The promotion from Senior Airman to Staff Sergeant marks a significant transition in any Airman’s career. With a fourth stripe comes more than just a pay raise.
To prepare for this new role and increased responsibilities, Airmen are put through a rigorous, 24-day Airman Leadership School at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The course consists of primarily classroom work as well as drill instruction and physical fitness components.
All staff sergeant selects must attend ALS in order to receive the tools and resources they need before becoming supervisors.
“The primary training objective is to prepare them to be professional, warfighting leaders who can supervise and lead work teams to support the employment of air, space and cyberspace power,” explained Tech. Sgt. Amanda Degnan, ALS Instructor.
Soon-to-be NCO’s learn the importance of critical thinking, resilience and motivation while learning how to implement the latest leadership theories.
“This training is important because some of them may not have any experience leading,” said Degnan. “This course is designed to put them to the test. There’s a lot of pressure, stress and the course load can be heavy, but it’s all meant to mimic what it feels like to be a supervisor – which can be challenging at times.”
Upon graduation, all students receive an NCO Development Ribbon, and several are selected for additional awards. The top performer in each class receives the John Levitow Award, named for the lowest-ranking enlisted person to ever receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in Vietnam.
Degnan has pushed multiple flights of Airmen through ALS at Wright-Patterson AFB, each with Airmen from all different career fields and walks of life. She explained how rewarding it is to get to be a part of this accomplishment for Airmen.
“It’s always fun to get that e-mail that says ‘remember that one time you said this was going to happen; I didn’t believe you but it totally did.’ It has nothing to do with us and what we do; we just give them the tools,” she said. “It’s up to them to execute, and what makes us the most proud is when we see former students being amazing supervisors and using the tools we’ve given them to be the best supervisor they can be.”