The Air Force said Wednesday it is doubling the length of its resident class at the First Sergeant Academy to four weeks.

The new curriculum, which will begin Oct. 22, will drop the old distance learning portion of the academy and instead focus on “hands-on, scenario-based training to better prepare first sergeants for their role in the squadron command team,” according to a release from Air Education and Training Command. The academy is located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

“Prior to this new four-week course, two weeks just wasn’t enough time to actually train them correctly,” Chief Master Sgt. Manny Pineiro, the Air Force’s first sergeant special duty manager. “What we did now is give them an opportunity to get more comfortable and more confident so they can be prepared to get out there and take care of their business.”

With distance learning dropped, AETC said, first sergeants will have more time to learn skills such as alternate dispute resolution, resiliency and advanced counseling, as well as receiving training on the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Article 15. They will also interact more with former commanders, AETC said.

“First sergeants really weren’t getting what they needed from that [distance learning] course,” Senior Master Sgt. Candice Fitzmaurice, director of resources for the academy, said. “So not only will they be going through the lessons, but they will now get more hands-on training.”

AETC also said the average experience levels of first sergeants has decreased, and the change will hopefully make up for that inexperience. And AETC hopes it will improve their performance as part of the command team, and better prepare first shirts to handle issues in complex environments, especially as the Air Force focuses on improving the squadron command team.

“When it comes to taking care of our airmen, there is no better way to do it than having a first sergeant,” Pineiro said.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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