Local fighter wing members attend satellite NCO Academy

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
  • 149th Fighter Wing
    Ten members of the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing began the satellite Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Academy at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, this week. This course fulfills a professional development requirement that must be completed before a technical sergeant can be promoted to the senior NCO rank of master sergeant. The 149th Fighter Wing is the only unit in Texas to participate in the program.
    Beginning in 1994, the satellite program allows members of the Air National Guard to attend evening classes at their home station for 12 weeks. After completing the local portion of the course, members deploy to McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Knoxville, Tenn., to complete a two-week capstone seminar that includes all official testing and evaluations. The current satellite NCO Academy class at Lackland is the third to be held since becoming available to the 149th Fighter Wing in 2007.
    Via satellite link with the lead training facility at McGhee Tyson,
144 students, from across 14 Air National Guard units, are participating in this particular course. In addition to the classroom-based satellite format, members of the Air National Guard have the option of completing the NCO Academy by correspondence or through the traditional training in residence for six weeks.
    Master Sgt. Pete Soriano, an F-16 avionics technician with the 149th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and lead facilitator for the course at 149th Fighter Wing, explained that "students are trained on the duties and role they will play when assuming greater leadership and management positions as a senior NCO." Sergeant Soriano described additional benefits to the NCO by noting that they "receive pay for a drill period [per class], points toward military retirement, and college credit for attending." Additionally, the course is considered to be "in residence," which makes a graduate eligible for the U.S. Air Force NCO Professional Military Education (PME) ribbon.
    By extending resources across multiple units, and keeping students at their home station for the majority of the course, the format of the satellite NCO Academy creates an economy of scale for the National Guard Bureau to provide in-residence training to its NCOs. The satellite program is perceived to increase the quality of education available to traditional NCOs over the correspondence course. Previously, PME by correspondence would have been the typical route to completion for a traditional member of the Air Guard that has to balance a military and civilian career. Now, that same NCO can use their two-week annual training tour of duty to complete the capstone course, where they may not have had the same flexibility to undergo the traditional six-week in-residence course.
    Chief Master Sgt. Ed Hobbs, the 149th Fighter Wing's command chief master sergeant, has made it a mission to make PME more accessible to his Airmen and NCOs. Chief Hobbs spearheaded the effort to bring the satellite NCO Academy to the 149th Fighter Wing. He is now working to make a satellite Airman Leadership School available to the Texas Air National Guard unit, which will serve a similar purpose for a senior airman preparing for promotion to staff sergeant.
    In addition to Sergeant Soriano, Master Sgt. David Lopez and Tech.
Sgt. Alan Colombo, both of the 149th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and Master Sgt. Nicole Seigler, 149th Security Forces Squadron first sergeant, have been certified to facilitate the course. Chief Hobbs said that the 149th Fighter Wing has great facilitators for this type of training.
    Chief Hobbs considers this type of training to be the wave of the future and emphasized, "It's every NCO's responsibility to develop our fellow Airmen." He added, "PME should be considered professional development and not just a square to be filled." In the command chief's view, the in-person classroom instruction "will lead to a more professional cadre of Citizen-Airmen."