By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado — It was April 1985. Under Chief Master Sgt. Lincoln Jeffus, with a staff of five and two classrooms, what was then known as the Air Force Space Command NCO Professional Military Education Center, trained and graduated 31 students.
Jump ahead 30 years and the Forrest L. Vosler NCO Academy graduated 16,780 — more than the population of Canon City — staying faithful to the original vision to “Make Good NCOs Better.” Nearly 800 NCOs are developed annually at the oldest NCO academy led solely by chief master sergeants at the helm.
A ceremony honoring the 30 year milestone was held April 3 at the Vosler Academy. Air Force Space Command and 21st Space Wing leadership joined NCOs and senior NCOs to commemorate the anniversary. The keynote speaker for the event was Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander and president of Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
Kwast honored the sacrifices made by Airmen to push out evil in a world that is as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than at any other time in history. In the 1940s, aircraft were the primary focus of the Air Force, in the ‘50s it was nuclear deterrence and in the ‘70s it was stealth and precision. But now, Kwast said, today’s Air Force faces different challenges.
Now it is an Air Force of a generation who has to figure out where the biggest difference can be made, Kwast said. If integrity, service and excellence are the focus, reinventing the Air Force will be easy. He encouraged NCOs to reflect and redefine themselves.
“It is important to wake up every day dedicated to freedom,” he said. “We will keep the American Dream alive into the next century… that’s our job.”
Following Kwast’s keynote presentation, visitors were treated to an open house. Academy staff presented five different demonstration classes in ethical leadership — four lenses, team building, change management and human performance — to show the type of education NCOs receive when they attend courses at the facility.
Including a major redesign in 2002, the Academy has made tremendous progress in improving the quality of NCOs across the Air Force. Today, it serves 112 students from 32 installations and eight flights seven times each year. During their stay the students attend 28 days of classes on leadership, management and profession of arms.
Through the growth and change of multiple decades, one thing at the Vosler NCO Academy has remained the same. It still fulfills its mission to make good NCOs better.