Formula for an EPME instructor: Excellence = Experience + Desire
By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith , I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
/ Published November 12, 2013
MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE -- "Everyone here is a professional and excellent at what they do."
That's what Tech. Sgt. Drew Carson said when asked why he enjoys coming to work as an enlisted professional military education (EPME) instructor at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center (TEC).
"That's what makes me so successful," said Carson. "It's because I work among top notch people - Guard, Reserve and active duty. How can I not like coming in each day?"
If that's true, then Carson's active duty accomplishment as one of the Air National Guard's top Airmen - he was recognized as the Air National Guard Readiness Center's outstanding noncommissioned officer for July-September - seems still, pretty impressive.
If you ask him and he tries to play his accomplishment down, consider a bit of Carson's commitment to EPME for your own inspiration:
He arrived here nearly two years ago after many years of service, knowing aircraft hydraulics on F-15s, C-130s, KC-135s and managing active duty Air Force maintenance programs, systems and teams.
His years in Maintenance taught him how to multi-task. He said he became an expert in troubleshooting and problem solving. He gained a sixth-sense to finding direction when working with people; from pilots to subordinates.
Despite those successes and his comfort in his career, he said he wanted to challenge himself further and find a place where he could "make a change."
"I saw what was messed up, and I said 'how can I get to a place where I can maybe influence change somehow,'" he said. "I thought I could maybe change some of the mentalities that we are stuck in."
He applied to instruct at TEC's Paul H. Lankford EPME Center, which provides the Air Force's Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Airman Leadership School.
Both courses prepare Airmen for greater roles and responsibilities.
"I went to the NCO Academy through here," said Carson. "I liked the feeling that I got from the instructors."
The competition for becoming an instructor is fierce, and Airmen are scrutinized and compared against top applicants in the service.
Carson got the job, and he got certified to teach EPME. He also put in the classroom time needed to become as good an instructor as he was a maintainer.
"I remember as a new instructor being terrified of getting in front of the entire student body ... terrified getting up in front of my first class," said Carson.
Now with nearly 1,000 classroom hours behind him, he said he smiles on the occasional compliment he gets - those who say he's a "gifted communicator." He knows that good instruction demands many hours, along with a personal desire.
"The Airmen that come through my classes, when they find out I'm Maintenance ... they could tell that I had seen and dealt with it," Carson said.
Student compliments aside, Carson and his fellow instructors are evaluated constantly.
Master Sgt. Glen Weaver, superintendent of Lankford Center's test content and analysis, scrutinizes their student test data to ensure they are on course and that the students get the best chance for success. Lankford EPME Center has very effective instructors, he said, and Carson is a good example.
"He uses all kinds of experiences to help propel students into it and make them see the personal aspect of it - the 'here's how it works,'" said Weaver. "He has that connection between the students and the Air Force's curriculum."
So what drives Carson now?
It's text messages and emails he receives from graduates who tell him that EPME works. "If you do it, that's the key thing," he said.
"It makes me want to try even harder. It's good to know that we are making a change and making a difference here ... it's kind of addictive to an extent."
Of course, when considering the whole of Carson's accomplishments, there are also his additional duties, his professional degrees, his community service, and his family.
But that's another story, for another day.
"It's cool," said Carson. "I don't know what's next."