ALS transforms Airmen into NCOs

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Hailey Staker
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Prior to transitioning into what is considered the backbone of the Air Force, the NCO corps, Senior Airmen must complete the first leg of professional military education, Airman Leadership School.

This rite of passage tests Senior Airmen by placing them in real-world scenarios to provide them hands-on leadership training.

"The ALS program [presents an opportunity] ... to learn about what it takes to be an effective supervisor," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Espinoza, 28th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor. "We give them different scenarios they may encounter, and they get to figure out if what they are saying is going to be effective in the work center."

During the five-week class, students are able to build on fundamentals while gaining a broader understanding of what it means to become an NCO.

"Students who come in know exactly what the Air Force needs and wants," Espinoza said. "They have a chance to build upon those standards and become well-rounded members of the Air Force. They also get to experience things like emergent leadership issues - suicide and substance abuse - and the types of disciplinary problems that may arise."

Future supervisors also get a chance to see what interpersonal communication is all about and how it factors into managing people.

"Interpersonal communication helps young supervisors master the ability of finding out what the underlying causes of [issues] are," Espinoza said. "For example, if an Airman comes [to work] in a bad uniform or late, we want to correct that issue but not ignore the root of the problem, if necessary."

Physical fitness, dress and appearance and military drill helps emphasize the discipline and tradition Airmen must represent and embody as supervisors. Drill also gives each ALS class a chance to exercise military traditions while reminding them of what the Air Force can accomplish when discipline meets purpose.

"When [people] make staff sergeant, the first thing they think is responsibility and pay but they don't think about how their decisions can impact their Airmen," he said. "The benefit [of ALS] is that [students] get to practice in an environment where, if they make a mistake or fail, they get to try again. But when it's an Airman's career, they don't have the luxury of failing."

Espinoza urges supervisors to support military members going through ALS because it is much more than just a requirement for those with a line number for promotion to staff sergeant.

"We need to [be there for them] because sometimes we let these huge, important things in an Airman's career slip through the cracks," he said. "Get out and support ... professional military education."