JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
The first-ever Oxford-Style Debate occurred on Joint base Pearl Harbor-Hickam between the 65th Airlift Squadron and the 56th Air and Space Communications Squadron Feb. 29.
Debates afford Airmen a platform to discuss Air Force subjects and also learn how to articulate in an official manner rather than in a one-on-one discussion where neither side may benefit.
“The debate allows Airmen to hear the other party and learn factual information about both sides of the argument,” said Senior Master Sgt. Abifarin Scott, 56th ACOMS Operations superintendent “The debate helps Airmen critically think and strategically communicate.”
After considering a list of possible debate topics, the Weighted Airman Promotion System testing was chosen. The 56th ACOMS argued in favor of WAPS testing, while the 65th AS was for the elimination of the testing.
“WAPS testing was chosen because it would get the most spirited debate and it is in discussion throughout the Air Force,” said Scott.
The 56th ACOMS stated WAPS testing is the most efficient and time-saving method.
In response, Maj. Michael Zeleski, 65th AS executive officer, pointed out that Airmen simply do not have the time to study and prepare. In addition to long work days, travel for work, family life, physical fitness and other factors, Airmen may use their own leave in order to study for WAPS testing.
Zeleski added that in 2020, “ Eighteen percent of all E-5 to E-6 testing for promotion across 18 career fields got additional time to prepare because of their unaccounted for Specialty Knowledge Tests.”
Master Sgt. Derrick Duncan, 613th Air and Space Operations Center cyber defense flight chief, arguing for the preservation of WAPS testing contended the test is too valuable to the Air Force, even if the quality is not always present.
“If you eliminate the test because the quality isn’t there, then you eliminate the efficiency we have today”, said Duncan.
Instead of a complete elimination of the test, Duncan suggested improving and updating the test to meet the current and future needs of the Air Force.
After half an hour of debate, the result was a decisive victory for the elimination of WAPS testing in a final score of 3-0 from the judges, crowning the 65th AS as the winners of the first official debate at JBPHH and awarding them bragging rights.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Lewis, 65th AS Commander’s Support Staff NCOIC, went into the debate in favor of eliminating WAPS testing, but now she is not as convinced.
“The debates are very useful,” said Lewis. “They give you input and perspective from different ranks, career fields and backgrounds that you wouldn’t normally have.”
The Oxford-Style debate elevates the event to more than a clash of opinions. The style is known for its professionalism and scoring method, as well as the requirement of arguments to be made with facts that have sources, not just opinion and emotion.
Scott hopes there will be more debates to follow to give Airmen an opportunity to engage in an academic argument and provide a stage to discuss issues facing the Air Force.