By Phil Berube, Air University Public Affairs
/ Published November 07, 2018
In this photo taken on Dec. 13, 2006, former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Paul W. Airey (center) unveils a dedication plaque at the Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, noncommissioned officer academy named in his honor. The Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education at Air University, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, has been working on rescheduling and rerouting students who were attending the academy but were ordered to evacuate before Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 10, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lisa Norman)
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to Airmen attending the noncommissioned officer academy at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, Jan. 26, 2018. The Sheppard academy is one of the locations where NCOs who were scheduled to attend the academy at Tyndall AFB, Fla., will attend for the foreseeable future. (U.S. Air Force photo/Alan R. Quevy)
Along with the thousands of Airmen evacuated from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., days before Hurricane Michael made landfall were 179 students from installations across the region attending the Airey Noncommissioned Officer Academy.
The NCOs had just started their classes on Oct. 2, 2018, before being ordered that they, along with the base’s other non-essential personnel, were to leave the base on Oct. 8.
Michael, as a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall on Oct. 10, with Tyndall and the academy dead in its sights.
Soon after Michael started heading to the northeast after tearing through the Florida Panhandle, the staff at the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education at Air University started working with affected major commands and the Air Force Personnel Center on alternate attendance options for the 1,274 students who attend the academy annually, to include those who had to evacuate.
“The Senior NCO Academy here was able to adjust their schedule to free up space and add an NCO academy class. The faculty from the Senior NCO Academy, augmented by those NCO academy instructors who are on temporary duty, will do the instruction after a week-long immersive training event,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Bankoske, the chief of academic affairs at the Barnes Center. “Lastly, the 179 students who were ordered to evacuate will be prioritized by AFPC for re-attendance, which may be immediately at either McGhee Tyson, the additional course at the Senior NCO Academy or further in the fiscal year.”
The academy class that was to start on Nov. 14 at Tyndall will instead be held at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tenn., one of the six stateside locations for NCO academies.
“Catastrophes, like Hurricane Michael, deeply affect everyone involved, but do not relieve us of our responsibilities to educate noncommissioned officers to lead people and teams,” said Bankoske. “Times like this generate a rallying cry to support those impacted, and it always includes a team solution. Our wingmen at McGhee Tyson rose to this occasion and immediately offered their assistance. Our Total Force teammates generated an additional course to get after an Air Force problem because they recognize it takes a people solution. We couldn’t be more proud and thankful.”
The mix of 10 Air National Guard and active duty instructors at McGhee Tyson will be augmented by three active duty instructors from stateside and overseas academies.
The academies at Sheppard AFB, Texas, and Keesler AFB, Miss., are also pitching in to help.
Each academy, said Bankoske, will be able to add additional flights of students to their already scheduled course loads.
“With all these schools surging their operations, we’ll be able to work through about two-thirds of Tyndall’s annual production,” he said.
Bankoske said the Barnes Center, HAF/A1, AFPC and the major commands are working in concert to finalize plans to find NCO academy classrooms for the remaining students who were scheduled to go to Tyndall in the foreseeable future.