JBER Modernizes Military Education with ACE Focus

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman J. Michael Peña
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs

The Elmendorf Professional Military Education Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is modernizing its instruction with a focus on agile combat employment to generate Airmen capable of leading within the Indo-Pacific region and other contested environments.

The PME Center’s instructors are supplementing tabletop exercises, intelligence briefs and rigorous physical exercises in addition to their leadership development courses so students are competent in executing ACE concepts alongside their supervisory responsibilities.

“If we’re going to meet the needs of the leaders who have asked us to operate in this theater, we can't do it with what I believe the status quo to be,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gareth Davis, the Elmendorf PME Center commandant. “We needed to tailor the framework given to us and meet the needs of this installation to stay relevant and give our Airmen the best opportunity we can.”

As potential adversaries increase their operational capabilities, they threaten the United States’ ability to project power by targeting military installations. To address that threat, ACE can shift operations from centralized areas to a network of smaller, dispersed locations – complicating adversary planning and providing more options for joint force commanders.

To minimize the personnel needed to establish these mobile operation locations, the Air Force calls upon Airmen whose diverse foundational skills enable them to fulfill multiple roles beyond their primary duties. The Elmendorf PME Center aims to not only generate these Multi-Capable Airmen, but also teach them to lead in contested, degraded and operationally limited environments with minimal support.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Charles Davis, a PME Center instructor and noncommissioned officer academy curriculum lead, said his students are discussing potential adversaries every single day, dissecting the logistics needed to execute ACE and succeed in future conflicts.

“We specifically have an entire week for an assignment focusing on our near-peer adversaries, looking at the joint force as a whole, and deciding how it all factors into certain domains,” said Tech. Sgt. Davis. “Our maintainers, defenders, finance troops, our mission at JBER – what are their pieces in that puzzle?”

He said assignments such as tabletop exercises have been a staple in previous classes, though the curriculum catered to how students met the standards of the given assessment. They now take a more active approach to have students understand the gravitas of future warfare and the expertise required to successfully operate in those conditions.

The most recent graduating Airman Leadership School class at the Elmendorf PME Center was required to complete a combat fitness exercise before finishing their course, moving beyond the classroom to simulate physically demanding scenarios in the field.

Some of the tasks the group completed included pushing an off-road vehicle across a field, transporting “wounded” teammates by litter carry, dragging 150-pound mannequins, and completing a seven-mile march with 30-pound rucksacks as part of a challenge honoring the Air Force’s most recent Medal of Honor recipient, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Chapman, said Tech. Sgt. Davis.

“We have tried with this last class to reimplement that wartime military standard, that our mission is to fight our nation’s wars,” he said. “While we focus on leadership skills that apply to supervisors in the civilian world and the military, we are gearing it towards leading the warfighter in austere environments.”

Commandant Davis said that the Elmendorf PME Center is one of the first professional military education centers across the Pacific Air Forces and the Air Force as a whole to implement ACE concepts into its courses to such a significant degree.

“It’s not so much a culture change within PME, it’s listening intently to the needs of our commanders and ensuring we can operationalize PME,” said commandant Davis. “Those two things must be aligned. We have to be relevant.”