With an eye toward the future and the goal of developing the best instructor/facilitators in the Army, the 80th Training Command launched its new Staff and Faculty Development Academy at Grand Prairie, Texas, March 7, 2016.
Command Sgt. Maj. James Wills, the former 80th TC senior NCO, who's now the interim Army Reserve senior NCO, conceptualized the institution with the intent of consolidating the command's Staff and Faculty Development mission. Before the school's inception, subordinate units taught their own Army Basic Instructor Courses and lacked a set standard for staff and faculty development.
"In some cases we were not delivering a quality product," Wills said.
By developing the academy and centralizing the operation, the 80th TC now has quality control of staff and faculty development. Some of the school's goals include accreditation by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and adoption of One Army School System principals that will enable Active Duty and Reserve Soldiers as well as National Guard members to train to the same standard.
"We now have one place that we can control with one standard across the board," said Master Sgt. James Stoval, the school's noncommissioned officer in charge.
The 80th TC is also working with Army University to make credits earned at the academy transferable to civilian colleges.
"We're…teaching classes across the Army at a university level," Wills said.
"We want to make sure that we've given them all the skills and certifications that will be immediately recognized by the civilian community," he added. "They'll be able to step out of uniform today and step into a suit and tie tomorrow, and…continue on in the new chapter of their lives."
The academy's inaugural class was the Foundation Instructor Facilitator Course, which has replaced the Army Basic Instructor Course. The FIFC uses a facilitative approach geared toward adult learning designed to incorporate students' knowledge, skills, and experiences, compared to the ABIC's lecture style approach.
Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Fields, a former ABIC instructor who attended the academy's inaugural FIFC, said while he thinks that the academy is an excellent idea, he now has to adjust his teaching methods.
"I have to unlearn some things about ABIC and relearn some things about FIFC," Fields said.
Staff Sgt. Raymundo Esparza, also a former ABIC instructor who attended the inaugural FIFC, said he sees similarities between the FIFC and a pilot course he attended while training to be a drill sergeant.
"That course flourished…and I think this one will do the same," said Esparza, who's currently assigned to 94th Training Division, but was an Army Reserve drill sergeant for approximately eight years.
The academy will also teach a Small Group Instruction course for instructors who'll be teaching NCO courses. Eventually, the Intermediate Facilitation Skills Course will replace the SGI course.
The academy is also scheduled to start teaching The Army School System Leader Course, designed to familiarize key leaders who transfer from the operational and functional environment with The Army School System policies and procedures per U.S. Army TRADOC Regulation 350-18.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Darlington, the 80th TC's senior NCO, who spoke to the students before the start of the inaugural FIFC, mentioned the 80th TC's "Earn Your Badge" campaign designed to recruit instructors into the command.
"You know who you've worked with in the past who may have what it takes to be an instructor," Darlington said. "I encourage you to have those conversations with them about becoming instructors."
During an address to leaders at the 94th TD, Wills said that staff and faculty development was one of the most critical aspects of the division's mission.
"If you don't teach in a professional manner in a professional forum, your credibility goes out the door," he said. "So understand the importance and embrace it, because it's not going away."