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Air Guard education center’s 2021 year-in-review

The center navigated 2021 through reduced pandemic restrictions and returning in-resident classes.

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. — The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center navigated the year through reduced pandemic restrictions and returning in-resident classes, staff and leadership changes, VIP visits, and continual curriculum and campus renovations to finish 2021 with outstanding achievements.

TEC staff and faculty came out of their telework isolations as COVID-19 vaccinations became available near the end of the first quarter. That allowed the measured return to offices.

Despite mask wear and spacing restrictions, they charged into professional continuing education and enlisted professional military education in physical and online classrooms.

The Lankford EPME Center kicked off the year with a virtual visit from Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. She offered her viewpoints through an online session with the NCO academy and Airman leadership school classes.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass answers questions during a teleconference February 1, 2021, with nearly 300 Airmen enrolled virtually in NCO Academy and Airman leadership school. (U.S. Air National Guard screen capture/Chief Master Sgt. Steven Durrance)

After six weeks of learning, student Airmen and Space Force Guardians were the first official graduating Cyber Protect and Defend class on campus in February as part of Mission Defense Team training. At year’s end, six classes and 120 students graduated as new cyber-defenders.

By March, Col. Jen Kondal took command of TEC. A virtual change-of-command ceremony welcomed the 16th commander after Col. Kenneth Lozano departed to the National Guard Bureau.

TEC University also coordinated the return of the Instructor Certification Program to campus after pandemic restrictions closed the classrooms in 2020. ICP graduates totaled 66 in 5 classes by December. After a hiatus and curriculum redesign, TEC-U also supported the Public Affairs Readiness Training Course.

TEC-U’s From the Force just-in-time training program released eight crowd-sourced videos on VIMEO to grow its portfolio to nearly 40 videos focused on diverse training topics. The Production Branch also delivered customer support requests for videos on the Strategic Planning System, the Foreign Area Officer Program, Weapons Safety, and Prevention Education and Outreach.

This year, among big announcements, included the award of Continuing Education Units, a measure used to maintain licenses or certifications with civilian employers. TEC-U now awards CEUs for instructor certifications and the PA readiness training course from a partnership built with Pellissippi State Community College.

Airmen took the last days in March to wear their Airman Battle Uniforms in service, including a throwback day. The Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform became mandatory on April 1.

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. — U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the Air National Guard’s training and education center in East Tennessee took a moment, March 29, 2021, to reflect on the Airman Battle Uniform during their last time wearing it in service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

Airman Leadership School became the first EPME class back on campus in June. Virtual classes were a result of pandemic health precautions. In the fall, NCO Academy returned for in-residence, and ALS went back to online classes. Lankford Center continues to teach both virtual and in-resident courses while a large percentage of classrooms undergo renovation.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Steven Durrance, the Lankford Center commandant, said that the pandemic provided an opportunity to demonstrate PME innovation.

The EPME team calculated their fiscal year accomplishments by October, conducting seven total NCOA classes (all virtual) with 1,571 graduates (801 Active Duty / 647 ANG / 123 Reservists). That effort awarded Airmen 9,426 Community College of the Air Force credit hours.

U.S. Air Force Airmen enrolled in Airman Leadership School listen to indoctrination briefings, June 7, 2021, during their first day of in-resident classes on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in East Tennessee. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith)

Airman leadership school completed seven classes in their fiscal year (one in-residence and six virtual) with 725 graduates (585 ANG / 140 Reservists). The effort awarded 5,800 CCAF credit hours.

TEC hosted other distinguished visitors on campus in addition to Chief Bass’s early virtual visit. They included Brig. Gen. Chad Raduege, the Cyberspace and Information Dominance director for Headquarters Air Combat Command. There was Chief Master Sgt. Tracie Timmerman, the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education command chief and her successor, Chief Master Sgt. Bret Copple. Chief Master Sgt. Erik Thompson, the command chief of Air Education and Training Command, spoke one-on-one with students during a Q-n-A chiefs’ talk and their July in-resident ALS graduation. In October, TEC welcomed Maj. Gen. Michael T. Gerock, commander of the Air National Guard Readiness Center, and his Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. David Callaghan.

The Air National Guard’s Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Maurice Williams also visited for a virtual commandant time with more than 300 EPME students from the TEC-U television studios. The National Guard Bureau’s Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Tony Whitehead was the year’s final in-resident, keynote graduation speaker during the December NCO Academy.

Other notable moments included the 50th remembrance of the Academy of Military Science, which opened in April 1971 as the Air National Guard’s primary commissioning program. It commissioned 14,641 new U.S. Air Force officers before departing in 2009.

TEC’s spring co-ed softball team, “One Hit Wonders,” played a winning 5-3 season at Knoxville’s Caswell Park. The athletes noted the complete turnaround from a winless season in the fall of 2020.

Staff and faculty jumped back into their exercise routines this summer and prepared for the return of Air Force fitness assessments. Many completed a 60-day fitness challenge to enhance their wellness, and others shared their best practices for resiliency in short videos produced with the ANG Prevention Education and Outreach office. Airmen also sought permission and opened a Meditation Room to practice Mental, Physical, Social, and Spiritual health.

In the final weeks, TEC, Civil Engineers, and contractors neared completing the Alexander Hall dormitory building renovation and handover of the newly constructed Lodging Office building. In November, chain link fencing surrounded the now emptied Morrisey Hall classroom building as its major renovation got underway.

TEC finished the year amidst several transitions in leadership and staff, as Airmen departed for other assignments or retired from military service. From Chief Durance’s pending retirement, the Lankford Center welcomed Chief Master Sgt. Shaun Withers as their 17th Commandant in mid-December. With that assignment, Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Gragg became the next TEC-U division chief. The organization awaited the pending announcement and arrivals of a new commander and deputy commander, while Deputy Commander Lt. Col. John Capra served as TEC’s interim commander pending those moves.

By Eartheditor

Hello. I am a prior U.S. Navy sailor and photojournalist serving on active duty with the National Guard – combined, for more than 24 years. This blog features my more memorable stories and photos from that news pile as well as creative writing. All images and stories are by me unless otherwise credited. I hope to backlog more as well as write new stories. Thank you so much.
- Mike R. Smith

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