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Part four -- PME instructors
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PME instructors prepare Airman for leadership
Senior Airman Benjamin Byers, 85th Engineering Installation Squadron, far left, guides a blindfolded Senior Airman Emily Zanes, 81st Medical Support Squadron, through a balloon “minefield” April 11, 2012, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The activity is part of a series of Airman Leadership School exercises to enhance communication skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bond)
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There's no AFSC for that?
Part four -- PME instructors

Posted 4/18/2012   Updated 4/18/2012 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Eric Summers Jr.
81st Training Wing Public Affairs

4/18/2012 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss.  -- Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series about people at Keesler in special duty positions outside of their primary Air Force specialty code.

A team is only as strong as its weakest member, but a team's potential is also limited by its strongest leader. One special duty provides current and future supervisors with the tools to become better leaders.

Enlisted professional military education instructors, a special duty position at the Mathies Noncommissioned Officers Academy and Keesler Airman Leadership School, help groom Airmen to be leaders by building the foundations for critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

"As instructors, we make sure we have all curriculum available and ensure students have everything they need to be successful," said Master Sgt. John Mitchell, Mathies NCO Academy instructor and superintendent of curriculum and test data analysis. "We lead them in class discussions, prepare them for drill and ceremony and provide an environment for learning."

The Mathies NCO Academy trains and develops technical sergeants to become leaders and attendance to an NCO Academy or equivalent course is a requirement for promotion to master sergeant. Airman Leadership School develops senior airmen to become supervisors and is required for promotion to staff sergeant.

"The Air Force has said that PME is important and provides leadership, discussion and all the lessons that come together to increase awareness and refine tools to be more effective at leading Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Nolen, Mathies NCO Academy commandant.

Nolen fills one of only 11 positions in the Air Force in charge of an NCO Academy and is responsible for selecting instructors, communicating needs of the academy to the Barnes Center at Gunter Annex, Ala., and sharing time with students.

"One of the best parts of this job is developing the staff here and mentoring them," Nolen said. "My desire is for them to have their experience here be the best possible and be prepared to lead Airmen better after they leave."

The impact that instructors here have on students is portrayed in the leadership capabilities of the Airmen when they return to 20 different bases.

Mitchell said that NCO Academy instructors have students for six weeks. By the end of the course, he can see the light bulbs come on as students use thinking processes. He hopes the theories they learn are passed on to their subordinates.

"PME is a great way to develop a thinking process, leadership, conflict management and another perspective on how to handle things," said Mitchell.

Nolen said that enlisted PME instructors are absolutely instrumental and helped shape his career path when he attended ALS here at Keesler in April 1994.

"Staff Sgt. Gordon Blighton was my ALS instructor and had a tremendous impact on me. Because of him I decided to become an ALS instructor," the chief said. "Looking back over those years, they were the most fulfilling six years of my career." The influence of the instructor and hard work led Nolen to accomplishing his career goal of being an NCO Academy commandant.

Mitchell said that since he became an enlisted PME instructor, he's not only taught students but learned from them as well, viewing a wider spectrum of the Air Force as a whole.

"As an NCO instructor you get out of your comfort zone," Mitchell said. "I teach crew chiefs, medical, air traffic controllers, special forces (and many other jobs)," Mitchell said. "You get their perspectives on the Air Force and what they do, which provides a bigger picture and prepares me to be a better leader."

1/29/2015 3:55:35 PM ET
Would like to get in touch with Chief Rob Nolen as he was on my staff prior to my retirement and I pinned him as a Senior many years ago.Lee Boteler Chief Master Sergeant retired Sir, We have contacted Chief Nolen, and he would love to hear from you. Please send an email to, and we can pass along his contact information. V/r Keesler Public Affairs
Lee Boteler, Denver CO
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