(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); })();

People give our missions life

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - The full moon rises above the tree tops on a still night at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center's campus, June 22, 2013, outside the Smoky Mountains. Since 1968, men and women have brought the campus to life. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - The full moon rises above the tree tops on a still night at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center's campus, June 22, 2013, outside the Smoky Mountains. Since 1968, men and women have brought the campus to life. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kurt Skoglund/Released)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE -- More than three hours before the aircraft commander took responsibility for our C‐130 Hercules, the flight line was dark.

Pulling up beside our aircraft was like parking in front of an empty shopping mall or a closed restaurant - nothing moved. A single light-all burned at the entry control point. There was dew on the grass alongside the acres of smooth tarmac.

When we turned off the truck's engine, we could hear the gentle, flapping sound of the plastic, "Remove Before Flight" streamer brushing the cold, dead skin of our Hercules.

It wasn't until we arrived at the aircraft that things began to come to life.

Since 1903 when the first, heavier‐than‐air machine took to the skies over Kitty Hawk, N.C., men and women have been making cold, dead objects come to life.

By pushing buttons, flipping switches, operating levers, cam‐locks and pins, Airmen turn machines into living, breathing things. Airmen with specialty training in many disciplines do what they were taught to do - what they love to do - in order to turn the latest technology into the most powerful Air Force on earth.

Schoolhouses are the same way.

The Lankford EPME Center here is a small collection of buildings in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Although our little campus is attractive, it is nothing more, and nothing less, than improved real estate. Until the first instructor arrives in the dark and reaches in their pocket for keys, nothing happens here.

Since 1968, men and women have brought this campus to life. They turn on the lights, make the coffee and prepare classrooms for students. Our teams of professionals are the lifeblood. They work together in many different roles: Student Registrar; Executive Assistant; Director; Superintendent; Analyst; Trainer; Supervisor; Instructor; Broadcaster; and more, to bring enlisted professional military education to the students who arrive. It is these people - not the buildings - who deliver leadership.

It's these people - not the classrooms - who inspire students to become more than they've been. It's seemingly ordinary people of the Lankford EPME Center who have an extraordinary impact on the Total Force Airmen who visit the foothills of the Smokies.

Our Air Force in all its three components presents the most prepared warriors possible in support of national defense, and we do it with people ‐ Airmen ‐ men and women like you and me.

Ever since that early morning flight line arrival as a young loadmaster, I've held a deep respect for what people do every day. As I serve you, I serve them. Together, we make our Air Force come to life.

(Chief Master Sgt. Thomas K. Stoudt is the 13th commandant of the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.)