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NEWS | May 24, 2011

ALS - molding tomorrow's supervisors

By Airman 1st Class Jared Trimarchi Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Every senior airman must graduate from Airman Leadership School in order to become a staff sergeant, supervisor and a noncommissioned officer in charge in the Air Force.

Airman Leadership School, a five week course lead by four instructors, encompasses lessons in the principles of supervision and management, the importance of communication and military professionalism.

"Although students learn about how to be a good leader, how to perform ceremonies such as reveille and retreat and how to be a great mentor, one of the most important lessons learned is Comprehensive Airmen Fitness and its four pillars," said Master Sgt. Joe Adams, 628th Force Support Squadron ALS commandant. 

Comprehensive Airman Fitness is a lifestyle that asks an individual to improve their quality of life by staying physically, mentally, socially and spiritually fit, he said.

"Comprehensive Airman Fitness is extremely important for future supervisors to understand and relay to their subordinates," Sergeant Adams said. "Through CAF, Airmen become more resilient and can handle the stressors associated with being in the military."

Due to the rigors of being an Airmen warrior, students are already aware of the importance of physical fitness, but ALS teaches students different methods of keeping active.

"We teach Airmen to stay physically fit by giving them different avenues for working out," Sergeant Adams said. "There is more to the physical body than just the physical training test. As part of the ALS curriculum, we try different exercises three days a week, such as cross-fit, spinning and even Zumba. There is a lesson dedicated to nutritional values and the importance of feeding your body with the right kind of fuel as well."

Being in the military can be mentally challenging and going through ALS is no different, Sergeant Adams said.

"It's a tough course," he said. "When students graduate, they receive 10 college credits. That means more than three college classes in one month and about three to four hours of homework every day. We understand our students have stress, but we teach them different methods to handle it. We have lessons on time management, suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Many times we have students who recently returned from deployment," Sergeant Adams said. "We use their experiences and focus on them throughout the lessons. We want our Airmen to learn how to manage stress overseas and stress when they come back home."

Airman Leadership School is also a great place to meet new friends and develop a network where students can meet other Airmen from different career fields throughout the base, Sergeant Adams said.

"Students have to get to know each other before they can work together efficiently," Sergeant Adams said. "A student cannot graduate alone. With the help of their classmates, the students must complete a community service project to help those who are less fortunate in the local community. When students come together as a team and communicate to accomplish a goal, it teaches them the importance of teamwork. Every relationship needs teamwork; at ALS, at work or at home."

Spiritual fitness, is also incorporated into the curriculum.

"We teach our students the resources available to help them find their inner peace," Sergeant Adams said. "We discuss what spiritual wellness is. It doesn't necessarily have to be a specific religion or religious event, but just a belief in something bigger than yourself. We also have a non-denominational prayer during each graduation ceremony that one of the students will volunteer to write. Ultimately, we want the students to pass that information and those resources to their Airmen."

Though graduating ALS and becoming a staff sergeant is a challenge, it's an accomplishment to be proud of, Sergeant Adams said.

"Each month, 36 students walk in our front door and after 24 working days, 36 leaders exit," he said. "Besides learning about the military, leadership and communication, it's important for the students to learn about themselves. We hope students realize that they are not just technicians, mechanics or firemen, but they are supervisors, teammates and leaders."