TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The First Term Airmen Course has always been part of an airman’s in-processing to base, likely their first base assignment after finishing technical school. Included in the week-long introductory course is a range of topics designed to further develop airmen.
In December 2016, reconstruction efforts began to revamp FTAC and switch the focus from in-processing to more standard curriculum and professional development. The first base to experience the newly designed course was Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and all other installations implemented the changes in June.
Tinker Air Force Base recently completed its first course of new material and Career Assistance Adviser Master Sgt. Andre Thomas explained that the procedural changes will be a continuation of the training airmen receive at basic military training and in technical school, building upon skills to which they have previously been introduced.
FTAC was designed to transition airmen from a training mindset to a mission-oriented mindset. Next generation leaders, Thomas added, are better established through professional development and diversity, strengthening the Air Force culture.
Airman’s Week is referred to as Airmanship 100, the building blocks. Airmanship 200 is considered to be part of technical school, while Airmanship 300 is accomplished through FTAC. The development will eventually progress to Airmanship 400 and Airmanship 500 for noncommissioned officers and senior noncommissioned officers, respectively.
“We emphasize professionalism and trust,” Thomas said. “But really we are taking the core values and infusing them with the Profession of Arms.”
What does that look like? The Profession of Arms Center of Excellence partnered with Headquarters Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services and the Air Force Personnel Center to revitalize and restructure the course to sharpen development skills.
“The PACE initiative is really about being a better version of yourself. It’s about diversity and gives you an opportunity to do some self-reflection as well as approaching things with group thinking and a sense of belonging,” Thomas said. “It gives not just a mission piece, but a life piece. It’s about building those relationships.”
The new course includes modules from the existing Enhancing Human Capital course, which centers discussion on trust, loyalty, commitment, in-group behavioral psychology and team-building exercises. Additionally, airmen are exposed to “What Now?” scenarios, which deal primarily with approaching certain ethical situations.
Other policy briefings included are the commander’s introduction, financial management, resiliency, substance abuse, sexual assault, legal, education, cybersecurity and social media. The master sergeant also said a tour of the installation is conducted the first day to help familiarize the airmen with their new home.
“I sit down with [72nd Air Base Wing command chief] Chief Erb to help with deliberate development pieces,” Thomas said. “I will bring her a variety of options or ideas and we talk through them and figure out how to best localize the FTAC here at Tinker. We discuss what is best and what other wings and other MAJCOMs are doing.”
Though harder to localize because FTAC is under Air Force-wide guidance, there are nuances. The Home Away From Home program is one example, matching new airmen with families within the community, giving them a family while away from their own. Adding base tours, Thomas said, is another. They are not mandated by the Air Force guidance, but they help in the development of a young airman.
FTAC is a requirement 30 days within arrival on base. The class size recently shrunk to 32 airmen, providing a smaller, more intimate setting and allowing for better engagement and networking. Airmen receive briefings that range from 30-minute micro-briefs to eight-hour training days.
“Airmen are smarter, sharper and faster,” Thomas said. “We can’t do much in minimizing the time and length of briefings since it’s mandated from big Air Force, but we try to make it interactive and give time back to them so that they’re able to network. Getting to know the installation, the units and their fellow airmen is a critical part in their successful development.”