Mobile team takes on nations education

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the Inter-European Air Forces Academy traveled to Brno, Czech Republic, to hold a two-week test course on ideas, theories and concepts on leadership and self-development Feb. 23 to March 4.

The mobile training team's visit was a proof-of-concept course intended to provide a sample of the full five-week in-residence course.

"IEAFA offers a style of professional military education and training that is a new kind of experience for many of our students," said Lt. Col. Christopher Erickson, IEAFA commandant. "For example, some students tell us our focus on leadership, critical thinking and communication skills is novel."

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 two-week course, 21 officers and NCOs from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania received lessons on leadership, followership, critical thinking, problem solving and team building.

With such a large multinational event, the academy team faced a variety of challenges but was also offered many rewards.

"This PME mobile training team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joel Scherer, Squadron Officer School instructor from Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. "I'll admit I was nervous before the course started; I was thinking about the language barrier, cultural differences, and the challenges of delivering the curriculum.  I quickly discovered I was nervous for nothing."

Being one of the instructors, Scherer weaved curriculum from the SOS alongside NCOs teaching their PME courses to expand the students' outlook. However, teaching and learning is a two-way street.

"We have a lot more similarities than differences," said Scherer.  "We all value the same basic things: family, friends, freedom ... to name a few.  I feel we all collectively learned something from each other to ensure the alliance not only remains strong but will continue to get even stronger over time."

According to Erickson, officers and NCOs from different NATO countries came together in the class to provide a greater understanding on an individual level that will help air forces operate more effectively together.

"I did not know what to expect because I have never been through a course like this," said Capt. Jiří Zach, Czech air force flight commander of maintenance. "My expectations were to learn something new from different environments because I knew there would be different nationalities here, and also improve my English and learn different points of view and ways of life."

Scherer and the team of instructors kept the students on their toes with a variety of exercises, guided discussions and experimental activities to help develop future NCOs and officers.

While the course in Brno only lasted for two weeks, more mobile teams are scheduled for 2016 and 2017 with several classes at their Kapaun Air Station, Germany facility scheduled to start next April, helping ensure the sharing of knowledge is international.