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First Year Report: Academy’s Enlisted Academic Faculty Program making progress

Story by Ray Bowden, photos by Trevor Cokley

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — An Air Force Academy report released this summer analyzes the progress of the school’s Enlisted Academic Faculty Program.

The Academy is the first of the service academies to feature enlisted service members as official faculty members.

Written by Chief Master Sgt. Sean Milligan and Senior Master Sgts. Ecatarina Garcia and Gloria Kuzmicki, the report comes one year after enlisted academic instructors were added to the Air Force’s roster of career specialties.

“We need a few more years of data to fully appreciate the capability and sustainability of the program, but the initial findings are promising,” said Chief Master Sgt. Sarah Sparks, the Academy’s command chief. “We believe the enlisted faculty has a positive effect on faculty members and cadets.”

Garcia, Kuzmicki, Senior Master Sgt. William Baez and Milligan are the Academy’s four enlisted Academic instructors. Garcia teaches military strategic studies, Kuzmicki teaches behavioral sciences and leadership, Baez teaches introductory statistics, and Milligan manages the enlisted instructors and teaches part-time in the management department.

“This first year proved three things,” Milligan said. “The Air Force can select and hire qualified enlisted members to contribute to the Academy faculty’s mission, enlisted [academic instructors] increase our faculty’s diversity, and enlisted members can leverage an academic education often funded by the service to provide the Air Force with a direct return on its investment.”

Enlisted instructors have the same standing as their commissioned officer and civilian colleagues.

“When I see an enlisted name on my academic schedule, I get excited,” said Cadet 1st Class Annie Rutter, a management major. “Having enlisted instructors has changed my perspective 100%. After interacting with [enlisted Airmen] throughout my time at the Academy, I have grown to respect them so much. People may not realize that they could be working on their doctorates. I think people forget how amazing and driven our enlisted Airmen are.”

The Report
The report reviews the history of enlisted faculty instructors and faculty members, the benefits of diversity and perceptions about enlisted instructors.

“The report documents why enlisted faculty members are important to the development of cadets and the diverse experience they bring to the classroom,” Sparks said. “It builds a foundation from which cadets, enlisted Airmen and officers can move forward.”

The school’s diversity would be enhanced by exposing cadets to more enlisted instructors, according to the report.

“There’s a strong desire for cadets and young officers to have a more collaborative learning and [career] growth experience with enlisted Airmen,” Kuzmicki said.

Sparks said diversity of perspective in the learning environment is critical for cadets.

“Familiarizing cadets with an enlisted professional’s operational experience in the classroom provides this opportunity,” she said.

The report advocates for the thoughtful addition of enlisted instructors.

“Slow and deliberate growth is likely to produce the most meaningful experience for cadets and enlisted instructors,” Garcia said.

Baez agreed.

“This will allow the position to become an established career path for any enlisted Airman regardless of their Air Force specialty,” he said.

Changing Perceptions
The Air Force’s administrative hub, the Air Force Personnel Center at Joint Base San Antonio, announced the need for senior noncommissioned officers to fill just-created enlisted academic instructor position in January 2019.

Before, enlisted Airmen occasionally taught at the Academy but their positions were never official.

“This [program] is not a public relations stunt,” Baez said. “It is, in fact, a strategic move that leverages existing talent within the enlisted ranks to fully develop the character of future Air Force leaders.”

Rutter hopes the Air Force makes room for more enlisted faculty members at the Academy.

“They provide so much more than some cadets might realize,” she said. “They truly care about us and our development.”

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Rob Boyer, the Academy’s previous command chief, led the school’s efforts to formalize the program in 2018.

The Academy’s first enlisted faculty member, retired Senior Master Sgt. Mark Barner, taught in the management department in 2009.