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Bulgarian sergeant completes second Air Force EPME course

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - Chief Master Sgt. Edward Walden, Sr., commandant of the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted PME Center, inspects the uniform of Bulgarian Staff Sgt. Bistra Koleva Kumanova here, June 23, 2015, during a uniform inspection in NCO academy. The EPME center hosts international military students from Bulgaria as well as from Canada and Jordan. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith/Released)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - Chief Master Sgt. Edward Walden, Sr., commandant of the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted PME Center, inspects the uniform of Bulgarian Staff Sgt. Bistra Koleva Kumanova here, June 23, 2015, during a uniform inspection in NCO academy. The EPME center hosts international military students from Bulgaria as well as from Canada and Jordan. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith/Released)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - Bulgarian and Jordan  service members take a photo with fellow U.S. Airmen who supported them during Airman Leadership School and NCO Academy here April 4, 2014, at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - Bulgarian Staff Sgt. Bistra Koleva Kumanova, third from left, during her attendance in Airman Leadership School here April 4, 2014, at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center. Kumanova returned to the TEC recently to attend NCO academy. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- After Bulgarian Air Force Staff Sgt. Bistra Koleva Kumanova attended the U.S. Air Force's Airman leadership school here in 2014, she felt more confident.

It was her first visit to the U.S.  In Bulgaria, she is a squad leader at an air base. She said that her I.G. Brown Training and Education Center assignment helped her to solve difficulties in her job there as well as in understanding military and civilian people.

Now, Kumanova is among the few Bulgarians to graduate from both ALS and NCO academy after a chance to return and attend the six-week leadership course for NCOs. Her class graduated this week.

"It's a great feeling to come back here," Kumanova said after an early uniform inspection in Wilson Hall last month. "This is a priceless experience for me and a great opportunity."

Never before in the TEC's 47 years of EPME has its classes been so diversified.

More than a half-dozen Bulgarians attended in-resident training since 2013. Canadian personnel arrived on the campus four years earlier. Last year, a Jordanian joined the formations, and officials say there's an outlook of other nations attending.

The TEC is among those Air Force training sites that now regularly host international students.

They are all part of the USAF's sponsored international training and education, a program through the Air Education and Training Command that allows language, flying, technical, medical and PME for more than 5,000 international students, annually, from at least 140 countries, said its officials.

"Overall, our NCO academy is one that we want to welcome all that want to be able to come here and learn," said Chief Master Sgt. Edward Walden, Sr., commandant of the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted PME Center. "We only get better by getting different viewpoints and different understandings of how other people do things."

According to Walden, students from both nations improve from learning each other's cultures and sensitivities. Class discussions on discipline, team building and leadership bring a diverse perspective to the challenges of NCOs.

Walden said that today's international security partnerships moreover necessitate NCOs to know universal leadership principles, and the TEC is working to meet that standard.

"Taking the opportunity to have international students come in truly helps us improve and remain an outstanding NCO academy," said Walden.