MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
The Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education, through its Center for Faculty & Staff Development and Enrichment (FSD&E), recently hosted phase 3 of an instructor training program for the Senegalese air force. The FSD&E collaborated with the Vermont Air National Guard African Military Education Program and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies once again to offer a professional development course that further expanded the skills of instructors for the Senegalese Air Force’s new noncommissioned officer academy.
Nearly two years of coordination, instruction and practice culminated in an event Dec. 8-10, 2020, where Senegalese student-instructors were evaluated on their teaching skills as they conducted lessons on historical figures from their country. This third collaboration among the partners was held virtually via Microsoft Teams.
The liaison for Senegal’s NCOA, the l'École de l’Armee de l’Air (EAA), Senior Master Sgt. Diouf Moustapha, described the event as, “a new vision of the conduct of a class” that is “highlighting the tools necessary.”
Tech. Sgt. David Vallieres of the Vermont National Guard noted, “Every time we reconnect for our virtual engagements it is like seeing relatives you have not seen in a while. They are the most respectful and attentive adult learners I have ever met. It really streamlines our instruction. When we only have a limited number of days with them, this is a key strength that does not go unnoticed.”
The professional development courses are milestones in a strategic effort that came into being from a January 2018 request through the U.S. embassy to support Senegal’s EAA Professionalization Program. The Barnes Center quickly became the focal point for the project. During the initial visit in November 2019, the U.S. Air Force Total Force mobile training team discussed classroom setup, course development (to include lesson plans), and course delivery methodologies with the Senegalese air force noncommissioned officers tasked with standing up their academy. Based on the success of the first dialogue, a second visit was scheduled for March 2020 to provide focused training on teaching skills.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the mobile training team to cancel travel to Senegal and an alternative method for continuing this international collaboration was devised. The FSD&E leveraged their success with virtual in-residence remote (VIR-R) teaching, honed through converting their resident Enlisted Professional Military Education Instructor Course to VIR-R. Applying lessons learned the FSD&E faculty created a similar synchronous, live course for the EAA student instructors using the Microsoft Teams learning module. To ensure momentum with the project wasn’t lost, the virtual event was set for three days in July 2020. It covered a broad range of classroom management techniques including teaching methodologies, questioning techniques, and evaluation methods. The third course, held in December, focused on evaluating teaching skills and moved the EAA instructors to the next level.
New challenges continue to arise from intercontinental live events like real-time language translation, instructor coordination across four different time zones, and spotty internet connectivity. Despite the obstacles, the partners are committed to overcoming challenges to engaging with our colleagues in Sub-Saharan Africa. Future virtual sessions on additional topics have been planned to ensure the EAA cadre is ready for its upcoming pilot course with their own students. Go to https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Barnes to stay informed.