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.