News: First some hard learning, then celebration at TEC
Story by Master Sgt. Michael Smith
MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. - It started with introductions, like formations, like group discussions – and then sharing personal experiences.
It gave them presentations, homework and tests that broke through comfort zones, like a gauntlet.
It put up barriers of physical fitness and uniform inspections outdoors in the hand-numbing winter air.
But amazingly, officials say, the hundreds of airmen who arrived here many weeks ago for some tough leadership training made it through to their graduation day at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.
There were many outstanding efforts. Officials from the Paul H. Lankford Enlisted Professional Military Education Center announced high achievements in the recent Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Airman Leadership School during an April 4 graduation ceremony.
“I’m proud of you,” said Chief Master Sgt. Donald Felch, Lankford EPME Center commandant. “You are to be better leaders as a result of it.”
Noncommissioned Officer Academy’s Tech. Sgt. Brian Zeisel, from Alaska and Airman Leadership School’s Staff Sgt. Merci Sand from Minnesota earned the Commandant Award.
Academic achievement awards were presented to NCOA’s Tech. Sgt. Sharlene Shuler from South Carolina and ALS’s Senior Airman Adam Wilde from Illinois. There were 33 other Distinguished Graduates in the combined group of 323 students.
The John L. Levitow Award, the highest award bestowed for any Air Force enlisted PME, was earned by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Huber, from Whiteman Air Force Base, and Senior Airman Joseph Pico from New York.
“It’s amazing,” said Pico, after receiving the top honor. “I would not have been able to achieve it without my flight.”
He made lifelong friends during the school, he said.
Pico is assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard, in Long Island.
He said his course work challenged and rewarded him.
“I can take this with me in my civilian job and as an Air Force weapons instructor,” he said.
Guest speaker, Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, senior enlisted adviser to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, challenged the graduates to achieve their best.
“It does not matter where you came from or what your background is, you can choose what you put your minds to,” she said.
“I believe that leaders make themselves available for opportunity,” she said.
Jelinski-Hall said that the hopeful leaders should remember to follow and expect the highest standards from their airmen, using the Air Force’s Core Values as well as the best standards and ethics.
“Keep grounded on them and you will be successful,” she said.
Be the best that you can be, Jelinski-Hall said adding that “professional airmen lead professional airmen.”
“Congratulations on your graduation,” she said.