Military News

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

RAF Mildenhall firefighter aims high at USMC SNCO academy

by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

3/9/2015 - RAF MILDENHALL, England  -- A 100th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter has been selected to attend the U.S. Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy March 2 to April 18, 2015, in Quantico, Virginia.

Due to attend the senior NCO academy, Master Sgt. Kenneth Wobse, 100th Air Refueling Wing superintendent of wing plans and programs from St. Paul, Minnesota, wanted to take the challenge a step further, and applied to be part of the Marines' course for senior NCOs instead.

"I've been deployed before with other branches of service and I like working with them - they have a different take on things," explained Wobse. "I was really interested in working with them and learning how they handle certain challenges they face as senior NCOs."

After going through a vetting process, 100th ARW leadership submitted a package to U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Force Africa. The USAFE-AFAFRICA command chief then selected Wobse and eight other Airmen from the major command to compete at Air Force level. The final selection was made by Chief Master Sgt. James A. Cody, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, for those Airmen to represent the Air Force throughout the upcoming months amongst a large group of elite senior enlisted Marines at the equivalent of the U.S. Air Force Senior NCO Academy.

The firefighter is one of six Airmen attending the current class, focusing on building leadership qualities alongside 22 Marines. The other Airmen will attend the Marine academy later this year.

"I want to make sure that they get a good representation of the Air Force, and show them that we put a lot of value in our senior NCOs as well," he said.

While Wobse understands the academy will have its share of challenges, he's looking forward to the opportunities he faces while there.

"Networking with the sister service means I'll meet other people," Wobse added. "My career field of fire protection is small, and our school is a joint one between all branches of service, so we work with Marines in fire protection. Also, I'm looking forward to having the chance to perform alongside Marines and having the chance to undergo their physical fitness program - everyone I've spoken with says it's very rigorous, and I'm excited about that!"

Wobse said he'd looked at the Marines' fitness standards before leaving for the class. They have a 3-mile run rather than a 1.5-mile run, and include pull-ups in their physical fitness, along with sit-ups.

There are two different types of physical fitness test; in addition to the PFT, there is the combat fitness test.

The PFT is mandatory to graduate the course with a passing score, while the CFT has additional fitness tasks, just to go above and beyond the regular standard.

Wobse already has personal goals in mind for his time at the academy.

"They have three categories of fitness and I'd like to break into 'first class' - their top tier of fitness," he said. "Of course, I want to finish toward the top of my class; I read the Marine Corps requirements for when they go to sister service academies, and it said something to the effect of, 'As a Marine, you are expected to finish at the top of your class.' I'd like to hold myself to that same standard, and finish toward the top."

Being one of just six Airmen in the sister service's senior NCO class means the master sergeant has a chance to bring something extra to the forefront.

"I'm looking forward to representing my service," he said. "I want to show them we have a lot of things we can share with other branches of the service, even though we're relatively young."

Wobse is looking forward to having the experience of the U.S. Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy under his belt.

"Senior NCO academy is like a rite of passage for every master sergeant that hopes to be promoted to senior master sergeant," he said. "I think this will give me a different perspective than the majority of my peers will have, and I think that will make me more beneficial in a joint environment."

The firefighter proved he'd earned his place at the challenging academy. He was named 2014 Fire Officer of the Year for USAFE-AFAFRICA, and promotion results released March 5 announced Wobse has earned the rank of senior master sergeant.

"I've never found out that I've been selected for promotion while I was at home station," he said before the results were announced. "I've always either been on leave or TDY, so the timing works out well for me, being superstitious as I am. I'm hoping third time's a charm!"

Wobse's leadership has complete confidence in him, and said he's one of the 100th CES's sharpest NCOs.

"He's the perfect example to represent the 100th ARW and the Air Force at the USMC Staff NCO Academy," said Lt. Col. Kevin Parker, 100th CES commander. "I've had several opportunities to observe Ken's leadership skills, and he always stands out. While serving in my squadron at a deployed location, he ran fire department operations at a base with several thousand personnel from joint services on a daily basis.

"It was no surprise to me that he volunteered for the challenge of attending joint professional military education with the Marine Corps, and it will be no surprise to me when he performs well there. I know the Marines attending and instructing the school will get a good idea of what the Air Force's sharpest SNCOs are like when they interact with Master Sgt. Wobse," he said.

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