JBER Army, Air Force academies partner on enlisted-leader development
Command Sgt. Maj. Cornelius Mack, commandant of the U.S. Army Alaska Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, left, a native of Sumter, S.C., and Chief Master Sgt. JJ Little, a native of Oklahoma City, commandant of the Professional Military Education Center on JBER, take a seat at the Joint Mobility Complex at JBER, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2013.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Senior-enlisted leaders from the Army and Air Force's academies here recently formed a partnership signifying a commitment to developing well-rounded professionals that can successfully operate in any environment.

While it's the goal of noncommissioned officer academies to produce a tactically- and technically-proficient Corps, this partnership is different -- it reaches across the services.

At the Air Force's Enlisted Professional Military Education Center and the Army's Sgt. 1st Class Christopher R. Brevard Noncommissioned Officer Academy, young leaders will soon learn the tools of understanding joint capabilities and culture.

During a visit to Alaska earlier this year, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, senior-enlisted advisor to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, initiated an ongoing discussion on pinpointing when junior leaders should receive enhanced joint education. Senior leadership throughout the Army, including the CJCS, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, as well as U.S. Army Alaska and U.S. Army Pacific senior leaders, support the joint familiarization initiative.

This evolving partnership at JBER was nearly a year in the making.

Command Sgt. Maj. Cornelius A. Mack arrived at the NCO Academy in February. As the new commandant, he and Air Force Chief Master Sgt. J.J. Little quickly got to work on bringing it to fruition. Mack and Little discussed how to develop strategic thinkers, young leaders with expertise in all levels of warfare, be it tactical, operational, or strategic. They looked at JBER's diversity, as well as its cultural differences between the services, concluding that as war fighters, there are things they both can improve upon.

This agreement symbolizes how each service component -- at every level of warfare -- contributes to a "rich heritage and unique capabilities" that NCOs will use in future complex and challenging environments, said Little, PME Center commandant. "We don't fight by ourselves. You're not going to find a conflict where any service is fighting alone. … We want to develop that relationship much earlier in their careers."

Little had the opportunity to attend both the Army's Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course (now Advanced Leader Course) and the Marine Corps' Advanced Course, training that focuses on war fighting and leadership skills necessary for Marine gunnery sergeants to perform in various combat and non-combat roles. "It really opened my eyes as to how the Marine Corps does things," said Little.

He added that this is exactly the type of training both schools want to provide their troops. "We want to take the pinnacle of the Air Force and provide them the opportunity to experience a sister-service academy."

Class integration is expected to begin January 2014. The rotational cycle at the Airman Leadership School is six weeks, four weeks for the Warrior Leader Course. ALS reserved three slots for their Army counterparts: recent WLC graduates who placed on the Commandant's List, recommended by the NCO Academy. Three Airmen were also identified to attend WLC.

While three is the quota for now, said Mack, "we're looking to increase numbers over time."

The two service academies do share some similarities. While there is no field training exercise in ALS, just like WLC, there is a lot of classroom instruction -- an academic environment with much emphasis on leadership, management and communication.

Another shared aim amongst the joint community is realizing the strategic vision of the CJCS, "which drives joint-ness deeper, sooner in capability development, operational planning and leader development," said Little.

Mack said the goal is to develop cultural awareness in troops early in their careers, "so by the time they become senior leaders," he said, "they've already adapted to a joint culture, (the) differences in regulations, procedures and policy."

Both institutional competencies also hope to see an increase in merging operations in a joint environment.

"As time progresses, we hope to make both services better because we understand each other a lot better," said Mack. "There are things the Air Force may do that we can add to our arsenal, and vice-versa. Things we can do to make our Soldiers and Airmen more adaptive in a joint community."

Page last updated Wed December 18th, 2013 at 00:00