by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
I.G. Brown Training and Education Center
1/4/2016 - MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Reviewing
2015, the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center met challenges in
professional military education, welcomed new staff members including
its commandant, and set the bar through award-winning service, course
offerings and rising infrastructure.
The TEC's staff gained top awards and recognition with seven Air
National Guard Readiness Center awards, including 2014 civilian the year
and a complete sweep of the readiness center's second and third quarter
awards for outstanding civilian, NCO and SNCO.
Construction workers raised and enclosed much of the 47,000-square-foot classroom and dormitory facility.
Crews finished dirt excavation, poured cement footings and retaining
walls and welded steel framing, among other actions. They enclosed the
two-story classroom building, and then raised the three-story dormitory
In mid-February, Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Brush, senior enlisted
advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, was the keynote
speaker for a joint Airman leadership school and NCO academy graduation.
Other graduation speakers included Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, adjutant
general for the Nebraska National Guard, and Chief Master Sgt. Jim
Hotaling, command chief for the Air National Guard. Airman leadership
school saw the return of its graduation banquets.
The biggest month for the TEC may have been in August, when it hosted
and facilitated the first General Officer Staff Course for 71 Soldiers,
Airmen and civilians from 35 states, territories and the District of
Columbia. Leaders from across the nation lauded the course.
The TEC also named two buildings after former commandants. Buildings 412
was dedicated to Chief Master Sgt. Richard Moon Apr. 9, and building
406 was dedicated to Chief Master Sgt. George Vitzhum Oct. 8.
Chief Master Sgt. Edward L. Walden became the 14th commandant of the
Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center in May,
following Chief Master Sgt. Thomas K. Stoudt's retirement. With the
holiday season fast approaching Walden answered a few questions on the
year's happenings and what may come for the TEC in 2016.
Q: Can you share what you learned about your role as an EPME commandant since your arrival?
WALDEN: The biggest thing I learned since being here is
the enormous amount of responsibility to the students. If I don't focus
on what we need to do on a cultural basis then I'm not really doing my
job. I've ran a schoolhouse before, and it was more on the day-to-day
operations, but here it's more about changing a culture for the students
that helps shape the future of the Air Force. I wasn't expecting that.
The other part is dealing with the instructors and the development that
they need to do their jobs.
Q: What have been the significant accomplishments for the Paul H. Lankford EPME Center this year?
WALDEN: We brought back the Airman leadership school
banquets in May, which was huge. It was something we did in the past
that impacts people's careers as they continue on. It's one of those
memories that you have, which you never forget. We also developed a
student-centered approach to decision-making, so when we come to making
decisions here, we now focus on how it impacts the student ... that's
the underlying basis. Without that as our foundational way forward to
answer our questions, it doesn't really help to change the culture here.
That approach - having the student around our decision making model -
makes sure that we stay focused on the purpose of why we are here, and
that is to have quality students who have a quality experience. That
includes anything from picking new furniture, or the new student lounges
we are developing as collaboration areas, to instructor development as
well as lowering the student-instructor ratios. It's going to be a
change for the students to have an even greater experience.
Q: So how do your instructors influence the quality and success of EPME taught here?
WALDEN: The instructors are the key. They have a
captive audience of individuals, eight hours a day, for four or five
weeks. It's the instructors' values, it's their actual attitudes, that
helps influence students throughout the time that they are here. They
are the leaders that the students are looking at who impact their
futures for the next 15, 20 years. I still remember my NCOA instructor.
So the reality is that our instructors can't have a bad day, and that's
why we want them to be a cut above when we select them. You have to have
a passion for teaching, and if you don't have that you are not going to
be successful in our classrooms.
Q: You are also the I.G. Brown Training and Education
Center's senior enlisted advisor. In what ways were you involved with
TEC's other capabilities, missions or staff?
WALDEN: One of the changes that I made, in that regard,
was to start quarterly enlisted calls. Enlisted Airmen at the TEC get
together, and we talk about teamwork. We talk about partnership, and we
talk about attitudes. We discuss collaboration and just basically our
overall want of being at the TEC. It's a unique job. This is a unique
area, so we want to make sure that people are doing well while they are
here. When I first got here I sat down and met with every enlisted
Airman. It took a few months just for me to be able to get to know them,
and it helped me have an understanding of the environment and the
culture that is here and what I, as a senior leader, along with the
other senior NCOs, can do to help shape our future going forward. We've
held a mock interview panel, and I want to continue those. I'm also
going to institute a formal mentorship program to help our staff grow
and shape their careers. We have a staff that's regular Air Force, Guard
and Reserve, so we want to help everybody focus on their careers, and
that mentorship program is going to be key. It's also concentrating on
the professional development side of taking care of people - on those
that we rate on - and how to help them grow and progress in their
Q: What excites you the most about the future of EPME here? Are there any predictions you want to make for 2016?
WALDEN: We are dedicating the year as a year of the
student - as I mentioned - with a student-centered approach in our
decision making, based on the students. So we will focus on the student
through classroom upgrades, equipment upgrades, professional development
and ensuring the quality of the experience for those that come though
this school. I'm also looking forward the ILE [Intermediate Learning
Experience] that is beginning in April 2016 ... that is going to be a
completely new approach to how we're teaching NCOs at the NCO academy.
Facilitated online distance learning is also something we are looking
forward to getting off the ground in 2016.
Q: Can you share something interesting about the Paul
H. Lankford EPME Center that some people may not know, or that you want
others to know?
WALDEN: We are the Air Force's largest, and its longest
standing, EPME center. It is truly, total force on a consistent basis,
with active, Guard and Reserve, with Coast Guard and international
students, as the constant makeup of individuals that come through this
school. You won't get that experience anywhere else. Our instructors are
also a true 50/50 mix of active and Guard. It's a wonderful experience,
and it's something that we take advantage of.