By Tech. Sgt. Staci Kasischke, U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
/ Published June 26, 2018
BOBOC AIR BASE, Romania -- Three instructors from the U.S. Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy traveled to Boboc Air Base, Buzău, Romania, to hold the first-ever Senior NCO mobile education course June 8 to 22, 2018.
The SNCOA mobile training team partnered with the Inter-European Air Forces Academy to provide a two-week course, condensed from the full five-week course held at Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex, Alabama.
“We provide education and training for our NATO and Partnership for Peace allies in the form of professional military education,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Travis Robbins, IEAFA superintendent. “It took the partnership of IEAFA and the Senior NCO Academy to make this course possible.”
The IEAFA was established by the 2015 fiscal year National Defense Authorization Act to provide education and training to NATO and Partnership for Peace nations.
During the course, 19 Romanian air force warrant officers and senior NCOs received lessons on leadership, followership, critical thinking, problem solving and team building.
When the course started, most of the students were not sure what to expect and worried if they would be able to understand the information in such a short amount of time.
“They told us that the original course is five weeks and that they compressed it all into two weeks,” said Romanian air force Senior Master Sgt. Cristina-Nicoleta Marin. “So, I was scared at the beginning. I thought, it's going to be such a big amount of information, will I be able to embrace it, will I understand anything?”
The instructors were tasked with not only condensing the material, but also ensuring the information transcended language and cultural barriers.
“When I first opened the notebook, I saw a bunch of acronyms, and I didn’t understand any of it,” Marin said. “I planned on just looking at my instructor and acting interested, while not understanding a thing about it. And then he started to talk and he took us step by step, with patience, and I realized that this is not what I thought it was going to be.”
Marin’s instructor, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. William Tooke, explained to the students that this course wasn’t just about memorizing information.
“We let them know that day one that we weren't here just to feed them information, we were here to share experiences together,” Tooke said. “It's about showing them some things but them making the connections, and us having a discussion. We don't memorize concepts, we try to change mindsets.”
For Marin, the course gave her a whole different idea of what leadership really means.
“For me leadership was just a noun, I saw leadership as two words, a leader and a ship,” she said. “Tooke actually made a noun into an action.” Marin added that Tooke strategically placed them in positions that would highlight their capabilities and as a result empower them as a team.
Recently, Romanian air force Warrant Officer Vlad Negru graduated from the five-week IEAFA NCO course, held at Kapaun Air Station, Germany, and applied for this senior NCO course to further advance his skills and better prepare for NATO missions.
“Since 2004, when we became a full member of NATO, we started to send people to work on missions abroad,” Negru said. “It's very important for us to create characters who can rise to the standards that headquarters asks for. This is one of the best courses and it’s great for us to practice English with native speakers, and I think it's good to understand how the work gets done in other countries.”
This course was important for the Romanian air force students and the instructors alike to experience working with NATO allies.
“I see the value for the partners, but I also see the value for the U.S. Airmen,” Robbins said. “I'm sure the experience they're getting in just the two weeks gives them a whole new perspective,” Robbins said. “At the end of the day, there are 29 nations that make NATO and we all have one common weapons system, and that's people. We have to develop our people in a similar matter, while also understanding the differences in cultures.”
The anxiety and nerves from day one quickly turned into graduation speeches, group photos, and hugs.
“At the beginning, I saw these two weeks as an opportunity of a short-term course,” Marin said. “It was what I was looking for because I didn't want to be away for so long. And now, at the end of this, I'm like, wow, this is over... I wish I could be doing this for a longer period. I enjoyed every little thing of it. For sure, I will not forget the information I learned here.”
The students weren’t the only ones to finish the course having learned more than expected.
“We talked about it before we came over here and we were expecting to learn just as much, if not more, than the students,” Tooke said. “We knew we would have goodness come out of this, but we didn't know how much, and how much it would mean to us and them. They really appreciated the material and put in the effort, and that means a lot to us.”