(function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + 'stats.g.doubleclick.net/dc.js'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })();

Largest EPME class ever begins at TEC

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Air National Guard Command Chief Master Sgt. Chris Muncy addresses more than 260 service members attending the Noncommissioned Officer Academy Class 10-4 and the Airman Leadership School Class 10-2 at The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center here, March 3, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Air National Guard Command Chief Master Sgt. Chris Muncy addresses more than 260 service members attending the Noncommissioned Officer Academy Class 10-4 and the Airman Leadership School Class 10-2 at The I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center here, March 3, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- The Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center here welcomed its largest group of students ever, when more than 260 service members reported for in-processing into their respective Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Airman Leadership School classes, March 1.

This record number of students came from military installations located in 43 different states and the territory of Guam and represents the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard and U.S. Coast Guard.

Not everyone knows that this Air National Guard schoolhouse is one of five enlisted professional military education centers worldwide that the Air Force relies upon to train its Airmen.

Known as the Lankford Center, named after its first enlisted commandant, Bataan Death March survivor Chief Master Sgt. Paul H. Lankford, it has been around for more than 40 years.

During this time, the Lankford Center has trained more than 30,000 enlisted service members to lead, follow, and manage through its Airman Leadership School, Noncommissioned Officer Academy, and satellite broadcast version of both programs.

Today's growth is based on a partnership with the Air Force that was established to provide a shared common experience for enlisted members when the Air National Guard's officer commissioning program, the Academy of Military Science, moved from here to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in 2009.

With the help of 13 new Air Force instructors and two knowledge operation managers, the Lankford Center will train an additional 750 active duty Airmen in 2010...a growth of more than 800% over last year. The 126 active duty students in this class come from a variety of Air Force bases including Charleston, Pope, Scott, Seymour-Johnson, Shaw, Whiteman and Wright-Patterson, to name a few.

"This class is significant," said Chief Master Sgt. Deborah Davidson, the center's commandant. "Having all of these components in the classroom makes for a great educational environment...and in more ways than one."

As these students learn and work together in the classroom, they are also gaining a greater understanding, awareness and appreciation for each other and each other's service.

"This is important," said Davidson. "As the Air Force changes and as we integrate overseas on deployments, these students are going to get the same experience at this school house.  We are creating the same synergy here that is going on in the real world."

By creating a shared common experience at a pivotal time in these enlisted service members careers, a time when they are learning to lead, Davidson said she sees even more positive results in future.

"We're hoping that when they go out years from now," she said. "They're going to meet each other again at the Senior NCO Academy, on deployments, or in top leadership positions, and they will already know and understand each other. And we're starting that process here and now at the Lankford Academy."