Wednesday, June 18, 2008

That PhD in PME

We've heard from a number of Air Force senior NCOs--active duty and retired--since yesterday's post on the service's extended completion deadline for its "capstone" professional military education (PME) course for senior enlisted personnel.

And, by an overwhelming margin, they're upset over a new "open enrollment" plan, giving eligible non-commissioned officers up to 72 months to complete the Senior NCO Academy course by correspondence. Before the change, there was a one-year deadline for finishing the program.

As we noted previously, six years strikes us as a very long time to complete a course that most NCOs knock out in six months--or less. And, it's difficult to accept Air Force claims that more frequent deployments support the 72-month completion window.

Indeed, the service's most recent figures indicate that more than half of all airmen have never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. That suggests that many senior NCOs (and officers) are spending most of their time at home station, and should have enough room in their schedules for a PME course.

We won't dispute the fact that some NCOs deploy more often than others. Members of a low density/high demand career field (or unit) are often stuck on a deployment treadmill, making it more difficult to finish PME programs that are vital to promotion and advancement. But, instead of giving everyone a six-year deadline, why not grant waivers to NCOs who, legitimately, need a few more months. But the notion of a 72-month completion window--longer than some neurosurgery residency programs--strikes many as absurd.

An active-duty Chief Master Sergeant summed it up well:

It is ridiculous that people now have 72 months for a correspondence course. Where is the leadership in the unit? Who would ever allow someone six years? This is not even reasonable. I can't wait to hear someone's justification to extend it over six months...let alone a year. I'll shank someone for even asking. I will continue to give the people about three to four months to get it done. Otherwise EPR ratings will reflect. I understand about extenuating circumstances but who made the decision to go six years? What an idiot!! It is obvious someone who doesn't have a clue about professional development and is out of touch with the enlisted people. This should really be a test...anyone who goes over the year should be discharged immediately for being an idiot. These are the people we don't want leading the troops anyway. If you make MSgt at 15-17 years, then go six more to get the course done, what kind of mentorship or example are you setting. BS!!! Get these people out of our AF!!!! We are too small to be lugging the dead weight around.

Given the lunacy that current abounds in portions of the USAF, General Schwartz can't be confirmed fast enough.


kitanis said...

I am a now retired Master Sergeant and was floored to read about this new policy. I can understand a waiver to complete the PME if circumstances demand it but six years?

The comment of the Chief is right.. this new policy will only allow many of the deadweight Masters to become true Road Sergeants.. Hopefully a quick reversal is in order when the new Secretary and CinC come online.

Wally Gator said...

Perhaps 6 years was mistyped and it should be an additional 6 months. Did nobody give the 6 year decision a sanity check?

As and active duty Airman I too think the 6 years is ridiculous.

Ken Prescott said...

Perhaps 6 years was mistyped and it should be an additional 6 months.

Now here's an angle I hadn't thought of.

Mind you, it's still pretty (expletive deleted) stupid, but it's a flavor of stupid that is at least somewhat comprhensible.

Did nobody give the 6 year decision a sanity check?

No more calls, we have a winner.

kitanis said...

This is what I found at my former bases web site this morning

SMSgt Mac said...

"kitanis" provided a good, informative, link. Thanks!
Since the Air Force is forcing everyone to do the work online after a certain date, the 72 months window may be more to ensure they (AF) have the infrastructure and bandwidth in place everywhere in time for everyone to complete the course. This would beg the question then as to why don't they just continue the CD version longer? Gee, if they just went back to the paper course like when I did it, everyone could work on the stuff deployed without worrying about access to computers as long as they had access to a #2 pencil.

BTW: the only thing more disappointing than the correspondence course was the in-residence course (but that was due to my seminar instructor more than anything else).

A. said...

The CD version of the SNCO Academy is boring but can be done quickly. Those who are too lazy to do the course in 12 months probably won't do it in 72 either. If deployments are really the cause, and I can imagine it's pretty hard to concentrate on a silly PME CD when you're in the desert, then 72 months is still far too long. However, people still work on Bachelors and Masters degrees while deployed.

I imagine this is extension is partly due to Sec Gates decision to stop the drawdown. They need to keep people, even slow, unmotivated people.

Luther McLeod said...

I agree... a ridiculous change. But more to it than that in my opinion.

I served in the 'paper' era. When I took the nine level test, and passed it, I had yet to slice the plastic on the instructional material. It is not just time that matters, but content.

The 'educators' are just that. Writing materials and tests that fall far short of the 'real' world. Placing theory above proof.

Wait... I'm too harsh... if you seek promotion just gobble up everything they push out, you'll do fine.

Let's push it way back... when promotions were given based on first hand knowledge of leadership and/or potential. As reflected in results.

Yes, there was abuse in that system... but much rarer than in the present one.