MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- U.S. Air Force Airmen returned for in-residence classes with the Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center in East Tennessee this week after more than a year's in-person absence at the Air National Guard's primary training and education campus.
More than 80 Senior Airmen enrolled in Airman Leadership School began 24 academic days of study with morning briefings and indoctrination on June 7. They were the first EPME class since pandemic health precautions suspended in-resident learning in early 2020.
"The instructors are excited to have students back on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base and in-person for face-to-face interaction," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Megan Francolini, the Lankford Center's ALS superintendent.
The class graduates on July 9, and Francolini said their graduation ceremony would be different from the previous ALS banquets -- there is no formal dinner. Also, supervisors, family, and friends will watch it online instead of attending.
"We will wear service dress and have a traditional ceremony that aligns with other PME graduations, said Francolini. "This allows us to honor students while maintaining health-protection guidelines."
The revised graduation criteria are part of three months in planning to return in-resident EPME. It includes new standard operating procedures and collaboration with multiple organizations. Francolini said that seasoned instructors refreshed themselves with physical classrooms and prepared the more recently assigned instructors who have thus far instructed the course virtually.
U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Durrance, the Lankford Center Commandant, said that the pandemic while challenging, provided an opportunity to demonstrate PME innovation across the Air Force. Amid spreading COVID and initial quarantine response, the Center shifted to teaching all virtual EPME nearly instantaneously.
The Center is a division of the more extensive I.G. Brown Training and Education Center. It has 38 faculty, including 19 enlisted Airmen from the regular Air Force, 18 from the National Guard, and one from the Air Force Reserve. Three additional support staff manage scheduling and operations.
Lankford EPME includes a partnership with the 67 other active duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard ALS school houses that provide Airmen building blocks in leadership and set a standard for future PME development, said Chief Durrance.
"Having these ALS warriors back on campus creates a positive buzz for our TEC, the base, and the surrounding community," said Chief Durrance.
The Center's team is also working on how to bring back NCO Academy for in-residence students. Chief Durrance said that the Air Force is adjusting to determine how PME goes forward in a post-vaccinated environment. Improvements include public safety, curriculum delivery, and a host of innovative ways to deliver the curriculum.