Professional development is an integral part of becoming effective supervisors and leaders for all Airmen, officer or enlisted.
The Chief Master Sgt. Carl E. Beck Airman Leadership School at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., has implemented a virtual course for its students. The transition ensures these Airmen are able to continue receiving training despite COVID-19 so they can still become the ready front line supervisors and effective leaders that the Air Force requires.
“Our ultimate goal is to train effective supervisors, “ said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mayra Manfredi, ALS instructor. “The Air Force needs good supervisors and it is our job as instructors to get these Airmen trained so they can go back to their units and be those effective supervisors. Closing down wasn’t really an option for us so we had to innovate creative ways of delivering the material and with the support of wing leadership, we sat down, brainstormed and came up with creative ways to use different platforms to get what we want out of the course.”
The traditionally in-person course is being executed primarily through virtual teleconferencing due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“The biggest takeaway for the students is adaptability,“ said Master Sgt. Derek Allen, ALS commandant. “It requires students to figure out how they can best learn and convey to the instructors how they normally learn and their preferred style. The key is getting all 16 Airmen in your flight to take away and absorb as much as possible so they can go back to their units and be effective front line supervisors that are ready to get after the wing’s mission of rescue and attack. “
Four flights comprised of 16 Airmen each make up Class 20-C, the first class to go through and overcome the challenges of the new learning medium.
“The students were apprehensive at first as ALS already takes you out of your element, but even more now that it is all online,“ said Allen. “After working through some issues, however, the Airmen are responding very positively now to the mediums we are using. These instructors have taken a course that is 100% in classroom work and put it into a digital medium, which models what they are used to in online school that has in turn increased the amount of cross-talk between students.“
Airman Leadership School is designed to push students to become better leaders by developing leadership qualities within themselves. The change, however, can be beneficial as Airmen get different growth opportunities that could potentially help them later on in their career.
“This pandemic has given us the opportunity to experience and adjust to change,“ said Manfredi. “This is a change in mindset by adjusting to the new normal. I think both students and instructors will take away innovative creativity with a mindset of ‘we can do this’.”
This unprecedented situation presents an underlying opportunity for these ALS instructors to develop their skills as well.
“The greatest benefit lies within gaining a better understanding of the platforms that we use in a normal classroom setting, “ said Allen. “We are learning the full capabilities of our platforms so when we go back to our new normal, we’ll be able to better use these mediums to give a better student experience because we as an instructor core have a better understanding. We are all furthering our ability to adapt and overcome which exists and is critical in all career fields across the Air Force.“
This new, innovative approach to professional development is being taken from the ground up by these instructors as they pave a new way forward.
“We are developing and growing in this digital learning environment, but to go from an idea to where we are at today in just a couple of weeks is only possible with the way the entire instructor team has taken this head on,” said Allen. “Education across the 355th Force Support Squadron and the entire base is top notch and it has clearly set the bar for Air Combat Command, if not the entire Air Force.“
The 355th Wing is constantly trying to improve processes and procedures, especially now when an unprecedented situation is calling for adaptive actions. The Chief Master Sgt. Carl E. Beck Airman Leadership School is just one example of how Airmen from Davis-Monthan are leading the Air Force in innovation and readiness while developing the next leaders of the Air Force.