey Noncommissioned Officer Academy faced the loss of their learning environment.
In order to help combat this, Maxwell Air Force Base’s Gunter Annex has become the new temporary home of Airey NCOA, which officially began their first class in April 2019.
Although not operating on the same scale as it was at Tyndall, the seven instructors and one student registrar that made the trip to Alabama will continue their mission and provide NCOs with the education and development they need to advance in their careers.
“It’s been pretty challenging,” said Master Sgt. William Harris, Airey NCOA flight instructor. “When you’re in the moment, and teaching day-to-day, it almost seems mundane, but when you put four months in between [classes], and [the curriculum] changed while you were gone, it’s kind of exciting and now it feels like a reintroduction to instructing.”
The team has taken full advantage of this situation, using it as an opportunity to implement some changes of their own.
“We’ve added a much more aggressive physical training curriculum,” Harris said. “The original NCOA curriculum calls for a certain number of PT sessions - eight, hour-long sessions throughout the five weeks. We’ve bumped that up to every morning for about 45 minutes to an hour. Moving here allowed for that transition to happen more seamlessly because it’s a fresh start.”
Students attending Airey NCOA have immediate access to other Air University programs, including the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, which is located right down the hall from their classrooms.
“It’s definitely refreshing to have another cadre to call on and ask questions about what works for them,” said Harris. “The same thing goes for the First Sergeant Academy, Chief Leadership Course and the Enlisted Professional Military Education Instructor Course. They’ve worked a lot with us to make sure that we have what we need. It’s been great to have that localized here.”
While a number of changes have occurred during the transition from Tyndall, Airey NCOAs mission remains the same: to assist in the development of future Air Force leaders.
“The main take away for students is that they are developing themselves as adaptable leaders,” Harris said. “Throughout the curriculum, we may not provide every single piece of information that they need to complete a task that’s assigned. It’s their job to be creative and come up with a solution and, as long as the outcome is what we asked, that’s what we want. That’s how we’re going to be able to meet future challenges. We might not know what comes down the road a year or two from now, but if we are cognitively flexible enough and can create plans on the fly, that’s how we can mitigate those kinds of issues catching us off guard.”