Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Whole Lotta Learning

By any standard, you can cram a lot of education into six years.

Over that period, a student could earn a bachelor's degree, and a master's (in some fields).

Or, you could earn a B.S. or B.A., and knock out the first two years of law school. Complete medical school and an internship. Finish a pharmacy program, an engineering degree, or the course work, dissertation and oral defense for a PhD.

It's also enough time to complete the U.S. Air Force Senior NCO Academy--by correspondence.

According to Air University (which runs the service's professional military education programs), the correspondence version of the senior NCO course now has an "open enrollment" period that won't exceed 72 months. Previously, NCOs in grades E-7 through E-9 had just one year to complete the program.

The change affects Course 12 of the program, which provides curricula via CD-ROM and Course 14, the on-line version. Students who previously had a one-year completion requirement can now re-enroll and take advantage of the new, open enrollment policy.

Tech. Sgt. Travis Pannell, Headquarters CEPME distance learning course manager at Gunter Annex said the policy will help all eligible Airmen complete the course while accommodating deployments and other service responsibilities.


"For students with current active enrollment who are concerned about restrictions or disenrollment, they need not worry," Sergeant Pannell said. "Enrollment data will automatically be adjusted to meet the new policy."

No one doubts the value of professional military education (PME) for non-commissioned officers. Indeed, you can make the case that the Air Force needs to increase PME for mid-level and senior NCOs, given the fact that officers receive far more professional education than their enlisted counterparts.

But 72 months to complete the correspondence version of the Senior NCO Academy? Give me a break. If officers can finish the equivalent versions of Air Command and Staff College or the Air War College in one year, there's no reason to increase the timeline for senior NCOs. I've never heard a non-commissioned officer complain that he couldn't complete the course under the old, 12-month timeline, even with the demands of deployments and other responsibilities.

In fact, the deployment argument rings a bit hollow. While some Air Force career fields constantly deploy (EOD specialists, combat controllers, pararescuemen and enlisted AWACS technicians come to mind), other career fields are tasked less frequently. In fact, the service's own statistics show that 53% of all airmen have never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan (emphasis mine).

Using that yardstick, I'd say that a lot of senior NCOs have plenty of time to finish their PME by correspondence. But, we'll leave the final word on the subject to a retired Chief Master Sergeant, one of the great enlisted leaders produced by the Air Force over the last 20 years. He could not contain his anger in an e-mail response on the policy change:

I finished the NCOA [NCO Academy] Correspondence Course in two months and the SNCOA Correspondence Course in three months. Anyone that can't finish that in 12 months does not need to be in our MILITARY!

Unholy Moron Batman -- where and when does the STUPIDITY END? I think we need a "Kinder & Gentler" Fitness Standard that will allow Lard Butts to stay for 20, 30, 40, and 50 years! More Limited Duty Morons that can only be assigned here in the Promised Land while all of US Deploy to Remotes from Hell. More Pansies that cannot carry a Weapon! More CONVICTS that cannot be Trusted. Yes Sir Ree Boob America, send US your Sorry, Sick, Lame, and Lazy Crap! We'll give them a Paycheck for 30 years and Pension for 50 more sorry years!

Well said, Chief. The new, open enrollment isn't an accommodation. It's an insult.


Ken Prescott said...

True story:

I completed the old USMC NCO School resident course in 1987.

In 1991, as I was preparing to get out of the Marine Corps, I was unceremoniously handed a pile of Marine Corps Institute books marked "NCO SCHOOL NONRESIDENT COURSE."

I pointed out that (a) I had completed the resident course, (b) Headquarters Marine Corps had directed that all NCOs who had already completed the resident course were NOT to be enrolled in the nonresident course, and (c) I was going to be discharged in less than two weeks.

S-3 clerk: "The Gunny told me to enroll all the NCOs . . . "

I'm sure The Gunny enjoyed explaining to the CO just why the unit was delinquent on MCI courses . . .

billmill said...

You and the Chief are absolutely right. Any SNCO who does not complete this in 12 months needs to be gone ASAP. Except for a very few high demand career fields it should not take anyone more than the 90 days I did my CD ROM course. I did mine while finishing my B.S. and serving as the Specialist Flight Chief for a very busy F-15E unit. Every time I read blogs like yours that show all the absolute insane garbage that our Air Force comes up with makes me angry, sad but at the same time grateful I retired seven years ago.

Old Patriot said...

I enrolled in the course, went halfway through it, and decided that if that's what Senior NCOs were supposed to follow, I didn't want to be one of them. What a load of horse crap! Of course, most Air Force senior NCOs are nothing but super-grade admin troops, and very few of them actually do hands-on work. I decided I was better left where I could directly share my experience with young troops, train them to be the best they could be, and supervise them in getting there, than sitting at a desk filtering performance reports and staffing requests. I don't regret it.

SMSgt Mac said...

Ken Prescott's post reminded me of something. I was enrolled in the MCSC non-resident program when Desert Storm kicked off and MCI gave everyone an extra year to complete it, so this 'extending' thing isn't AF or GWOT specific. As I just commented on the follow- on post, the AF's changing of the method and rules may indicate they can't guarantee everyone, everywhere access to the course any faster.
As to what the AF is doing. my Daughter-in-law is stationed in Misawa, Japan (AF 0-3) and she has already deployed to Korea once and is headed for the Sandbox in the future. This is the first time that the AF has ever been spread so thin that they had to deploy people who are already overseas to other theaters as SOP.
The "Expeditionary Air Force" = TAC on Steroids.