Enlisted Airmen now sit as students in a course originally designed to help officers and civilians thrive, and not just survive, in squadron command positions.
First launched in late 2018, the Leader Development Course for Squadron Command takes potential squadron commanders and directors through eight days of intensive and systematic interpersonal skills development and reinforcement. The goal is to help them effectively communicate and interact on a professional level with Airmen and Guardians of all ranks.
Though senior noncommissioned officers were invited as presenters to offer the enlisted perspective of command leadership teams, it wasn’t until late 2019 that they were invited as students to test the concept of a mixed officer, civilian and enlisted class.
The first enlisted Airman to graduate from the beta class said that sitting alongside potential commanders and civilian directors gave him a new perspective on the challenges they’ll face when they assume command positions and how a senior NCO’s unique role can help.
“As a senior enlisted advisor to commanders, I needed to close the gap that exists between what I think commanders need and what they say they need,” said Senior Master Sgt. Demetrius Booth, commandant of the Center for Faculty and Staff Development and Enrichment at the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education. “And I hope (the officers and civilians) walked away with a greater understanding of what a senior NCO brings to an organization.”
The Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development at Air University offers the course, more commonly known by the shorter title of Leader Development Course, or LDC. This course gets to the heart of Air Force senior leaders’ vision of revitalizing squadrons, equipping potential commanders and directors with the tools to conceive more “effective, adaptive and lethal” squadrons.
The course director, Lt. Col. Justin Longmire, said that the officer and civilian students have always appreciated and valued the senior NCO presentations, but they desired closer collaboration with them, which eventually led to them being included as students.
“The ultimate goal of LDC has always been to strengthen command teams, not just commanders,” Longmire said. “It only makes sense for commanders, directors and superintendents to learn together in the academic environment before they have to tackle real-world problems together during command.”
To date, about 1,600 students have graduated from LDC, with only 70 being senior NCOs. However, Longmire said the plan is for 20% to 25% of future graduates to be senior NCOs.
Just as with officers and civilians, wing commanders nominate and endorse the enlisted member to attend. Enlisted rank eligibility is master sergeant through chief master sergeant, with six months to three years before their first superintendent position.