Air Force SNCO Academy graduates first civilian student

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kim Bender
  • Air University Public Affairs

The Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy graduated its first civilian student April 6, 2022, at Gunter Annex, Alabama, and hopes installations will prioritize sending interested civilian employees in future.

For Christopher Cocke, the assistant fire chief for operations at the 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess AFB, Texas, he asked his supervisor for leadership training. His supervisor asked if he would be interested in AFSNCOA. From there, his leadership successfully got Cocke into an open spot that was not being filled by an active duty member.

AFSNCOA creates adaptable senior enlisted leaders to operate critically, strategically and in joint, complex and ambiguous environments through the application of four learning outcomes: Leadership, Problem Solving, Mission, and Culture.

Cocke had little advanced knowledge on AFSNCOA and few expectations on what he would learn. In his job at the fire department, he primarily works with master sergeants and supervises civilians and enlisted members, ranging from first-assignment airmen to technical sergeants.

“If I would have wrote down what I needed, it was the leadership module we did right off the bat, especially the multi-generational leadership and communication training,” said Cocke. “Overall, the course was spot-on to get ‘re-blued’ and allowed me to step back to learn, re-access my leadership skills, interact with enlisted leaders, and ultimately, bring this back to my unit.”

There are many benefits to having civilians attend AFSNCOA to both the member as well as the enlisted faculty and students.

“I hope we see more civilians attending. While those in uniform can speak from operating instructions and their experience working with civilians, we cannot speak on what it is like to be a civilian serving as part of the Total Force,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert N. Vensel III, AFSNCOA chief of operations. “Chris added a very unique perspective that helps make us all better strategic warfighters.”

The course always has authorization for civilians to attend, but open slots are prioritized to and typically filled with uniform wearers. AFSNCOA encourages supervisors to consider sending their civilian employees, as well as recommends to civilians interested to express this to their direct supervisors and then work with their base training managers and Air Force Personnel Center.

“Civilians are the backbone and memory of many organizations as we posture, train and equip for events around the globe,” said Chief Master Sgt. Dan Hoglund, AFSNCOA commandant. “Many of our students will be in the position to work with, supervise and be supervised by civilians in our work force so this adds a first-person approach to educating them on civilian personnel.”

The AFSNCOA is the third level of enlisted Professional Military Education and prepares senior NCOs to lead the enlisted force in the employment of air and space power in support of U.S. national security objectives. There is a single in-resident AFSNCOA located on Gunter.

The AFSNCOA program is delivered in 25 academic days. There are six classes each year with approximately 300 students in each class.

The schoolhouse plays no part in active duty, Guard or Reserve student selection. To obtain a slot, contact the local base training office. Reference AFI 36-2670, Total Force Development, for active duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve scheduling information.