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NEWS | Aug. 5, 2010

Coast Guardsmen bring joint training to life

By Patrick Desmond 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

It isn't the first time Lackland's Airman Leadership School has admitted Coast Guardsmen into its classrooms, and with momentum building behind joint training, it certainly won't be the last.

A privilege usually reserved for soon-to-be Air Force staff sergeants, Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Michael Tyrrell and Petty Officer Nader Farraj joined 48 Airmen who graduated Wednesday from the supervisor training program.

ALS instructor Tech. Sgt. Shakia Knight said Lackland is the only base to admit Coast Guard members into the training.

Tasked with selecting potential students for Lackland's program, Sergeant Knight said the school "had a lot of success last year" with joint training.

Sergeant Knight said the Coast Guard members have access to advanced leadership training not available to their peers.

The inclusion of Coast Guards members is an example of how collaborative military efforts are becoming priorities, the sergeant said.

Its chief benefit: building relationships and sharing knowledge of each other's way of life.

"They learn from each other," Sergeant Knight said. "That's the beauty of it. It makes the classroom discussion so dynamic.

"By the students understanding and learning together, it makes it more real," Sergeant Knight said. "We are pushing joint training, joint coalition. Here you get to see it and experience it."

The two Coast Guardsmen were taken back by the contrasting ways of life.

Petty Officer Tyrrell agreed there was definitely an adjustment period to living on base.

"When you first get here, everything is Air Force. AFI this, AFI that. I didn't even know what AFI (Air Force Instruction) meant," he said.

Petty Officer Farraj noted an adjustment to the different services' customs and courtesies. He said he would never dream of addressing a superior with "yes, sir" or "ma'am" where rank is the standard identifier in the Coast Guard.

"I've been learning a lot about respect and how the Air Force treats each other - and I like it."

The Coast Guardsmen agreed this initial adjustment is worth it, as admittance to the extended leadership training is a rare opportunity.

Used to supervising all personnel on his ship, Petty Officer Tyrrell said, "In the Coast Guard, you may get a little more responsibility quicker, but they really don't provide you with an ALS."

He said the two-month "A-school" - the Coast Guard equivalent to a technical school - includes one week of leadership training instead of the 5.5 weeks dedicated at ALS.

At ALS, the Coast Guardsmen joined 13 or more Airmen each day in open-discussion learning environments under the tutelage of Staff Sgts. Sandra Miko and Jacob Galan.

The instructors said both students offered a fresh perspective, and as a result engaged discussions and debates on leadership that otherwise would not have come up.

"Sometimes, we get stuck on the way the Air Force does things, because that's really all we see," Sergeant Galan said. "Having Farraj in my class this time around, he's been able to provide an angle, a different lens."

Her fourth Coast Guardsmen student to date, Sergeant Miko said that having different servicemembers in the classroom fosters respect for each services' role in the larger picture.

"It has given the students a different appreciation. It not only illustrates the differences between services, but it also shows what everyone brings to the fight," Sergeant Miko said.

Petty Officer Tyrrell has been able to relay information about his services' mission, capabilities and equipment and resources to his Airmen peers, Sergeant Miko said.

"It's not all just what you see in 'The Guardian,' in the movies," she said.

"(Tyrrell) has been completely willing to share. He sings the Airman's Creed, and they in turn sing the Guardian Ethos with pride and enthusiasm," she added.

The petty officer's favorite academic lesson: leader-follower dynamics.

Used to a reprimand approach to leadership situations, Petty Officer Tyrrell said the course offers alternatives routes to action, which he will apply in the future.

"It opens your eyes," he said. "There are circumstances where you need to pull back a little bit and take a different approach."

One of the things Petty Officer Farraj is looking forward to instilling down the road in future assignments is the level of respect that he has seen during his stay at ALS.

The leadership school prepares students for future roles; it's fitting that different servicemembers learn together.

"As we move toward joint capability," Sergeant Galan said, "it's going to be essential that those people in leadership positions actually embrace it.

"If we catch them at this level, and they see how beneficial it is to train together, it's going to mean more to them."

Sergeant Knight admits Coast Guardsmen toward the end of promotion cycle after all eligible Airmen have attended.

In addition to admitting the Coast Guard, Sergeant Knight said that the Lackland ALS is taking steps toward including Soldiers and Marines in future classes.