The Air Force is seriously getting its act together in some key ways recently.
Not least among the recent signals that institutional reform is on the march: CMSAF Kaleth Wright’s announcement of important and longed-for reforms to Enlisted Professional Military Education (EPME).
In an email broken on Steven Mayne’s amn/nco/snco facebook page, Wright sketched the outlines of a new program that resembles the system that sustained and developed the Air Force for more than four decades before it fell prey to a combination of budget-mongering and bureaucratic tinkering under the previous Air Force leadership regime.
Wright’s new approach eviscerates the one rolled out by former CMSAF James Cody, who stubbornly refused to make adjustments after fielding an EPME system was manifestly dysfunctional and a severe threat to morale. Cody’s recalcitrance, cocooned as it was in dishonest propaganda, helped trigger a retention crisis that now has his successor in a scramble to cement the trust and confidence of the service’s spine before it’s too late.
Wright’s model eschews Cody’s almost completely, incinerating his legacy and salting the Earth. There are a few key changes worth emphasizing.
First, every airman will get a residence development opportunity three times in his career, and indeed must complete education in order to be promoted to E-5, E-7, and E-9. This is a huge predicate for two-way commitment and an important repudiation of the false idea that saving on education (via click-through courses) is ever a good idea.
Second, while airmen must complete an online course in order to attend in-residence, the service has removed timing gates requiring online completion on tight timelines that take no notice of either career progression or life circumstances. Airmen can now enroll at the time that best allows them to focus, which will give them more autonomy and increase their overall learning. It will also allow the service to hold them responsible if they don’t complete courses in time to be promoted, which brings us to the third major change.
Gone with this reform are the insane coercive policy features that punished airmen and hobbled careers based on arbitrary timelines dreamt up by cubicle dwelling bureaucrats without any sense of life in the 2017 operational Air Force. The Cody regime didn’t seem to care if their EPME vision was actually bad for the service, and it was thus mainly wielded as a cudgel to beat airmen into alignment. It rewarded those willing to sit, roll over, and pant on command. Those who refused to deliberately misprioritize low-value CBTs were excluded from promotion cycles, refused reenlistment, and in some cases booted out of the service.
Wright’s system ditches this “quasi-development at the point of a rifle” mentality, instead lifting airmen up by making commitments to their development and expecting them to own certain aspects of it themselves. The new policy unequivocally dissolves any association between EPME and negative personnel actions, almost chuckling at the fact the prior policy was stupid enough to consider itself legitimate.
The video below showcases CMSAF Wright explaining the new policy himself. He’s obviously beaming with pride and contentedness, because he knows this is not only a huge stride in the right policy direction, but something that will be wildly popular with nearly all airmen. Only the cynical careerists afraid of competition on relevant terms will be disappointed. As they should be. They just lost a huge advantage over people who work too hard and focus too intensively on the mission to spend time petting their ribbon racks.
You can also see the full text of Wright’s announcement email here.
There are still a few questions hanging over this issue. Will the Air Force allow the 172 NCOs separated for non-completion on arbitrary timelines to resume their careers? Will it allow the 5,489 NCOs recently not eligible for promotion to TSgt to compete via the supplemental process?
For now, these questions can wait. It’s important to celebrate success when we glimpse it, and today is a huge day for the enlisted force and the USAF mission. As we continue to awaken from a long season of madness, let’s hope Wright and his team continue to do what’s right by our nation’s Air Force and those who serve it.
As a humorous side note, Air Force Chief of Personnel Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso read from a prepared statement written by her public affairs staff. She did the same in support of the legacy policy. These two statements demonstrate the extent of her relevance to this issue.