Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Air Force Academy Spirit

NCO trailblazing for enlisted in classroom

By Ann Patton

Academy Spirit staff

Sixteen years of hard work have paid off for Senior Master Sgt. Mark Barner.

Course-by-course, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in management studies from the University of Maryland University College.

He was also chosen to attend the Air Force Institute of Technology where he earned a Master of Science in information resource management. He was one of the first NCOs to receive a degree from AFIT.

Sergeant Barner began teaching at the Academy for the spring semester last year and is one of two NCOs teaching credited courses to cadets. He is the only NCO teaching two courses, including serving as course director for one.

“There is no age to stop learning,” he said, and added, “teaching cadets is fun.”

“It’s great to get that kind of interaction with them. I feel fortunate to be part of their education.”

Sergeant Barner splits his responsibilities between the classroom and the Geospatial Technology Center.

In the classroom, he teaches Manage-ment 391with emphasis on information technology for organizations, and directs, and Management 392 focusing on organizational networks in cyberspace.

In the GTC, a part of the Academy’s Institute for Information Technology Applications, Sergeant Barner leads and is involved with a Joint Installation Picture for Command and Control project to prototype software applications for communications and control at the unit level, an information sharing tool to create a more collaborative environment.

He will retire from the Air Force in October. At the beginning of his career, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, he served as a generator mechanic. A self-described “civil engineer guy,” Sergeant Barner eventually moved into CE operations management.

He is now breaking ground by enriching the enlisted heritage for NCOs as Academy faculty.

“Sergeant Barner represents to cadets the highly professional and educated enlisted force that we are fortunate to have in today’s Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Knapp, associate professor in management. “He has the same qualifications we look for in our civilian and military instructors, including the appropriate master’s degree, content expertise, professionalism and classroom skills.”

Colonel Knapp stressed having qualified NCOs in the classroom alerts cadets to the reality that the Air Force has a highly educated enlisted force, many with advanced degrees in relevant fields from quality institutions.

“We bring a lot to the teaching environment,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ricardo Melendez, who holds a Master of Science in computer science and teaches Spanish to cadets. “There is a lot we can give back to the cadets.”

Both he and Sergeant Barner each have more than 20 years’ Air Force service, with duties in multiple assignments and shops during their careers. That, coupled with their educations, makes them ideal for sharing their mentorship and experience with cadets.

Sergeant Barner grew up in Tennessee and goes hunting once or twice a year, but his main interest outside the classroom and lab is time with his family – wife, Rebecca, whom he met while on duty at Mountain Home AFB, and his daughter, McKenna, 3.

Although he regrets there is no Ph.D. track for Air Force enlisted, he would like to see more NCOs teaching at the Academy.

“I hope it will open up discussion for having more enlisted instructors here,” he said. “There are lots of educated enlisted who could be here teaching,” he said.

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