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Mathies NCOA: Making today’s leaders better

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Player, Mathies NCO Academy director of education, briefs a team of professional military education instructors during a meeting inside the Mathies NCO Academy at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, July 7, 2021. The Mathies NCO Academy host approximately 1,000 students each year, hoping to instill the quality leadership skills required to be an effective NCO. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Spencer Tobler)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Player, Mathies NCO Academy director of education, briefs a team of professional military education instructors during a meeting inside the Mathies NCO Academy at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, July 7, 2021. The Mathies NCO Academy host approximately 1,000 students each year, hoping to instill the quality leadership skills required to be an effective NCO. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Spencer Tobler)

A team of professional military education instructors have a meeting inside the Mathies NCO Academy at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, July 7, 2021. The Mathies NCO Academy host approximately 1,000 students each year, hoping to instill the quality leadership skills required to be an effective NCO. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Spencer Tobler)

A team of professional military education instructors have a meeting inside the Mathies NCO Academy at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, July 7, 2021. The Mathies NCO Academy host approximately 1,000 students each year, hoping to instill the quality leadership skills required to be an effective NCO. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Spencer Tobler)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Before sewing on the rank of Staff Sgt. and officially becoming a noncommissioned officer, Airmen are tasked  to accept a charge:

“You are charged with maintaining the highest level of communication and rapport with subordinates, remaining attuned to their needs, being ever mindful that the key is empathy, not apathy.”

“You are charged at all times with presenting an image of competence, integrity, and pride – the image of a professional noncommissioned officer.”

Becoming an NCO holds huge responsibility. The Mathies NCO Academy further instills the quality leadership skills required to be an effective NCO.

“We’re the second level of professional military education for NCOs,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Player, MNCOA director of education. “We teach individuals how to take their ‘team player’ characteristics they have acquired and help them become the ‘team builder’ their unit will need.”

The 25-day course is a student driven class that helps NCOs become the capable and competent Airman that the Air Force needs.

“Our job as instructors is to facilitate guided discussions, activities and essentially learn from each other,” said Tech Sgt. Santanna Landis, MNCOA professional military education instructor. “I can stand in front of a board and click through PowerPoints all day, but people learn a lot more from hearing about each other’s experiences.”

There are 10 NCOAs across the Air Force, all of them offering career changing advice to the students who attend.

“When I went through an NCOA course myself I realized how important it was to learn some of these concepts that we teach,” said Tech Sgt. Richard Wallace, MNCOA professional military education instructor. “It’s meant to get people outside of their comfort zone, have them find their ‘why’ and their purpose of being in the Air Force. We often times forget to self-reflect our purpose inside the overall mission.”

MNCOA host approximately 1,000 students each year, some of them having forgot what it means to be an NCO.

“I want these people to understand that they are leaders,” said Landis. “People like to put everything on their SNCOs, but NCOs are the ones that establish the culture of a unit and we want them to understand that.”

After the course, instructors hope that students will go back to their units with a new outlook on their role.

“If I can change just one person’s perspective I’m happy,” said Wallace. “It starts that ripple effect, you plant a seed in one person you never know how much they’re going to bloom and change other people throughout their career.”

The MNCOA team understands their responsibility of sending NCOs back better than they were before they came.

“We want just want to make sure our counterparts are armed with the right information,” said Player. “People tend to drift off what the Air Force has taught them and go off of their own perspective, we’re here to correct and make deliberate developmental change in people, that’s what I’ve enjoyed most.”