DOVER AIR FORCE, Del. --
Airmen are required to attend Airman Leadership School to prepare themselves to become future leaders, supporting the employment of air, space and cyberspace power. It is the first level of the Enlisted Professional Military Education continuum.
To minimize the delay of creating those future leaders, the ALS at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, starts off with class 20E going virtual in light of COVID-19, per guidance from Air University’s Barnes Center for Enlisted Education.
“Attending ALS is a requirement to put on staff sergeant, and there is a need to develop those future leaders in the Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Victor Carmona, 436th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School commandant. “Going virtual allows us to continue that mission and meet Dover’s requirement without any delay.”
Since online-only classes are out of the norm for ALS, the instructors had to prepare for any possible obstacles.
“Some difficulties we knew we could run into are students possibly having issues with speakers, Wi-Fi or the devices they are using,” said Tech. Sgt. Brianna Walberg, 436th FSS ALS instructor. “To help combat that, we give the students exact time frames and specific schedules, so that it helps the students be prepared with their equipment needs prior to class or to inform us of any issues they are experiencing.”
Walberg mentioned that she thought it would be more of a challenge transitioning from in class to online only, but it is a lot easier than she thought it was going to be.
“Having class online, we lose that face-to-face feel, but it has its upsides. It is easier for students that are on different shifts to attend, and they can attend the class from home, which is a place they already acclimated to,” said Walberg. “When everyone introduced themselves, we had them type it out instead of give it verbally. This allowed students more time to process it compared to someone just speaking. We then did a virtual tour, with each individual choosing their favorite room in the house and explaining why. After that, it was free-flowing, and you can see connections being made.”
The class of 48 students is separated into three flights, with each flight having its own assigned commander, command chief and first sergeant.
"The point of ALS is to help Airmen think like a supervisor,” said Walberg. “If for some reason something comes up, they will need to follow their chain of command in their flight.”
The students will still be held to a physical fitness standard and need to conduct fitness on their own, but they are told to count calories as part of a friendly competition.
"We have created a friendly competition for counting calories that is going on between the flights Eagle, Liberty and Freedom,” said Carmona. “We have a health lesson that we teach, going over fitness and stretching, but for the physical fitness portion, there is an honor system that we use, and we teach them core values they are held to: integrity.”
Since the class is completely virtual, the following have been omitted from the program: awards, competition with the shirts or chiefs, as well as graduation.
Walberg mentioned, the ALS team is still trying to figure out some way of having the graduation online, because the students deserve a ceremony.
“Overall, having this virtual experience is something I never thought we would have to do in my lifetime - neither this pandemic,” said Walberg. “This just proves that the Air Force is ready for that next step with technology, that we are an unstoppable force, and the next front line of supervisors is prepared to take on anything.”