ALS: “Airmen Locating Success”

By Senior Airman Michelle Patten
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Airman Leadership School can be viewed a few different ways. For some it is just another box to check in order to be able to wear their staff sergeant stripes. Others see ALS as the transition from Airman to non-commissioned officer. Another group of Airmen are just glad to have a break from the daily grind of their regular missions.

Tech. Sgt. Jamie Kienholz, non-commissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio Airman Leadership School, talks to Airmen from ALS Class 15-3 during the Introduction to Negotiation lecture at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, March 19, 2015. Kienholz has served as NCOIC for the past year and says the change to the developmental special duty process has brought sharp and motivated NCOs to the schoolhouse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Strang/Released)
Tech. Sgt. Jamie Kienholz, non-commissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio Airman Leadership School, talks to Airmen from ALS Class 15-3 during the Introduction to Negotiation lecture at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, March 19, 2015. Kienholz has served as NCOIC for the past year and says the change to the developmental special duty process has brought sharp and motivated NCOs to the schoolhouse. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Strang/Released)

No matter what your attitude going into the five and a half weeklong course most students are anxious about starting.

“I was apprehensive about coming to ALS because I have heard there’s a lot of reading and homework during the class,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Otley, 959th Inpatient Operations Squadron critical care technician. “As class progressed, I felt more comfortable because even though there’s a lot of assignments they’re staggered enough that you if you use effective time management you’ll be successful.”

Even though I knew countless Airmen before me had successfully gone through the course, I knew little of what to expect besides I would be required to do some form of public speaking. For me, I would describe giving speeches as similar to visiting the dentist, not something I look forward to  and done only when it’s necessary.

While practicing those speeches in front of my husband and dog seemed a little silly at the time, when I presented I wasn’t as nervous as I expected.

One of the most reserved Airmen in my flight and a self-proclaimed “shy guy” summed up his thoughts on having to do public speaking.

“My favorite part of ALS turned out to be the speeches on our personal Air Force stories and key Air Force messages because I got to know what people in the class do for the Air Force and I learned about a lot of Air Force programs,” said Senior Airman Alan Maramag, 959th Clinical Support Squadron medical laboratory technician. “I also enjoyed preparing my own speeches because it definitely helped me be more confident speaking in front of people.”

Other lessons focused on identifying leadership styles, team building and providing Airmen with performance feedback. We also sharpened our skills with the gamut of writing that is required as a frontline supervisor, which includes enlisted performance reports and letters of counseling.

Most of my classmates agreed that the most valuable aspect of ALS is not written into the curriculum, but comes from interaction with other students. While we often think of ourselves as medical technicians, security forces patrolmen or whatever other job title we may hold, we are all Airmen first. There are benefits to stepping outside your usual work center. You gain a fresh perspective on how to handle workplace conflict and network with classmates.

Here’s some advice from the seasoned veterans of Joint Base San Antonio’s ALS Class 15-3:

  • “Make sure you stress to the people at home that this is a very intensive program and you need to focus your energy on ALS studies.” –Senior Airman Erin Owens, 959th Medical Operations Squadron surgical technician
  • “My advice for ALS would be to be very flexible to change. Expect long hours and less sleep. Interact with your classmates.” –Senior Airman Amberlyn Canaday, 502th Comptroller Squadron regionalized dispersing cashier
  • “The one suggestion I have is to try to get your flight on the same page as fast as possible so you’re set up for success.” –Staff Sgt. Kyle Gutherie, 59th Medical Logistics & Readiness Squadron biomedical equipment technician

While ALS will equip you with the basic tools to be a supervisor in the Air Force, for me the experience was more about self-reflection. It allowed me to actually take time to stop and think about what kind of supervisor, leader and even what kind of Airman I want to be. With some newly learned tools I now have my goals within reach.

What was your experience like in ALS? Did it shape what kind of leader you became?