RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany - A U.S. Army Europe NCO graduated from a U.S. Air Forces in Europe NCO academy, March 23.

Staff Sgt. Jacob Rau, mortuary affairs non-commissioned officer, 21st Special Troops Battalion, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, graduated from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe's Kislinger NCO academy, a first for a 21st TSC Soldier. Attending the academy offers a unique opportunity to integrate with the Army's sister service and gain a better understanding of the joint environment through professional development.

"Joint leadership, that's what we need in our force," said Command Sgt. Maj. Defarreo Poole, 21st Special Troops Battalion command sergeant major. "If we have to go to war, we're going together."

Rau has attended Army professional development schools, but attending the Kislinger NCO academy presented a new personal challenge. And for Rau, it was a rewarding challenge.

"At first, I was a little bit nervous integrating in with them," he said. "I was welcomed with open arms. It was a great experience and opportunity. It was a marathon. It was not a short race at all. It took a lot of discipline to stay motivated and achieve what I needed to do."

It took a team effort to finish the race. Rau's "eagle flight" teammates were there to help guide him to the finish. The Airmen in his flight appreciated the experience and perspective a Soldier provided.

"It brought a different perspective on the way that we conduct ourselves," said Tech. Sgt. Bret Edholm, 95th Reconnaissance Squadron, 55th Air Wing. "He was a constant professional. He pushed us physically. He kept us straight. It was easy, we integrated flawlessly. He only made us better."

The Army and Air Force are building on this successful integration. In April, an Airman will attend 7th Army Training Command's NCO academy Basic Leader Course at Grafenwoehr, beginning a recurring cycle of the Army and Air Force integrating into each other's NCO academy.

"That will be a great moment, when we see that Airman graduate from BLC," Poole said. "Because, that will be their first time in an environment where there's nothing but Army personnel, just like it was for Staff Sgt. Rau."