Improvements coming to Enlisted PME Distance Learning

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Israel Nuñez

Our Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David W. Allvin, consistently speaks to the time of consequence in which we are currently serving. To maintain our competitive advantage, the strategic environment demands bold and innovative leadership. Despite the close competition for next generation weapon systems, there is no contest in the area in which our team holds a decisive edge – an elite and professional noncommissioned officer corps.

Unfortunately, our competitors have taken note and are currently changing their tactics, techniques and training pipelines to close that gap. Adversaries can look to America’s dominance on various battlefields, and the current conflict in Eastern Europe, to see the value of a quality enlisted corps. 

In Ukraine, the initial Russian advancement towards Kyiv stalled and was repelled by a much smaller and empowered force. Ukraine’s continued success against a larger foe is enabled by their NCO corps’ ability to translate and execute leaders’ intent, employment of mission command concepts, and their sound strategic and tactical level understanding of the operational environment. 

Having a strong and mission-ready enlisted force is no longer lost on our competitors. Russia has adapted their doctrinal approach to modern warfare, while our peer competitor, China, is actively and hastily undergoing massive efforts to boost the quality of its NCO program. This includes a massive endeavor in 2022 to adopt NCO academies at local universities, and ambitious personnel reforms and policy adjustments in the hope of strengthening its enlisted force. 

As our adversaries rapidly work to establish militaries centered around a professional NCO corps, we must continue to outpace them. For this reason, we took a hard look at our Enlisted Professional Military Education curriculum. Student feedback and review of the EPME Distance Learning program, tailored for the Air Reserve Component, revealed some hard facts. We discovered that learning outcomes were not fully on-par with in-residence EPME outcomes and funding was inadequate to raise DL curriculum to an optimal level.  

When I took the seat, one of my first major engagements was with the Command Chief of the Air National Guard, Chief Master Sgt. Maurice “Mo” Williams, and the Air Education and Training Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Chad Bickley. The intent of this forum was to discuss necessary changes to the DL program. In that meeting, the AFR, ANG and AETC spoke with one voice, “We need DL outcomes to be the same as if students physically went to in-residence EPME.”

That message was heard, and I am excited to share that extensive funding and improvements are coming to all EPME DL programs. Led by the Global College of PME, enhancements will be implemented in a phased approach starting with the Airman Leadership School, followed by the Non-commissioned Officer and Senior Non-commissioned Officer Academy programs. The revamped ALS DL 2.0 is expected to launch June of 2024, followed by NCOA DL 2.0 in fall of 2024 and SNCOA DL 2.0 in spring of 2025.

EPME DL programs will continue to be self-paced and must be completed within 12-months of enrollment. However, they will look and feel more like familiar collegiate-level online courses. Enrolled Airmen will be required to review the material and participate in discussions with fellow peers, with the intent of facilitating critical thinking and learning through thoughtful student interaction.

One of the most exciting changes is the increase in asynchronous facilitation through instructor-led discussion and interactions. This will culminate in a new individual capstone that affords members the opportunity to demonstrate and apply learned leadership, supervision and professional military concepts in a peer-to-peer environment, while receiving focused instructor feedback.

The focus on keeping our enlisted force highly capable, trained and ready across all components is critical for success in an era of Great Power Competition. I am excited for these changes that will keep our enlisted force ready now, while preparing our Airmen to compete, deter and win in the future fight.