The Air Force is releasing a new version of a distance learning course meant to prepare senior noncommissioned officers for entering the Senior NCO Academy. It also is giving senior NCOs until Nov. 30 to finish the current version of the course.
The Air Force issued a release Aug. 7 — which was quickly withdrawn — that said the deadline for finishing version 5 of Course 14 was Sept. 30, and anyone who missed that deadline would have to start all over on version 6. But Chief Master Sgt. William Ward, chief of the Air Force’s enlisted developmental education, said in a Sept. 4 interview that the Sept. 30 deadline was not finalized and that the previous release was mistaken. Ward said the Air Force wanted to give airmen more time to finish the current version of Course 14 — especially airmen who are assigned to places that don’t have testing facilities nearby.
Last month’s now-withdrawn release also said senior NCOs who finish version 5, but who are scheduled to attend the academy after April 2014, will have to retake Course 14 in its new form. But Ward said the Air Force has dropped that rule, saying it wouldn’t be fair for people who have already put in the hard work to finish the course. Now, senior NCOs who finish version 5 before the Nov. 30 deadline will be able to attend the academy at any time without having to retake the course.
“We could not legitimately look the airmen in the eye and say hey, you spent a year or two doing version 5, and now we have a new version out, now you got to do version 6,” Ward said.
Ward said the previous version of Course 14 was released around 2000, and is outdated, given the vast ways the Air Force has changed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new version takes into account the different types of aircraft now common to the Air Force and lessons learned from the last decade-plus of combat, he said, though he would not go into detail because the new version is not yet finalized. Version 6 will be released Oct. 1.
Version 6 includes classes on leadership and management, which aim to teach students how to be more effective communicators, manage subordinates, promote teamwork and trust, lead and inspire people, build teams and manage processes, Ward said. It also includes a course on the “warrior ethos,” he said, such as the history of the Air Force and the code of conduct for airmen.
“It’s really an entirely different course,” Ward said. “How it’s delivered, the content. It’ll be much more challenging as well. It’ll make sure we’re using the airmen’s time wisely, and that if they’re putting time and effort into a course, that it’s actually productive and provides them the tools and the resources and the education necessary to perform at their expected level.”
Ward said students pace themselves when taking Course 14. Some finish in two months, he said, others take two years.
Version 6 of Course 14 also will allow senior NCOs to take courses online via the Blackboard learning management system, instead of through the Defense Department’s Advanced Distributed Learning Service. This will allow students to access course material while on nonmilitary networks, the Air Force said.
Students will also be able to enroll for the new version via Air University’s Student Information System, instead of at a base education office, as is now the case.
And version 6 will require students to take fewer tests. The current version makes students take a test after each of the course’s five modules. But with version 6, one test will be administered at the end of the course.
The Air Force officially stopped enrolling airmen in version 5 Aug. 1.