Faculty and staff at the U.S. Air Force’s enlisted professional military education center in East Tennessee said that the graduations of three EPME classes last month closed out a fiscal year of significant accomplishments.
Classes NCO Academy 18-6, Airman Leadership School 18-10, and ALS Blended Learning Course 18-11, all graduated EPME on the last week of September. In total, the Chief Master Sergeant Paul H. Lankford EPME Center graduated 1,894 students over the previous 12 months.
“Considering that we turned over about 50 percent of our entire staff during that time, including key leadership assignments, it’s a great accomplishment,” Senior Master Sgt. Ramey Stokes, the director of education who is additionally serving as interim commandant, said.
Sergeant Stokes, a former EPME instructor from 2008 to 2010, was among the new faculty who arrived or returned on assignment. The EPME Center has about 45 instructors and staff as part the Air National Guard’s more considerable training and education campus — the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.
TEC recently announced Chief Master Sgt. Steven Durrance as the 16th commandant, following the reassignment of Chief Master Sgt. Winfield Hinkley in August.
“We are looking forward to the year ahead and the arrival of Chief Durrance as our Commandant, with his leadership and vision,” Sergeant Stokes said. “Right now, I’m proud to guide us until his arrival, and it never fails to surprise me how well TEC joins together as a team, even though the turnover.”
Master Sgt. Juan P. Castro, who arrived this year as EPME director of operations, said that Lankford EPME Center students were equally successful in the community.
“We closed the year with more than 4,000 hours in student community volunteerism,” Castro said. “Not only that, students donated 571 units of blood to the regional blood center,” Sergeant Castro said.
Breaking it down, NCO academy students provided 2,771 total community service hours, and ALS provided 1,312 community service hours in the greater Knoxville, Tennessee, area. “I’m just so amazed in how much our students can give outside the gates, in addition to their rigorous studies,” Sergeant Castro said.
Another success included exchanging instructors across the Air Force’s EPME centers to share best practices and improve relationships, Sergeant Castro said. Six guest instructors were on campus this year, and one Lankford EPME Center instructor taught NCO academy at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.
“We got great feedback on that, and I think the results were phenomenal,” Sergeant Castro said, adding that they hoped to pursue more exchange opportunities.
Sergeant Castro also added that the coming year would see an increase in student throughput in NCO academy classes as a means to provide Airmen more opportunities to attend in-resident EPME.