Pathways to leadership: ALS comes to 501st CSW

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zach Bumpus
  • 501st CSW PA
In an Air Force characterized by ever-tightening budgets, the 501st Combat Support Wing is defined by its innovations, even if those ideas come from outside of its normal mission.

For the first time in 501st CSW history an Airman Leadership School class is being held at RAF Alconbury, United Kingdom, a move estimated to save the U.S. Air Force $80,000.

Typically when an Airman from the 501st CSW attends an ALS class they will be sent to RAF Feltwell, where the ALS schoolhouse is located. Feeding and lodging the future noncommissioned officers gets expensive fast, especially considering the length of the course. To combat this, instead of bringing the students to the class, the class has come to the students.

"For me this makes perfect sense," said Tech. Sgt. Andrew M. Contreras, the ALS instructor teaching the class on RAF Alconbury. "If we can save $80,000 by having one instructor come here instead of having all 15 students TDY [Temporary Duty Assignment] up to RAF Feltwell. It's really a no-brainer."

However, this cost saving measure comes with the question of how it will affect the mission. According to Contreras, the move of the class to RAF Alconbury could be very beneficial for the students.

"Outside of the cost saving initiative, the biggest advantage that we have in bringing the course here is that the Airmen can go home to their friends and families at the end of the day," said Contreras. "The course is designed to push them outside their comfort zones already, and when on top of that they are TDY to a new place it puts extra stress on them. Here they have the opportunity to go home at the end of the day, decompress and come back to class ready to go."

As this is the first time the class is being held on RAF Alconbury, continuous process improvement is a top priority.

"We've never done something like this before, but we are always looking for ways to get the most out of what we have," said Contreras. "We will really be relying on airman feedback to see what can be improved for next time."