TEC 2016: the EPME 'Year of the Student'

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
Reviewing 2015, the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center met challenges in professional military education, welcomed new staff members including its Commandant, and set the bar through award-winning service, course offerings and rising infrastructure.

The TEC's staff gained top awards and recognition with seven Air National Guard Readiness Center awards, including 2014 civilian the year and a complete sweep of the readiness center's second and third quarter awards for outstanding civilian, NCO and SNCO.

Construction workers raised and enclosed much of the 47,000-square-foot classroom and dormitory facility.

Crews finished dirt excavation, poured cement footings and retaining walls and welded steel framing, among other actions. They enclosed the two-story classroom building, and then they raised the three-story dormitory buildings.

In mid-February, Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Brush, senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, was the keynote speaker for a joint Airman leadership school and NCO academy graduation. Other graduation speakers included Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant general for the Nebraska National Guard, and Chief Master Sgt. Jim Hotaling, command chief for the Air National Guard. Airman leadership school saw the return of its graduation banquets.

The biggest month for the TEC may have been in August, when it hosted and facilitated the first General Officer Staff Course for 71 Soldiers, Airmen and civilians assigned at 35 states, territories and the District of Columbia. Leaders from across the nation lauded the course.

The TEC also dedicated its unnamed Buildings 412 (April 9) and 406 (Oct. 8) after former commandants, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Moon and Chief Master Sgt. George Vitzhum, respectively.

Chief Master Sgt. Edward L. Walden became the 14th commandant of the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center in May, following Chief Master Sgt. Thomas K. Stoudt's retirement. With the holiday season fast approaching Walden answered a few questions on the year's happenings and what may come for the TEC in 2016.

Q: Can you share what you learned about your role as an EPME commandant since your arrival?

WALDEN: The biggest thing I learned since being here is the enormous amount of responsibility to the students. If I don't focus on what we need to do on a cultural basis then I'm not really doing my job. I've ran a schoolhouse before, and it was more on the day-to-day operations, but here it's more about changing a culture for the students that helps shape the future of the Air Force. I wasn't expecting that. The other part is dealing with the instructors and the development that they need to do their jobs.

Q: What have been the significant accomplishments for the Paul H. Lankford EPME Center this year?

WALDEN: We brought back the Airman leadership school banquets in May, which was huge. It was something we did in the past that impacts people's careers as they continue on. It's one of those memories that you have, which you never forget. We also developed a student-centered approach to decision-making, so when we come to making decisions here, we now focus on how it impacts the student ... that's the underlying basis. Without that as our foundational way forward to answer our questions, it doesn't really help to change the culture here. That approach - having the student around our decision making model - makes sure that we stay focused on the purpose of why we are here, and that is to have quality students who have a quality experience. That includes anything from picking new furniture, or the new student lounges we are developing as collaboration areas, to instructor development as well as lowering the student-instructor ratios. It's going to be a change for the students to have an even greater experience.

Q: So how do your instructors influence the quality and success of EPME taught here?

WALDEN: The instructors are the key. They have a captive audience of individuals, eight hours a day, for four or five weeks. It's the instructors' values, it's their actual attitudes, that helps influence students throughout the time that they are here. They are the leaders that the students are looking at who impact their futures for the next 15, 20 years. I still remember my NCOA instructor. So the reality is that our instructors can't have a bad day, and that's why we want them to be a cut above when we select them. You have to have a passion for teaching, and if you don't have that you are not going to be successful in our classrooms.

Q: You are also the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center's senior enlisted advisor. In what ways were you involved with TEC's other capabilities, missions or staff?

WALDEN: One of the changes that I made, in that regard, was to start quarterly enlisted calls. Enlisted Airmen at the TEC get together, and we talk about teamwork. We talk about partnership, and we talk about attitudes. We discuss collaboration and just basically our overall want of being at the TEC. It's a unique job. This is a unique area, so we want to make sure that people are doing well while they are here. When I first got here I sat down and met with every enlisted Airman. It took a few months just for me to be able to get to know them, and it helped me have an understanding of the environment and the culture that is here and what I, as a senior leader, along with the other senior NCOs, can do to help shape our future going forward. We've held a mock interview panel, and I want to continue those. I'm also going to institute a formal mentorship program to help our staff grow and shape their careers. We have a staff that's regular Air Force, Guard and Reserve, so we want to help everybody focus on their careers, and that mentorship program is going to be key. It's also concentrating on the professional development side of taking care of people - on those that we rate on - and how to help them grow and progress in their careers.

Q: What excites you the most about the future of EPME here? Are there any predictions you want to make for 2016?

WALDEN: We are dedicating the year as a year of the student - as I mentioned - with a student-centered approach in our decision making, based on the students. So we will focus on the student through classroom upgrades, equipment upgrades, professional development and ensuring the quality of the experience for those that come though this school. I'm also looking forward the ILE (Intermediate Learning Experience) that is beginning in April 2016 ... that is going to be a completely new approach to how we're teaching NCOs at the NCO academy. Facilitated online distance learning is also something we are looking forward to getting off the ground in 2016.

Q: Can you share something interesting about the Paul H. Lankford EPME Center that some people may not know, or that you want others to know?

WALDEN: We are the Air Force's largest, and its longest standing, EPME center. It is truly, total force on a consistent basis, with active, Guard and Reserve, with Coast Guard and international students, as the constant makeup of individuals that come through this school. You won't get that experience anywhere else. Our instructors are also a true 50/50 mix of active and Guard. It's a wonderful experience, and it's something that we take advantage of.