NCOA sculpts the minds of future Air Force leaders

Paul W. Airey NCO Academy graphic

(U.S. Air Force Graphic/Released)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Before Air Force technical sergeants step into the ranks of senior noncommissioned officers, they complete a course within enlisted professional education, furthering their leadership and resource stewardship skillsets.

This increase scope of knowledge is obtained at NCO academies located in 10 locations worldwide. One such schoolhouse can be found on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, named the Paul W. Airey NCO Academy.

“The overall mission of the NCOA is to develop the top tier of the junior NCOs to be senior NCOs, be adaptable, be ready for ambiguous environments, and to be able to lead and manage teams, themselves, and the operations within those environments,” said Chief Master Sgt. Darnell Burton, Airey NCO Academy commandant.

The Airey NCOA is named after Chief Master Sgt. Paul W. Airey, the first chief master sergeant in the Air Force. Becoming an alumni of the institution when located at Hamilton Air Force Base, California, Airey went on to continue his historic career. After several moves and redesignations, the Tyndall NCOA became the Paul W. Airey NCO Academy Dec. 13, 2006.

“Paul W. Airey made a statement, ‘When he sees his enlisted teammates, he sees resiliency and a legacy of valor,’” Burton said. “And when you come in the building, that’s what you see. We pride ourselves in that legacy of valor. We operate by team, teammate and then ourselves – in that order.”

During its time on Tyndall, the Airey NCOA has graduated more than 44,000 individuals. Although there has been a recent downtick in annual admittance, the professionals of the Airey NCOA look at it in a positive light.

“Annually, we have approximately 800 students coming to the schoolhouse,” Burton added. “Although this is down from the former approximate 1,200 annually, it allows the instructors a better ratio for student to instructor. This permits more of an opportunity, puts more of an emphasis on one-on-one time and intermediate leadership experience.”

This sentiment was not exclusive to the commandant. It also frees the staff to extend some of their own personal leadership philosophies acquired from years of experience.

“I try to impart in my students to understand the importance of valuing people and their opinions,” said Master Sgt. Khyashalise Powell, Airey NCOA director of resources and first sergeant.

“You have different personalities, backgrounds and Air Force specialty codes,” Powell added. “In the classroom, you have to let them know that everyone has a voice; they can speak up and nobody has a wrong opinion. People are exposed to different things so it’s paramount to bring that in and work together.”

Burton closed with the pride he has in his team and their abilities to mold the minds of those NCOs that attend the noncommissioned officer academy.

“This is one of the greatest teams I have worked with,” Burton said. “Coming from a special operations environment, I have worked with a lot of different teams. Having come from a combat environment in Afghanistan, I will tell you this is the best team I have had the opportunity to work with.

“The reason I say they are the best is because of the diversity. There are a lot of diverse teams in the Air Force, but this team is the most inclusive team that I have ever worked with,” Burton added. “In other words, we don’t just sit on the sidelines – everyone has a place at the table and we pull from every AFSC. That adds every bit of knowledge and every bit of skill you can think of to put on the table so we can be the most effective and efficient team we can be.

“Everyone is valued and that is what we pride ourselves on,” he concluded.

As the number of soon-to-be senior NCOs increases, the Paul W. Airey NCO Academy continues to train and project the future of unrivaled combat airpower.