JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Joint Base San Antonio career assistance advisors, or CAAs, are looking ahead to the first quarter of the new year for the second session of a new professional development initiative for officers following a successful rollout last month.
The First Term Officer’s Onboarding Course, presented virtually Dec. 1 to 3, was already filled to its 80-student limit in the first two hours it was advertised, said Senior Master Sgt. Jermaine King, JBSA-Randolph CAA.
“I would say the First Term Officer’s Onboarding Course really caught me by surprise,” he said. “I did not expect the resounding support I have received from the students in the course, but also from the leaders in Joint Base San Antonio.”
King said one student told him that Brig. Gen. Caroline Miller, 502nd Air Base Wing and JBSA commander, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Wendell Snider set the tone for the three-day session by opening up the course.
Master Sgt. Dylan Bowman, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston CAA, was also pleased with the rollout of the course, which was developed for all officers in their first term of service, regardless of rank.
“We had a huge turnout with excellent and meaningful dialogue and fantastic briefers,” he said. “We also received a significant amount of positive feedback stating this course was much needed and that members learned a lot from the course.”
The FTOOC was developed by a team consisting of JBSA’s career assistance advisors, officers, senior NCOs and junior NCOs to fill a gap in deliberate professional development between the time an officer is assigned to JBSA and is chosen to attend Officer Professional Military Education.
The course gives new officers the tools and information to be successful leaders, Bowman said.
“In the JBSA environment, there are many first-term officers who join at ranks between O-1 and O-5, depending on their Air Force Specialty Code and work experience, but for many this is their first experience in the military and we expect them to lead immediately,” he said.
“The FTOOC serves as a bridge between initial officer training and their next professional development course, which is approximately four years after being in the service,” Bowman added. “Deliberately developing their skills and knowledge of enlisted/officer evaluation systems, base programs, Air Force processes, information systems, and general leadership skills prepare these first-term officers with little to no military experience to be successful in their new leadership roles within the Air Force.”
The initial FTOOC session underscored the need to fill that gap, King said.
“What I have learned about many of the officers in the program is that they really want to be able to better support and guide their subordinates,” he said. “The course really helped them learn personnel systems and documents. One individual pointed out how in-depth the instructors went and gave the impression that they really cared about what was being instructed.”
Subject-matter experts not only gave students useful information, but also provided them with first-hand knowledge of issues officers were experiencing, King said.
First Lt. Rachel Dale, 59th Medical Operations Squadron clinical social work resident, said the course benefited her with its breadth of topics – from being a better leader to tuition assistance.
“I was surprised by the range of topics covered in the three-day course,” she said. “The presenters were all very knowledgeable of the topics they presented. It is a course I recommend to every first-term officer.”
As a first-term officer – and one new to the military – Dale said she saw FTOOC as an opportunity to learn about the different resources available to her as a service member.
King noted the virtual platform for the course worked “very well.”
“While enforcing health protection conditions, the platform allowed students to go into breakout sessions,” he said. “This fostered better discussion on topics.”
The ability of officers to dress in business casual attire also enhanced the course, King said.
“The focus of the course was not on the rank of the individuals, but rather understanding the content of the curriculum,” he said. “Throughout the course, the students did not hold back on our facilitators and this was exactly what the facilitators was looking to cultivate. There was great dialogue throughout the course.”
The JBSA CAAs plan to meet with Miller and Snider soon to discuss the future of the course, King said.
“There is currently no decision made by our senior leaders to make the course permanent,” he said. “However, the goal is to be able to speak to all Air Force senior leaders to provide this course at every Air Force installation.”
The CAAs are also working to improve the course based on leaders’ recommendations and student feedback, and looking to offer the second session sometime in the first quarter of 2021, King said.