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NEWS | March 10, 2022

Forging our Future Force with the Airpower Leadership Academy

By Senior Airman Matt Porter 87th Air Base Wing

U.S. Air Force noncommissioned officers from the nation’s only tri-service joint base participated in the Airpower Leadership Academy at the Infinity Spark Innovation Lab, March 7, 2022.

The week-long course is an innovative redesign of the original 305th Air Mobility Wing’s
Can Do Academy initiative, where facilitators, mentors, and subject matter experts from
across the installation develop future enlisted leaders to meet the challenges
of leading a competition-focused Air Force.

“It was important to our team when designing this year’s ALA course that it be different
from what Airmen are taught at Airman Leadership School or a Senior
Noncommissioned Officer Academy,” said Senior Master Sgt. Dominique
Bonapart, 305th Operation Support Squadron ALA facilitator. “We decided to look at
leadership training through a new lens, and by using the recently released Enlisted
Force Development Action Plan as a framework for the course, we were able to achieve
that.”

The action plan highlights the prioritization of needs to develop the Airmen required to
fight and win our future wars and defend our country’s interests today. The course
is structured so that each day focuses on one of the pillars of the action plan.

“The goal of ALA is to give NCOs the skill set they need now as frontline supervisors
and bridge the gap in training between ALS and NCOA,” said Bonapart. “By having a
Chief Master Sgt. with 30 years of experience speaking on the importance of practicing
vulnerability, servant leadership, and intrusive leadership when leading today’s Airmen,
we are accelerating necessary change.”

Bonapart explained that having mentors with backgrounds in the themes laid out in the
action plan was paramount, as they brought a practical application of its objectives to
students. This was achieved when objectives in the action plan were explained in detail
and applied to each student’s various roles as NCOs.

Providing a forum for experienced leadership to mentor those who will one day take
their place is key. However, it’s only one side of the coin with ALA, according to
Senior Master Sgt. Jorge Nunez, 87th Force Support Squadron ALA Facilitator.

“A lot of emphasis is placed on leadership training today, but to be a good leader means
to also be a good manager, and there is a distinction between the two disciplines,” said
Nunez. “Action means that these objectives are meant to be carried out, acted upon, not
simply talked about or idealized. Providing these NCOs with a practical toolkit to
manage effectively means teaching talent management, to respect diversity in both
ideas and people, and to foster innovation through problem-solving in a group
setting.”

The goal of becoming an effective manager is not achieved by graduating from a single
course but by providing a solid foundation for NCOs to build upon; with ALA we’re
putting them on that path to success, explains Nunez.

“There is a world of difference between how I lead now as a Senior Master Sgt. from
when I first became an NCO,” said Nunez. What helped get me to where I am today
was being able to learn from mentors like the facilitators we have instructing our
students every day with this course. Providing students with practical, actionable ideas
and the techniques necessary to carry them out empowers these NCOs in ways I
wasn’t afforded when I was in their position.”

Programs like ALS and NCOA offer similar mentorship and management techniques
to strengthen Airmen in their roles as enlisted leaders. ALA differs not only in bridging
the gap between the two but also in the course’s freeform structure.

“The success of this course stems not only from the performance of previous graduates
but in our ability to tailor it to meet the needs of the time,” Nunez. “The world right now
looks very different from what it did even a year ago. Next year’s iteration of ALA will be
designed to empower NCOs with the tactical edge necessary to meet the challenges of
their time. Handing someone a certificate and telling them that ‘they’ll figure it out’ is
exactly what we’re hoping to change with this course.”