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Over 530 students complete 2020 squadron leadership course; AFPC ready for 2021

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas --

After another successful year hosting the Air Force’s Personnel Center Squadron Commander and Superintendent course and educating more than 530 students on various focus areas, AFPC hosted its first 2021 virtual course this week.

The first course of 2020 was held in February on the AFPC campus, with the next course planned for April, and six additional classes scheduled throughout the remainder of the year.  Not long after the first class, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the team to redirect operations.

At the time, it was a hard decision to cancel the April and May in-residence courses, said Lt. Col. Cody Gravitt, course director.  Unsure if this would just be a blip, the team realized by early May there was still a demand in the field for this type of training and they needed to get creative.

“We were one of the first courses to go virtual and the time between approval for our first virtual course and execution was only about two weeks,” Gravitt said.  “We knew there were students impacted by the cancellations and we were also unsure of what the future held. So we went big with that first class and enrolled almost 150 students. Our staff and AFPC teammates really stepped up to the challenge.”

Throughout the year, the course saw various formats to include one 3.5 day in-residence course to five five-half days virtual courses.  Although the virtual classes got smaller to preserve student experience, 533 students completed the course in 2020.

The course is targeted for commanders and superintendents who have been in the seat from three to six months. At this point they have a better sense of their strengths and weaknesses in regard to talent management and a clearer idea of where they could use some additional support, Gravitt said.

“Command is a noble privilege because of the direct impact squadron leadership has on Airmen, Guardians and their families,” said Maj. Gen. Christopher Craige, AFPC commander. “This course highlights how much we value squadron commanders and superintendents and the incredible work they do every day, and gives them resources they’ll need as they lead daily operations on behalf of the Department of the Air Force. Our AFPC team is here for them.”

Though the format changed, the course still covered topics that ranged the spectrum of AFPC’s focus areas to include: military promotions, assignments, civilian workforce planning and development, casualty and family support programs, military evaluations and civilian appraisals, the Exceptional Family Member Program, and the integrated disability evaluation system, to name a few. Students still had the ability to meet with their respective assignment teams--officer, enlisted, and civilian career field teams.

“We leveraged technology to put squadron leaders in direct contact with the Air Force’s subject matter experts on these topics and to give them a ‘peek behind the curtain’ at some of the changes being considered within the AFPC portfolio,” Gravitt said.

Student input continues to inform the feedback the APFC commander shares with senior leaders.

“This course was phenomenal! Looking back after a year and half in command, it was the most useful command courses that I took, and I went through three,” said Lt. Col. William Hermann, 23rd Special Operations Weather Squadron commander. “The subjects we covered were extensive – ranging from Civilian Personnel matters to Casualty Notification (and everything in-between). I have since used all of them while performing this current role…and provide [some information] to the front-line workers in the unit (i.e., flight chiefs and commanders) so they are better armed when they progress.”

As a previous MAJCOM Functional Area Manager, Lt. Col. Linda Davis, 17th Training Support Squadron commander, was familiar with the different personnel systems and processes; however, this was the first time she saw demonstrations and met experts from AFPC.

“Every minute of the 3.5 day course was valuable, but the subject that helped me the most in my first eight months of squadron command was the Enlisted Forced Distribution Panel exercise. This well-executed event took us from the beginning to the end, where they pulled actual promotion statistics to show us the end result of the decisions we made as an EFDP. I learned two very important things. First, as a squadron commander, it is my duty to forward only the absolute best records. This allows the EFDP to focus on the ‘best of the best.’ Second, the EFDP is an extremely important and fair process.”

There’s no cost associated with the virtual course and students are considered TDY in place. The only requirement is a good internet connection that can be accessed with any browser.  Conversely, the in-residence course is unit funded. 

“We will remain virtual for our February, April and May 2021 courses, but are anxious to return students back to the AFPC campus. Before that decision is made, we will closely monitor health conditions to ensure everyone’s safety,” Gravitt said.

Squadron-level leaders interested in attending either format should contact their MAJCOM A1, through their wing or equivalent unit leadership, for nomination procedures.

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