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EPME Center graduates hundreds through virtual classes, ceremony

FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. – More than 10,000 watched the virtual graduation ceremony of U.S. Air Force Airmen enrolled in virtual in-residence, remote NCO Academy and Airman Leadership School, broadcast live July 13, to the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center’s Facebook account.

Family, friends, and coworkers used the moment to directly share the Livestream at least 30 times, “like” it more than 100 times, and submit more than 150 positive comments of support and congratulations. A recording is at https://lnkd.in/ejhp_Rv.

“Congratulations to all today’s graduates.” and “You are the future of the Air Force. Aim High!” and “Yeahhh my baby girl!” and “We are so proud of you.” were among the prevailing sentiments.

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USAF Air Combat Command selects TEC for future cyber-training mission

U.S. Air Force Combat Command selected the Air National Guard’s training and education center on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in East Tennessee for training Airmen to protect and defend the nation’s most advanced computerized weapon systems.

The I.G. Brown Training and Education Center is part of a recent and extensive, multi-unit effort to increase Air Combat Command’s Mission Defense Team cyber training with the inclusion of the campus, located just outside Knoxville.

“This is an exciting moment for TEC and its future as an agile, innovative, and resilient center of learning for the total Air Force and the National Guard Bureau,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Kenneth Lozano, TEC commander. “We are expanding and growing at zero cost. This initiative is the result of a strategy to diversify TEC’s role today and into the future.”

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FAQs for virtual in-resident remote NCO Academy and Airman leadership school

FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. – With so many things impacted by COVID-19, the U.S. Air Force response included a suspended NCO academy and Airman leadership school for Airmen. Both courses are requirements for promotion to NCO and senior NCO, as well as provide essential knowledge for aspiring leaders.

Here’s the good news: they are available remotely now through virtual in-resident remote enlisted professional military education.

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Education center staff and faculty push their development, despite adversity

FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. – U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the Air National Guard’s training and education center in East Tennessee did not stop their own personal and professional growth in the face of teleworking.

Leaders noted how the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center’s 80-plus staff and faculty enrolled in online learning. More than 30 Airmen joined recently in a 20-hour course entitled, “leadership engagement, increase communication and trust,” which included individual coaching sessions.

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USAF instructors prove their agility with classroom-to-camera skills

LOUISVILLE, Tenn. — U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Megan Francolini and Tech. Sgt. Renee Wiederspahn recorded sessions in the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center TV studio, June 4, on McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in East Tennessee, during camera-work for virtual in-residence remote NCO academy for the total U.S. Air Force.

Their efforts are among just a few weeks’ worths of turnaround by TEC’s Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center – the Air Force’s largest EPME center – as it kicks off VIR-R NCO Academy as well as VIR-R Airman leadership school mid-month.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Steven Durrance, the EPME center commandant, said in March that his team was focused on preparations to instruct a new curriculum as well as alternative learning methods.

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Instructors learned television-studio camera skills from broadcasting experts, including reading from a teleprompter, to record their curriculum. TEC operates the Air National Guard’s broadcast center and Warrior Network television studios.

“This was an extremely quick turn for Lankford; especially considering the circumstances,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Beiting, NCO academy superintendent. “It really has been a massive effort with a lot of challenges.”

The Air National Guard’s Lankford Center is a total force institution and graduates thousands of students annually. The 38 faculty include 19 enlisted Airmen from the regular Air Force, 18 from the National Guard, and one from the Reserve Command, as well as three support staff. They focused on coursework revisions and transformations from home since the worldwide pandemic suspended classes on campus.

More than 250 EPME students will connect from their homes across the nation beginning June 15.

Airmen interested in these courses should speak with their assigned education managers concerning VIR-R EPME opportunities.

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Virtual in-residence remote EPME scheduled for 251 Airmen

LOUISVILLE, Tenn. — U.S. Air Force professional military education instructors assigned to the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center in East Tennessee were wrapping up the final recordings for virtual in-residence remote NCO academy and Airman leadership school this week for the total U.S. Air Force.

TEC’s Lankford Enlisted PME Center began developing the inaugural VIR-R classes in March through telework and in the TEC-TV studios when classes suspended on campus due to COVID19.

More than 250 EPME students are scheduled to connect from their homes across the nation beginning June 15.

Airmen interested in these courses should speak with their assigned education managers concerning VIR-R EPME opportunities.

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Longest-serving on TEC staff, Billie Laux, dies at 85

FRIENDSVILLE, Tenn. — Billie Laux, who provided decades of service and support to the Air National Guard training and education center, died Sunday, May 24, at 85.

Laux was hired in 1968 by the Director of the Air National Guard to serve as a civilian administrator at the ANG’s first NCO Academy. She was among its six initial instructors and staff, including a deputy commandant, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Paul H. Lankford, and a commandant/commander U.S. Air Force Maj. Ed Morrisey.

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Guard nerve centers prove key to inaugural, national missions [repost]

NOTE: This story, “Guard nerve centers prove key to inaugural, national missions,” first published January 2009.

By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. — When National Guard soldiers and airmen show up for the thousands of missions they perform, they know they’re part of the right unit, in the right place, at the right moment. But, getting them to a mission does not happen by chance.

That’s partly because the joint staff at the National Guard Bureau, along with the Army and Air Guard’s readiness centers work behind the scenes with the states and territories to put the Guard’s best foot forward.

The National Guard’s support to the current presidential inauguration is no different, but its footprint is nearly four times larger than any in previous inaugurations.

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Rancher Ropes in Top Warrior Title [repost]

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 14, 2008 – A Montana National Guard noncommissioned officer, recently named as the Army National Guard’s NCO of the Year and the Army’s Warrior of the Year, said the best warrior is the one who knows when he needs help.

Staff Sgt. Michael Noyce Merino, honored Oct. 6 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting and exposition in Washington, credits free counseling sessions he received through Military OneSource with helping him cope with stresses that accumulated during combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“That really helped me,” Noyce Merino said.

Noyce Merino won the Army Guard’s final competition in mid-August at Fort Benning, Ga. That achievement allowed him to match his skill and knowledge against 12 soldiers representing the Army’s other major commands for a final Best Warrior competition at Fort Lee, Va., Sept. 30 to Oct. 3. He won the Army’s competition to his great surprise, he said.

“I’m equally proud of winning [both competitions],” Noyce Merino said. “They were both difficult in their own way.”

Noyce Merino explained that the Guard’s competition was physical with its 12-mile road march and land navigation events. In contrast, the Best Warrior competition challenged his marksmanship and ability to think under pressure.

“We’re fortunate to have all those soldiers – regardless of component – compete,” Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, said. “Those are the best of the best. It’s a big moment for the Guard, and it’s also a big moment for the Army.”

Noyce Merino joined the Guard after his release from active duty in 2007 and returned to his family’s 21,000-acre cattle ranch in Montana. He also works as a shipping supervisor for United Parcel Service, and he praised that company for its support of his service.

“Now that we have settled down on the ranch, we hope to start a family,” he said. “Right now, we are building the operation and developing a functioning [cattle] business.”

Noyce Merino was home-schooled and grew up on the ranch. “It’s what I knew and loved until I joined the [active duty] Army,” he said.

His 2001 active-duty enlistment took him immediately to battlefields in Afghanistan. “I was in basic training when the 9/11 attacks happened,” he said. “So right away, I knew I was going into combat.”

He attended airborne school, was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, and deployed for six months. He returned home only to deploy to Iraq for eight months.

“After that, I re-enlisted into the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood [in Texas],” he said. He returned to Iraq for an additional 12 months.

On one patrol, Noyce Merino used his combat lifesaver skills to apply two tourniquets to a fellow soldier after a mortar attack in Baghdad. “He had extensive shrapnel wounds and arterial bleeding in both legs, and was going in and out of consciousness,” he said. The patrol transported the soldier to an aid station within nine minutes and helped to save his life.

During the recent Best Warrior competition, Noyce Merino said, he faced a similar medical scenario that required treating a wounded leg.

“Those who had not been in that situation saw what it was like to treat a casualty under fire,” he said. He added that the competition simulated battlefield conditions well. “The Army and the Guard should do as much of that as they possibly can.”

Though he’s proud to have been honored, Noyce Merino said he’s just one of many deserving soldiers.

“I don’t consider myself to be the best,” he said. “There are a lot of soldiers and sergeants right now who are deployed, who are serving, and their duty prevents them from competing. I’m more of a representative of all NCOs and all soldiers in the Army. I’m an example of what it takes to be one of the best.”

(U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy)

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Air Guard’s charter members reflect on first 60 years [Repost]

Tech. Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

(Note: This reposted article was originally written and published April 9, 2007)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AF NEWS) — Their membership gets older and smaller every day. Nearly 60 years have passed since they formed, but time has not removed distant memories of 1946 and 1947 after these veterans helped claim victory in World War II and flew as Air National Guardsmen. 

You may have met them on your drill weekends outside your shop or at a base function. He was that man with the silver hair who grabbed your elbow in the hallway one Saturday afternoon to tell you about those who came before you. Or it was another senior citizen describing how his and other Airmen’s voices filled the cockpits of retired aircraft and echoed in hangars long since torn down. 

They are the Air Guard’s charter Airmen. They will be there when the Air Guard celebrates its 60th birthday this fall. 

Some of these charter Airmen keep in touch with their units and share their whereabouts and experiences through alumni groups, museums, speaking engagements, and interviews. 

Retired Colorado Air Guard Tech. Sgt. Harry Emily, 90, is the oldest living charter member of the Colorado Air Guard. 

Sergeant Emily joined the National Guard in 1938 and left after World War II. He helped train pilots, navigators, and aero engineers on B-25 Mitchell bombers, and he went to school to serve in a P-38 Lightning fighter squadron. He said there were 17 members in 1946 when they reorganized the 120th Aero Observation Squadron into the 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron, which flew P-51 Mustang fighters. They were the first Air Guard members in the country to be federally recognized. 

They federalized in Texas, and still have a photograph taken of the entire observation squadron. “That photo hangs in the Buckley Air National Guard Base headquarters building in Denver,” he said. 

During the war, many Army Air Corps units were moved or broken up, and their experienced Soldiers scattered throughout the Army. After the war, the new Air National Guard Airmen came from a war-expanded and reorganized Army Air Force. These veterans were already forming Air Guard squadrons in their hometowns when Congress established the Air Guard Sept. 18, 1947. 

Sergeant Emily said what defined the early Air Guard was no different than the National Guard today: The primary intent to take care of the state and to protect the nation in case of a national emergency. Everything has gotten bigger, he said, but the individuals and the families that sacrifice time to serve their state and country remain the same. 

“They are doing a wonderful job, and, God, we can’t do enough to support them,” he said. 

He and others from the original Colorado Air Guard do their best. The group helped build a museum. Established in 1994, the Winds over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver is a place where people learn about the role of aviation and the Air Guard. The museum recorded and archived Sergeant Emily’s experiences on video. 

“At my age, all you have left is memories,” he said. Sergeant Emily was an Air Guard member, a newspaperman, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. He lives in Denver with his wife, Frances.

The origins of the Colorado Air Guard and Sergeant Emily’s small group are similar to how other Air Guard units started throughout the country. Most units existed as a handful of seasoned combat flyers and mechanics from the war. Others were the Air Guard’s first recruits. 

Lt. Col. Lloyd Goodrow, a public affairs officer for the Vermont Air Guard, said 27 World War II combat veterans organized the Vermont Air Guard, which was the fifth Guard unit to be federally recognized. 

“The original 27 Air Guard members are now reduced to four,” Colonel Goodrow said. 

The unit’s second wing commander, retired Brig. Gen. Richard Spear, is one of them. General Spear, who now lives in Arizona, was a pilot during World War II and started his own business when he returned home. But he left it when he heard there would be a flying unit in Burlington. 

“We had just a big, empty field. There was absolutely nothing there,” the general said. 

Colonel Goodrow said the unit leased a hangar from the city, which became home for their training aircraft, a C-47 Skytrain cargo plane, and an L-5 Sentinel liaison aircraft. Maintenance performed on the flightline. The unit provided air and sea rescue on Lake Champlain with its C-47, a 5-foot raft, and a 42-foot crash boat. 

Today the Vermont Air Guard is involved in homeland defense. Since 9/11, its 158th Fighter Wing has defended the nation with its F-16 Fighting Falcons. 

“Sixty years have passed, and so have many who proudly called themselves Vermont Air National Guardsmen,” said Colonel Goodrow. 

He said high tech multimedia marketing plans have now replaced the days of knocking on doors of World War II veterans to invite them to sign up for the Air Guard. 

“The ultimate desire to serve and make a difference remains the same,” Colonel Goodrow said. “These gentlemen, our original pioneers, lit the spark that became the powerful fire that is now the Air National Guard, and our gratitude for their courage and determination will remain. Our challenge is to carry on their great legacy.” 

(Photo U.S. Army Spc. Jessica Stone)