Enlisted leadership steps into the classroom to enhance ALS experience

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kristina Overton
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
What does it take to create effective leaders in today's Air Force?

For every Airman, no matter what rank they start off in the military, the process of becoming a good leader is one based on experience, example and their capacity to learn from that exposure. Being a leader requires the ability to undertake tremendous responsibility, hold oneself to a higher standard and, in turn, help mold others into better leaders. To assist Airmen in becoming the best leaders possible, Malmstrom's Airman Leadership School provides a set curriculum to ensure every Airman is equipped with the tools needed to be effective servicemembers and supervisors.

Providing support and giving Airmen attending ALS a better understanding of their future tasks as higher ranking NCO's, the Chiefs/First Sergeants Mentoring program is available. The Chief and First Sergeants play an active role in contributing to the professional development of the ALS students.

"The program and ALS is an eye opener for what the military should be like," said Master Sgt. Kirk McManious, ALS Commandant. "Some Airmen haven't had the type of supervision or examples that they need to be effective leaders for others. It helps when Airmen can see what the Chief and First Shirt have to contribute, and witness the upper level of professionalism with the NCO's. The experiences they bring in the school changes up the curriculum from just read this, remember it and test on it. It brings realism into what we teach."

The ALS schedule is 24 academic days long, and requirements consist of 26 course lessons, six tests, three speeches, two policy letters, bullet statement writing, feedback sessions, three PT tests and community service projects to graduate.

During the course of the program, the Chief and First Sergeant participate regularly in classroom discussions, as well as other functions such as PT, Reveille and Retreat, and uniform inspections.

"In the classroom, I give my points of view of certain topics they're discussing and give feedback," said Master Sgt. Shane Matt, 341st Civil Engineer Squadron first sergeant. "Depending on the topic, I may be able to add on and put it in another way to help the students understand it a little differently. The biggest thing about participating in the program for me is it shows a necessity and interest in developing the NCO core. I had it when I was back in ALS. Overall, it's beneficial to the class to have that one-on-one time."

Some of the ALS courses included Stress Management, Professional Conduct, Professional Relationships, Group Dynamics, Standards and Discipline, and Conflict Management.

"One of the most special parts of the program is actually being able to sit in the class and hear the lesson given," said Chief Master Sgt. William Valenti, 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron superintendent. "I received that class 17 years ago and I think about how I dealt with those lessons during the course of my career and interpret how they'll use those same lessons in theirs. The principal message that I try to send is being a good leader, but also being a follower," Chief Valenti said. "We are raising the next generation of chiefs. You have to get them while they're young, and pass on knowledge and wisdom that they, in turn, impart to those they supervise."

Having the Chief and First Shirt able to openly share experiences, mistakes and lessons learned while growing in the Air Force gives ALS students the ability to view all sides of leadership and derive lessons from them that may benefit them in their own careers.

After being able to mentor the class from beginning to end, the Chief and Shirt get to watch their protégé's graduate.

"I've been to ALS graduations in the past, but being able to see the process with this program, and the transition and transformation within these Airmen," Chief Valenti said, "I have this tremendous feeling of pride. Knowing that I played a small role in helping them accomplish their goals is truly a good feeling."

The ALS graduation is May 4 at the Grizzly Bend Club.