Bringing foreign exchange programs to the junior enlisted tier

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tiffany Del Oso
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

First Air Force, headquartered at Tyndall Air Force Base, is one of four numbered air forces assigned to Air Combat Command with the primary responsibility to ensure sovereignty and air defense of the continental U.S. As the CONUS geographical component of the bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command, First Air Force provides aerospace warning and control for North America.

This long-standing bi-national partnership between the U.S. and Canada clearly prompted other types of collaboration opportunities between the First Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

A perfect example is the joint training initiatives to include instructors from each service teaching in both the USAF’s Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy and the RCAF’s Osside Institute at Royal Military College Saint Jean in Canada. However, both courses focus on the higher enlisted leaders of each service.

“We have already benefited from past student exchanges between the NCOA, Senior NCOA and RCAF Academy,” stated Chief Warrant Officer John Hall, RCAF command CWO. “Extending the opportunity to our junior enlisted leaders who attend Airman Leadership School and Primary Leadership Qualification training at our respective campuses just made sense.”

With the lower enlisted in mind, Hall and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, JoAnne S. Bass discussed the possibility of an exchange program where the joint-force exposure could begin at the lowest level of future leaders.

“We want to develop more opportunities to have our enlisted leaders integrate with allies and partners at the earliest opportunity,” said Hall. “The more exposure we get [working with] our allies and partners, the better prepared our Aviators and Airmen will be to operate together during future exercises and operations.”

As a result of the idea, three RCAF aviators who had already completed the RCAF’s Primary Leadership Qualification were selected to attend ALS at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, as the first participants of the exchange program. Having already completed the RCAF’s PLQ, their insight to the USAF’s ALS would be essential in ensuring students from each service receive adequate and equal instruction despite the joint-training environment.

 “It’s difficult to maintain a joint operations mentality when you’ve only ever heard about it,” said Master Sgt. Michael Williams, Maxwell ALS commandant. “With the exchange students embedded in our ALS, the Airmen will actually be able to see different perspectives and see it in an environment where we expect a joint operations mindset.”

The initial RCAF aviators graduated ALS at Maxwell March 31st, with one winning the John Levitow award. This is the highest award presented at Airman Leadership School, given to the student who demonstrates the most outstanding leadership and scholastic qualities.

Three USAF Airmen who have already completed ALS have been selected to participate in the RCAF’s PLQ later this year and it is expected that nine Airmen should be trading places with RCAF aviators per year as the program continues to grow.

Introducing junior enlisted leaders to the world of joint operations not only promotes the investment of Airmen and Aviators of the future but will also provide them a new perspective for advancement of our partnership.