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Air Guard marks training center's 40th anniversary

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Air National Guard celebrated the 40th anniversary of its Training and Education Center (TEC) at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tenn., July 30-31 with several events that honored the installation where men and women earn officers commissions and Airmen learn to be noncommissioned officers.

The celebrations, attended by Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, Air Guard director, and the first faculty members of what is now called the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center, included a State's Night July 30 and a morning ceremony July 31 with a parade of academy students.
 
In July 1968, the TEC's first faculty and students started the Air Guard's six-week Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) in a gymnasium at McGhee Tyson. The school expanded rapidly and added NCO Leadership School - precursor to today's Airman Leadership School (ALS) - in 1970 and an officer preparatory academy. The NCO school was the first of its kind to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for credit toward an associate degree. The preparatory academy, today's Academy of Military Science (AMS), became the Air Force's fourth commissioning center in 1971.

Significantly, AMS was the first Air Force commissioning school to fully integrate male and female students into the same flights.
 
"Today it's referred to as the 'crown jewel' of the Air National Guard," said retired Air Force Col. Edmund Morrisey, commandant of the first NCOA class and the center's first commander.
 
Today, the center runs an average of 18 professional military education courses throughout the year. Its flagship schools are the Academy of Military Science, the NCO Academy, which is one of the nation's largest, and the Airman Leadership School, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of all Air Guard ALS students.

 In addition, the center holds more than 20 skills enhancement classes in subjects ranging from explosives ordnance disposal to services, recruiting, retention and management. At least 44,000 students have graduated from the center's programs. Forty-three academy graduates have become general officers, and at least two serve today as state adjutants general: Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, Kansas, and Maj. Gen. Cindy Kirkland, Nevada. The late Dean Martin Jr., son of the famed entertainer, was also commissioned there before becoming a California Air Guard fighter pilot.
 
"They all made it what it is today," said Morrisey of the Airmen who have walked the center's hallways. "Those that attended here made possible today's image of the Air National Guard." 

Officials said the center's academies and schools, which served as models for other service components, are the products of the Air Guard's "flexible" senior leaders and the staff's "innovative" thinking. Morrisey agreed and said the faculty started with an attitude that they would be second to none. 

"We were given the latitude to take the minimum Air Force curriculum specified and add the Air Guard flavor to it, and we were off and running," said Morrisey who visits the center often.
 
Forty years of evolution.

"It's a huge milestone," said Col. Michael L. Waggett, TEC commander and the 13th AMS commandant. "We've had 40 years of building exceptional leaders for the Air Guard ... of excellence in training and education ... of affecting attitudes about the Air Guard in a positive way." 

Waggett said the center held a luncheon attended by "I Guard America" songwriter James Rogers and unveiled a plaque at the campus' Wilson Hall building during the celebration. The plaque displays a quote from President Bush following 9/11: "We will not waiver, we will not falter, we will not tire and we will not fail." 

"We are building warriors here," said Waggett. "That quote does a great job of conveying that, and every student coming though our campus will see it."
 
Waggett said the TEC retains its Guard culture while also training active duty and reserve students from all service components, Coast Guard students, international students and students from civilian agencies. 

"It's educating these folks on what the Air Guard is about," said Waggett. 

The center has more than 80 staff members including eight civilian personnel. About two-thirds are instructors.
 
The campus has grown from a gymnasium and barracks inherited from an Air Force fighter squadron to a modern facility with computer classrooms, a library, a fitness center and student housing. The entire campus will soon feature wireless Internet capability. 

"Most folks would be tremendously surprised at the quality of equipment and people and talent we have in our television studio," said Waggett. The studio runs the Air Guard's teleconferences, training broadcasts, and produces videos for major commands. 

Waggett said the center's distance learning capabilities are tremendously important for the Air Guard because they help traditional Guardmembers attend training from their homes.

"We are building alternatives for them, blended learning, Web and computer-based training, whatever suits our Guardsmen to ensure they get trained effectively but can still hold their civilian positions," said Waggett.

The center's satellite NCO Academy and Airman Leadership School are popular with traditional Guardmembers, said Waggett. The satellite classes reduce on-campus attendance to two weeks while providing in-residence credit. This September, the center will broadcast the schools to a record number of Airmen at 26 sites across the nation.
 
The center also began training Guardmembers in Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century this year and is working with McKinley to revive its Business and Industry Days program. That program, which is rooted in TEC's history, brings in employers from business, industry and government to showcase the Air Guard and show what Airmen, as employees, bring to work from their leadership classes. 

The campus and its courses and classrooms might look quite different to alumni and former faculty members who gathered to celebrate the 40th birthday. But traditions remain. 

"In the beginning, we made sure to include in our programs our history and traditions," said Morrisey. "What I see today as I look at the facility is the evolution of the Air National Guard."