Here's a kick ... Ahem ... some tips for enlisted advancement

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
Does it require too much of a kick to advance as a service member? Does the thought of electronic career development courses (e-CDC) and professional military education (PME) study outside the base gate seem unmanageable? Instructors here at the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center have some tips.

Family, jobs, deployments and time to relax in a service member's lifestyle can cause some to put their e-CDCs and PME aside. Worse still, too many cram just before critical advancement tests and fail, putting their eligibility at risk.

"Cramming for a test does not work here or at home, and it doesn't work for the Air Force," said Tech. Sgt. Derek Westfall, an instructor here for Airman Leadership School and NCO Academy. "You have to know how to apply what you learn [so] set aside time to study and learn your role as a leader and technical expert," he said.

We will get to his tips later, but first, the kick to learning electronically, which should not be taken casually.

The Center's instructors recently identified distance learning as one of the more challenging approaches to advancement in the Air Force. In short, it takes a lot of will power.

Any time you have been challenged in your life, you more than likely gained something from that experience; we want to help, said Westfall.

First, the instructors recommended everyone, with the time and opportunity, attend their enlisted PME in-residence.

"We realize that some Guard members and reservists have obligations that may prevent them from attending," said Staff Sgt. Kristal Coleman, EPME instructor. "That's why we offer options here like our blended learning satellite NCO Academy from home station and are developing satellite ALS too. Both require less travel."

Second, what if e-CDCs are the only choice?

Westfall said success then begins with the proper attitude and commitment.

"With your technical training, you are going to have to use that stuff, so why not study hard to be the best," he said.

From her teaching experience, Coleman said it's the Airmen who take responsibility for their learning and growth that succeed and advance.

Third: "The stuff you learn is not just for the military," said Westfall. "You are learning business practices and management skills that apply to your personal success outside the gate. So think outside the box in terms of your training."

"Don't think about how to study to pass a test, think about how to study to become the best," added Coleman.

OK, so here are the two instructors' top 10 tips:

1. Know the goal you want to achieve and why, narrow down what is your motivation. Write it out and create a plan of action to achieve it by defining clear steps with a start and finish time.

2. Discuss your e-CDC and enlisted PME commitment with family members, coworkers and friends, and let them know your plan. Tell them why it's important and ask for their support.

3. Set a specific time aside to study each day, with no distractions. Distance learning is different than classwork in that there's no classroom time; it's solitary study. Read for an understanding. Look up definitions to words you don't understand. Instructors recommend you spend an equal time reading, note taking and reviewing.

4. Don't have social media sites open when you study on the computer. Remove distractors that are not focused on your study goal. Do take advantage of social media outside of duty hours to reach those who understand difficult lessons.

5. Talk with those who know. Discuss lessons with leaders, craftsmen and technicians and ask them questions. Seek answers from others and listen to their stories on how coursework applies. Lessons cannot always predict how a concept applies to your unit and mission.

6. Being a part-time reservist or National Guard member does not mean part time learning and knowledge. Total Force service members must know their leadership and job skills equally; therefore, learning and studying should not be limited to unit training assemblies. Remember, you can be called to fulltime federal and state active duty when the nation needs you. Also, keep in mind that some lessons apply in your personal life as well as earn college credits. Consider your effort more of a life development.

7. Keep a healthy lifestyle. Get enough sleep, stay physically fit and eat right. You will be more refreshed and ready to learn if you take care of yourself.

8. When you feel you are ready to test, talk about an exam date with your education and training manager. Discuss your test date with your supervisor and quiz yourself, and take any available practice tests.

9. Reward yourself for making goals and passing exams. If you don't pass the exam, try to remember the questions and sections you had a hard time with. Don't be too hard on yourself, and talk with your supervisor, enlisted leaders or the base chaplain about how to reset and achieve your goal.

10. Last, but not least, the Lankford EPME Center highly recommends you attend in-residence for your leadership training. The National Guard provides Airmen several options for completing Airman Leadership School and Noncommissioned Officer Academy.