NEWS | Dec. 4, 2020

JBSA launches professional development course for first-term officers

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

While the First Term Airmen Course has long served young enlisted members at Joint Base San Antonio, now a course dedicated specifically to officers will help fill a void in their professional development.

Eighty officers ranging from second lieutenants to lieutenant colonels signed up for JBSA’s initial First Term Officer’s Onboarding Course, or FTOOC, which was presented Dec. 1-3 through an online video conferencing platform.

The course, which is undergoing beta testing, is being pushed as a major professional development initiative by Brig. Gen. Caroline Miller, 502nd Air Base Wing and JBSA commander, and 502nd ABW Command Chief Master Sgt. Wendell Snider following a research effort spearheaded by the installation’s career assistance advisors, or CAAs.

“The course is developed for all officers within their first term of military service, regardless of rank,” Snider said. “The topics chosen for the course are to bridge the gap of an officer’s knowledge and capabilities upon being assigned to their first unit in JBSA and their selection to attend Officer Professional Military Education.”

JBSA’s CAAs, who manage the largest professional development program in the Air Force, provided the impetus for the initiative, said Senior Master Sgt. Jermaine King, JBSA-Randolph CAA.

“Over the course of the last two years, the CAAs noticed there was a significant gap in deliberate professional development between the time an officer is assigned to Joint Base San Antonio and is selected to attend Officer Professional Military Education,” he said.

King and Master Sgt. Dylan Bowman, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston CAA, led a team consisting of officers, senior NCOs and junior NCOs to bring the course to fruition after conducting research for about a year. King, who is a Six Sigma Black Belt, said the team utilized organizational development principles from Six Sigma during their research effort.

King also said Snider and several field grade officers mentored him on the direction of the course and provided guidance.

Unlike FTAC, which serves young Airmen, FTOOC meets the developmental needs of both lieutenants and officers with more advanced rank.

During their research, the team learned the Air Force will waive rank requirements based on the needs of the service to bring in officers with special expertise and experience in certain career fields, such as the medical and legal professions, King said.

“The CAAs brought in subject-matter experts to build a curriculum to give deliberate development to officers within their first term of service, regardless of rank, in order to provide deliberate development to officers prior to their selection to attend PME,” he said.

What also separates FTOOC from FTAC is that it is designed to provide officers with the “why,” King said.

“First-term Airmen are seeking information on how to do their jobs and understand how networking and working as a team is vital to success,” he said. “The First Term Officer’s Onboarding Course will allow officers to enhance their leadership abilities.

“As an example, many courses teach bullet writing courses; however, in FTOOC the officers will learn the enlisted force structure. This is important as it allows officers to understand ‘how’ to review enlisted performance reports and ‘why’ enlisted personnel are documenting leadership concepts on the EPR.”

King said this knowledge will help officers further evaluate the personnel they supervise in order to understand if personnel are exceeding standards commiserate with their rank and will provide officers with hands-on experience reviewing EPRs to further their understanding of the enlisted force structure.

FTOOC does not seek to duplicate courses that are already available and tie them together, King said.

“The team analyzed topics based on what the leaders of today needed to know prior to reaching PME,” he said. “Subject-matter experts were instructed to take the topic and to speak to areas that needed to go more in-depth. The facilitators are told that the information presented is not to be simply instructed, but ensure that the students understand the ‘why’ concerning the material presented. What was delivered were topics that would enable leaders based on the current state of units, and how the topics could make subordinates better under these leaders for a better future.”

The course curriculum was designed based on feedback given by enlisted, officer and civilian personnel from other professional development courses that have been offered at JBSA, King said.

The curriculum addresses numerous topics, including Personnel Programs, Air Force Personnel Center Promotion Board, EPR Knowledge and Culture, Emotional Intelligence, Diversity and Inclusion, Executive Assistant Training and First Sergeant/Superintendent/Commanders Panel.

An after-action report based on student feedback will be provided to JBSA leaders, including Miller and Snider, and CAAs will update the course based on feedback from leaders, students and facilitators.

Prior to becoming a mandatory course for JBSA, the CAAs’ chain of command will have to approve the course, King said. The hope is that FTOOC will become a permanent course through policy.

“The CAAs would provide the course one time per quarter,” he said. “Newly assigned officers to JBSA in their first term of service would be able to choose which FTOOC to attend within their first year of service.”

Snider sees the course benefiting officers and the mission.

“The course will advance force development by growing solution-minded, bold and courageous military leaders ready to overcome today’s and tomorrow’s challenges,” he said.

Snider also commended King and his team for their dedication to the initiative.

“The American warfighters are extremely talented,” he said. “I praise Senior Master Sgt. King for his vision to incorporate FTOOC as well as the other professionals who helped get this course off the ground.”