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Officer program leaving air base - Air Guard officers to be trained at Maxwell Air Force Base

MARYVILLE, Tenn. -- The Air National Guard's officer commissioning program is moving from McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

Academy of Military Science students who started training Monday will be the last AMS class to graduate from the I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center.

Their graduation is scheduled for June 26, when the AMS era at McGhee Tyson will culminate its 38 years with a special commissioning and farewell ceremony. To date, 14,545 have graduated from the academy; 96 are enrolled in the final class at the I.G. Brown Center. 

"The reason we're moving the school is to consolidate resources with other commissioning programs," Maj. Ronald M. Daniels, AMS commandant, said Tuesday.

Daniels and about 15 other AMS staff will move to their new duty post near Montgomery, Ala., in July. He will serve as commander of a staff that will grow to 27. About 500 students are trained at AMS per year.

"We've got a lot of good people we're taking with us," Daniels said.

While the transfer of AMS staff and students AMS to Maxwell -- home of the Air University of the Air Force -- will mean a loss of personnel at McGhee Tyson Air Base, it's a case of one step back and one step forward. What the base is losing in officer training numbers, it will regain in non-commissioned officer training, the roots of the Training and Education Center.

Col. Edmund C. Morrisey Jr., first commander of the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy established at McGhee Tyson in 1968, was the driving force behind development of the Preparatory Academy that was later named the Academy of Military Science.

The Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center -- the NCO Academy named after noted Maryvillian Chief Master Sgt. Paul Lankford of Maryville -- will increase its staff by 15 instructors. This will allow an estimated 600 more students per year to be trained at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Airman Leadership School.

Daniels said he is eager to take on the new challenge at Maxwell, but will have fond memories of his time at McGhee Tyson, where he has been assigned since July 2005.

"I love East Tennessee. I love going to UT football games," he said.

Daniels said he will particularly miss working alongside the other units based at McGhee Tyson and expressed his appreciation for the support given AMS by the 134th Air Refueling Wing.

"We're going to miss the relationships." 

Shared experiences 

The Air Guard and the Air Force are looking for benefits to accrue from their future officers interacting at a single training site.

"We're going to consolidate resources with other commissioning programs. The main goal is to develop a situation where officer candidates can work together and develop shared experiences."

He said the Air Force and Air Guard have determined that officers who come to the military by different paths will be better prepared for their future mission if they share a common point of reference.

"We can all gain by diversity -- not just in race, creed or color -- but obviously, we are more effective when we are all put together into an outstanding force," Daniels said.

The AMS is the fourth commissioning source for the Air Force, along with the Air Force Academy, ROTC and the Officer Training School based at Maxwell Air Force Base.

The academy's training programs will be separate -- as a detachment of the Air National Guard -- from the Officer Training School and the ROTC trainees at Maxwell, but eventually there will be more coordination between the units, Daniels said.

"We have some initiatives we're working on. Obviously, we will use the Air Force curriculum and facilities. We'll use the firing range and the exercise center, but initially we won't do it all together."

The most important thing?

"The mission."