OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
The 51st Operations Group offers a 10-week course to guide and mold NCOs into better leaders: Airpower Leadership Academy.
The 10 week course is held about three times a year.
Held for the last three years, the class creates an open forum for students to discuss various topics about leadership and the Air Force amongst each other with the presence of senior NCOs to guide the conversation.
“The class cannot replace Airman Leadership School or NCO Academy,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Menendez, 51st Operations Support Squadron chief air traffic controller. “ALS teaches [important] things like bullet and enlisted progress report writing, whereas ALA is less of a lesson plan, and more of a discussion. The course is not about making you a better staff or technical sergeant, it’s about making you a better leader.”
Because of the discussion aspect of the class, students are able to have frank discussions about situations they’ve encountered, and find alternative perspectives and solutions. “There is a facilitator for each class, and we do have a topic, but it is very student-driven,” Menendez said. “We discuss the issues they’re having as NCOs and what their perception is. We want students to be able to discuss and respectfully disagree so that everyone gets a different perspective and can offer different points.”
In order to attend the class, group chiefs select someone they feel has strong leadership potential. The member is then recommended to take the course.
“We want students that want to be there,” said Menendez. “This is not a “mandatory-fun” class. After individuals are recommended, they are asked if it’s something they are interested in doing, but are not required. If they want to be there they are a lot more likely to participate and give feedback, that’s what the aim is.”
Toward the end of the course every student is given the opportunity to interview a chief master sergeant. For some students, this is their first real exposure to mentorship and its benefits.
“They set us up with a chief to interview and to get their perspectives on how they view their NCOs, how they think we view them, what they expect of us and how we can continue to develop to eventually make chief one day,” said Staff Sgt. Estrella Mora, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems craftsman. “It was a great mentorship opportunity that I had never received before. I didn’t really understand the importance of having a mentor until they broke it down for me.”