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Face of Defense: Soldier Completes Airman Leadership School

By Air Force Senior Airman Divine Cox 62nd Airlift Wing

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., Feb. 25, 2016 — Army Spc. Andrew Affonso, an information technology specialist at the Henry H. Lind Noncommissioned Officer Academy, recently became the first Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier to graduate the Julius A. Kolb Airman Leadership School here.

The ALS is the first step toward developing airmen into effective front-line supervisors.

The program is a six-week course of guided discussion, experimental activities, and exercises and case studies. It also features uniform inspection, physical training and drill.

After he graduated from the Basic Leader Course -- the Army’s first phase of noncommissioned officer education -- Affonso said his leaders asked if he was interested in attending the Air Force’s course. "I didn't even know that there was an option to attend another branch's leadership school, so I jumped on the opportunity to go," he said.

Affonso, the first JBLM soldier to get the opportunity to attend ALS here, learned the same leadership skills an airman would need meet his or her education requirement to become a noncommissioned officer.

Unique Opportunity

"This was a great experience for me," Affonso said. "I learned a lot about the Air Force culture and how the Air Force operates as a whole."

ALS covers combat leadership, military professionalism, airman supervision, verbal and written communication and group dynamics. A majority of the instruction focuses on various Air Force rules and regulations.

One of the biggest challenges for the ALS McChord instructors was figuring out how to deliver an Air Force-based curriculum to a member of another service branch.

"This wasn't my first time teaching a different branch of service," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Raab, a course instructor. "But it was a challenge for me because I had to remove all the Air Force acronyms because he didn’t know them, and retrain and change the way I teach to be more effective for him."

Affonso said one benefit of attending the course was the opportunity to network with his joint-service peers.

"Not only did I learn a lot, but I met a lot of cool people," he said. "I absolutely would recommend other soldiers to [attend] ALS if they get the opportunity. Not many of us can say we attended ALS."

JBLM ALS plans to continue including service members from other branches in the course.

"The next class we have, there will be some Navy sailors attending," Raab said. "We will continue to integrate our sister services into our school because I believe it is a really good experience to see the different perspectives of leadership the other services bring."