Education center reflects on 50 years: Part Three – Physical, technical junctures

The Air National Guard’s I.G. Brown Training and Education Center in East Tennessee celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

In honor of a half-century of learning, this feature series highlights TEC, from its first classes in a World War II-era aircraft hangar to the present day.

Possibly no other period significantly transformed TEC than its third decade. Part Three looks back at 1988 to 1998.

The Professional Military Education Center’s growth from the late 80’s and through the 90’s included the complete demolition and reconstruction of the campus, the centralization of Air Force Enlisted Professional Military Education (EPME), and the rapid advance of a digital age.

Fading memories

Bearing witness at the 20th-anniversary celebration, Chief Master Sgt. Donald S. Beshore recalled for his audience how he and others built the school in 1968 from a challenge given by Maj. Gen. I.G. Brown, which carried to every graduating class: “community involvement, re-instilling in others respect for the Flag, and love of country.”

“We soon forgot about going to makeshift classrooms in the hanger, the Spartan conditions of the dormitory, or the hard seats on the folding chairs in the renovated gymnasium,” Chief Beshore said. “Operation Patriotism became the theme, and the results were evident, as more and more fellow NCOs attended.”

Most of the first staff had retired or reassigned by the 90’s. Administrator Billie Laux would be the last of the original crew to retire in 1995, after serving close to 27 years with PMEC – as its first hired in May 1968 as well as its longest-serving.

The Maryville Daily Times newspaper interviewed Laux. She said that she was terrified on her first day at work but was glad she had stayed. “It’s hard to say it’s been a job,” she said in the article. “It’s been a way of life.”

New Faces

With a crowd of new faces in the new decade, PMEC was training thousands annually including civilians and international students.

The Professional Continuing Education Division’s (PCE) student load grew off the charts since the first 127 recruiting/retention students in 1982 – it climbed to 1,336 graduates in 26 different courses by 1989.

Whiewaer trip

Factoring in EPME and officer commissioning: “… we broke all [annual] records, enrolling over 3,000 students for the first time in our history and adding more new courses in PCE plus implementing the first computer training center for the Air Guard,” said Col. Larry W. Martin, the commander, in the 1989 fiscal year report. On top of that, their failure rate was just 0.2 percent overall.

AMS Class 91-3 celebrated the officer commissioning school’s 20th anniversary. Class 91-4 watched Col. Gregory J. Maciolek arrive from the Michigan Air Guard’s 191st Fighter Inceptor Group to take command of PMEC during their June 6 graduation.

PMEC said farewell to Colonel Martin, who they recognized as “instrumental in the development, implementation, and construction of the new campus.”

New Digs

The first two buildings in the five-phase construction project – that broke ground in 1988 – completed on Jan. 6, 1991. The NCOA dormitory (today’s Lankford Hall) provided 120 beds and added to the old Lankford Hall’s 88 beds. On that same day, the 25K square foot classroom facility (Morrisey Hall) opened with 22 classrooms.

New, early classroomThe added classroom space allowed NCO academy and leadership school to run concurrently on campus, and the faculty more than doubled to accommodate the additional classes, officials said.

Construction plans called for a new and expanded library in the multi-media building (Spruance Hall), which went into use in 1992. It included “state of the art facilities” and the ability to operate two lecture halls simultaneously as well as space for a television studio.

The multi-purpose building (Wilson Hall) replaced the old Wilson Hall gymnasium used from the academy’s first classes. It provided banquet facilities, an enlarged weight room, and space for indoor physical training and drill, officials said.

“[Their] completion … will have a major impact on PMEC operations,” Colonel Martin predicted in a campus bulletin.

Officials gathered to dedicate the library to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. John Conaway, on Sept. 17, 1993, a few months before he retired. They called the general “a dedicated supporter of the programs at PMEC for more than 20 years.”

Conaway Library offered thousands of books and hundreds of videos and periodicals, but the library was moved years later for the expanded television studios.

Movin’ books“PMEC is a dynamic schoolhouse, where change is the norm,” said Katherine S. Black, who served as the librarian.

“The staff and the instructors are busy educating Air Force and Air Guard men and women to be leaders. They don’t spend much time on reflection; nevertheless, it is good to stop and look at what we have done,” she noted in her history report.

The next two constructed dorms went into operation in January 1994, with the AMS dorm adding 100 beds and the second EPME dorm adding 120 beds. Faculty and staff moved into the administration building (Patriot Hall) in fiscal year ’96, and the old dormitory and dining hall got demolished.

With the combined new facilities, PMEC became the largest NCO academy in the total Air Force, among the 13 facilities worldwide at the time, said officials. (You can read about the buildings’ dedications at http://www.angtec.ang.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/1183547/the-bricks-of-our-contributors-heroes-founders/)

Roped commissions

AMS built a Ropes Course in 1994 – called the Personal Leadership Challenge Course – at the local YMCA camp on Chilhowee Mountain, which involved a partnership between PMEC, YMCA, and the Air Guard Readiness Center. Local utility companies provided the poles and cables, they said. AMS Class 94-6 had the first try through the series of five “high-” and nine “low-problems.”

“The course was an immediate success regarding facilitating team development, problem-solving skills, confrontation of personal fears, communication skills, and leadership/followership development,” said Lt. Col. Samuel Heady, the AMS commandant in his history report.

AMS students initially traveled to their tactical mobility exercise – a three-day, two-night leadership laboratory – at the Army Guard’s John Sevier Range in North Knoxville. They relocated in 1988 to the Catoosa Area Training Center in north Georgia. Class 98-5 was the first group to use that new site, which would serve AMS in the years to come.

The first 21 Air Force Reserve candidates arrived at AMS and graduated Nov. 17, 1994.

The “graduates, who represented 26 percent of the class, took away 60 percent of the awards,” Colonel Heady said.

Another 81 Reserve officers graduated in the following fiscal year. Around that time, AMS also greeted its first international student with the arrival of Canadian Air Force Warrant Officer Kathy Cox.

Digital blast

Computers and digital technology were replacing much of the physical information used in the mission, including how staff and students interacted with each other.

PMEC’s computer training center that opened in 1989, its Information Systems Training Program, adjusted with new technology. Its classrooms were full through the 90s. It provided a variety of one- and two-week computer training for a range of experience levels.

Student and staff computer workstations arrived in 1993, including 180 i486-processor PCs in the dormitories and 70 i386-processor PCs for staff, reports show.

“The computers will allow all students a connection to the local area network (LAN) … not yet in place,” officials said. NCO Academy students eventually (1995) used the LAN for their registrations; setting PMEC among the first PME schools to do so, reports said.

In July 1994, staff installed Microsoft Windows 3.1 software as the Air Guard standard.

Equipment for the television studio prepared PMEC for the satellite dish and connection.

The Director of the Air Guard, Maj. Gen. Donald Sheppard, cut the ribbon for the Warrior Network transmitter, March 23, 1995, which began distance learning and instruction delivered via satellite.

Eight months prior, the faculty held a pilot course for an NCO Academy Seminar Program. They instructed seven technical sergeants from the base’s 134th Air Refueling Wing. Validation began that following year with facilitators trained at seven eastern locations for the new Distance Learning section of NCO academy.

“The course was an outstanding success,” they reported.

Professional Military Education began two-way audio and one-way satellite lessons in 1995 for NCO Academy Class 96-1. More technology, distance learning sites, and facilitators soon came online.

Amid the broadcasts, Colonel Maciolek retired in June 1995, but Col. David L. Scoby took charge as the fifth PMEC commander.

For the first time, records showed that NCO academy staff planned to reduce its number of in-resident classes and increase the number of distance learning satellite classes in 1996.

That year, reports called it the “television production center” and adopted the name, “PMEC-TV.” They expanded broadcast academy classes into the Pacific and Central zones.

PMEC-TV broadcast its first live graduation ceremony on Nov. 14, 1996. It was uplinked and transmitted nationally.

By 1998, Satellite NCO Academy broadcast to most states, including the reception in Alaska. Instructors and multi-media staff worked into the early hours to set up broadcasts with the Hawaii Air Guard by 1999, officials said. The studio as well supported Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver, the director of the Air Guard (1998-2001) during the first leadership TV seminar with the bases.

Central curriculum

Satellite education correspondingly sprung from significant changes in the entire Air Force professional military education system in 1992, which reduced EPME from a four-tier system to a three-tier system, officials said.

As a result, NCO Leadership School closed its doors at PMEC after 21 years of classes.

The changes additionally cut the first tier for PME, which was a 15-day unit-sponsored Preparatory Course, which provided Airmen 1st Class and Senior Airmen lessons in followership and future leadership.

To replace both, the Airman Leadership School was established and centralized by the Air Force. PMEC staff assisted the Air Force in its development, then conducted ALS courses twice a year up until 1995, when ALS consolidated at the regional and unit level.

“This initial phase of NCO PME is provided to Senior Airmen as a foundation course, before their assumption of NCO status,” Colonel Maciolek said in a history report.

During those adjustments, PMEC’s NCO academy stopped writing its curricula and began using the regular Air Force’s curriculum exclusively, officials said.

Staff credentials

Among significant EPME changes, the faculty was required to hold academic credentials equivalent to the accredited classes they instructed. NCO academy contributed toward Airmen’s two-year Community College of the Air Force degrees, so PMEC pressed its instructors without degrees to earn them by 1996. Job announcements from 1990 required applicants to possess an AA or higher.

PMEC staff were also developing into higher levels of authority.

A former NCO academy instructor (1990-1994), Senior Master Sgt. James D. Ford Jr. was selected as a 1996 Air Force 12 Outstanding Airman of the Year. At the time, Ford was serving as the Air Guard’s recruiting and retention superintendent.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Moon, who took responsibility as PMEC Commandant in 1988, was selected as the fifth Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Director of the Air Guard in 1990. Chief Master Sgt. Jayne E. Shorey arrived from Alaska to assume Chief Moon’s duties as PMEC’s fifth Commandant.

When Chief Moon retired in Washington, Chief Master Sgt. Ed Brown, a former PMEC NCO academy instructor (1987-1988), became the sixth Senior Enlisted Advisor.

Closing the decade

On the first day of 1998, PMEC became known as the Air Guard Training and Education Center.

“The new title was adopted to describe the expanding missions of the Center better,” Colonel Scobey wrote in his historical narrative.

 

Faculty and staff retired the PMEC flag during a July 28 ceremony and raised the TEC flag – the flag included the torch-and-three-stars emblem used today. General Weaver presided over the ceremony.

The moment seemed to mark how technology and centralization had changed military education, in every office and classroom, on campus, and in broadcasts to the nation.

A decade of physical changes also culminated. The new running track, the parade field and the expanded parking lot were put to use in 1998. The last new dormitory in the decade-long construction project was nearing completion.

Other notes

1. Chief Master Sgt. Jayne E. Shorey was a distinguished graduate of the PMEC’s NCO Academy. She was also the first women commandant to serve in the position.

2. Students and faculty continued to volunteer thousands of hours in the community. They supported Special Olympics and blood drives. They performed flag ceremonies, marched in parades, taught karate, and visited VA hospitals, among an overabundance of Knoxville-area volunteerism.

3. TEC’s current Commander, Col. Kerry Lovely graduated AMS in 1993. She also graduated NCO academy, prior to her commission.

4. Staff Sgt. Bill V. Mason, NCO Academy Class 94-4 student, fell ill and died after completing physical training. Mason was a regular Air Force member. He was 32. Chaplain Lt. Col. David W. Wollenburg provided counseling.

5. The first mention of email capability in the dorms appeared a 1996 history report.

6. Master Sgt. Bill Potts created TEC’s first computer-based training course in October 1996 for the Academy of Military Science. Potts converted a 2-hour classroom lecture on pay and entitlements into an independent study. TEC’s early CBTs included Air Guard ancillary training in disaster preparedness, information security, and ethics, among other topics.

7. Maj. Joanna Shumaker became the first woman commandant of the Academy of Military Science in July 1997.

8. PMEC’s sixth commandant (1993-1997), Chief Master Sgt. Sam Neale, was a graduate of NCO Academy Class 83-3. Chief Neale was also the first black commandant to serve in the position.

9. TEC earned its eighth Air Force Outstanding Organizational Excellence Award in 1998.

10. PMEC-TV took a road trip for its first live, remote broadcast from Orlando in November 1997 at the Enlisted Leadership Symposium. The team broadcast daily sessions as well as nightly news summaries.

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