As a new way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while continuing the mission, the John. J. Rhodes Airman Leadership School at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., initiated a solely online course beginning with the class 20-5 on May 20, 2020.
COVID-19 has created a need for new and innovative ways for many base agencies to operate, one of which being the Airman Leadership School.
ALS is a one-month course designed to educate senior airmen and staff sergeants on the ins and outs of becoming effective leaders, supervisors, and ultimately noncommissioned officers in their respective work environments.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, ALS, which normally houses around 50 people organized into two different flights, needed an alternative way to continue edifying new NCOs in a safe and effective way.
“The course has changed the way the students view leadership through adaptability and resilience,” said Staff Sgt. Oleksandr Kalinin, ALS instructor, “Just like in wartime, the environment and threat level is constantly changing. Students have had to test their adaptability and resiliency by looking for new ways to connect with one another and potential changing circumstances.”
Some of the ways the course has changed includes online learning through video conference services and digital learning material, allowing instructors and students to interact in a “face-to-face” domain, but providing the social distancing required to keep students safe.
“The cadre needed to expand our skills as instructors by learning to connect with students during changing world events,” said Kalinin “We had to reach out through phone calls or arranged in-person meetings and be extra vigilant to care for another and build strong camaraderie.”
Although some of the training methods may be new and different, the focus on self-paced study and maintaining integrity to complete assignments at-home, has always been standard to ALS and has allowed for this new form of online learning to work well.
“Instructors [consistently emphasize] applying everything we learn into each assignment,” said Staff Sgt. Jon Davila, 56th Operations Support Squadron radar, airfield, and weather systems craftsman. “Additionally, having a computer that is able to quickly pull up assignments and references so that no one is lost is definitely beneficial.”
This is the first iteration of ALS executed online at Luke AFB. Being in its test phases, students are taking notes of what has and hasn’t worked during the course to provide instructors with feedback for future classes.
“Using zoom or other online platforms has become the norm,” said Davila, “However, the cons of online learning such as internet failure and technical difficulties exist, and the ALS leadership has to find a way to overcome this.”
The instructors and commandant at ALS plan to use the feedback they receive from students to improve future classes should they continue to be conducted online.
“We are glad to have kicked it off when we did, we learn as we grow,” said Kalinin. “We are prepared for what the future holds.”