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Taking care of our CCAF credit at a time

  • Published
  • By Col. Mark Ellis
  • USAF Expeditionary Center
When Airman 1st Class Eugenio Santana arrived at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center for a mandatory course required for his job as an intelligence journeyman with the 19th Operations Group at Little Rock AFB, Ark., he had no idea that upon course completion, he would earn five credit hours for the Community College of the Air Force.

Imagine getting college credit for pre-deployment training, or a web-based course that is required for your upgrade or to increase your professional knowledge? In many cases, that imagination is reality at the Expeditionary Center where Community College of the Air Force credits are earned in several of the expeditionary and mobility training courses executed by the Expeditionary Operations School and the Mobility Operations School. The two schools are part of the Center located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and of the 94 different courses available, 85 of them offer CCAF credits.

And you don't always have to be physically present to earn, or learn, for that matter. Here at the EC, we use a blended learning approach in which a combination of web-based training is utilized to complement resident training. Of our distance learning courses, 10 are pre-requisites for follow-on classroom training while 11 are stand-alone. Five of our distance learning courses also offer CCAF credit. Pre-requisite courses save time and money by accomplishing knowledge-based learning at home station prior to attending in-residence courses. They are also invaluable in getting the knowledge of students to a common level, thereby facilitating more effective and efficient resident training.

In Fiscal Year 11, the Center had 8,447 resident graduates while another 19,078 students graduated via distance learning. A whopping 32,877 CCAF credit hours were awarded...many of these to Airmen undergoing mandatory pre-deployment training.

Senior Airman Albert Postrado, a multi-source analyst with the 13th Intelligence Squadron at Beale AFB, Cal., is one of 130 Airmen attending mandated Combat Airman Skills Training here at the Center as opposed to Fort Bullis, Texas or Camp Guernsey, Wyo., where it is also taught. He, like other enlisted Airmen in the class, will earn 3 CCAF credit hours for the 10-day course. Senior Airmen Leronn Dorsey, a Defender with the 421st Combat Training Squadron at JB-MDL, graduated just before Christmas from the Center's Security Forces Base Security Operations Training course here as opposed to Creech AFB, Nev., or Fort Bliss, Texas, and earned 6 CCAF credits. Same course, same curriculum, same lesson plan, same course length. So what's the difference you ask? Our instructors and accreditation program.

How our instructors are different

For starters, we put an upfront investment in our academic and field instructors, as they all attend a week-long Academic Instructor Course that is preceded by a week's worth of computer-based training focused on instructor methodology. You can be the best "port dog" or "defender" in your unit, but can you teach?

You've all been to training and can attest that standing in front of an audience and reading PowerPoint slides is not conducive to learning. The one week residence practical portion includes additional focus on lesson planning, interpersonal skills, and aid-based learning. Future instructors develop, personalize and deliver graded lessons from their area of expertise. Presentations are discussed using mentor/evaluator-led feedback to identify strong points and areas of improvement. In order to graduate, the instructors must pass a knowledge test as well as practical evaluations. They then complete a 180-hour CCAF teaching internship (worth 12 credits alone) under the tutelage of an experienced instructor. The evaluations don't stop there, as instructors get yearly evaluations and pass subject matter evaluationsthroughout their tours here at the Center and must attend quarterly In-Service Training to sharpen their instructor skills.

What makes us an accredited program

Accreditation is an external quality review process used by agencies to closely examine colleges, universities or educational programs for quality assurance and quality improvement. At the Expeditionary Center, we get our authority to issue college credits from CCAF via Air University's accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. In order for the Center to provide CCAF credit, our instructors, the courses and our students must meet certain criteria.

Completion of the Academic Instructor Course is one criteria that must be met. Capt. Chris Davis, an intelligence officer assigned to the 422nd Joint Tactics Squadron and recent graduate of the course said, "I enjoyed my time in the course and learned quite a bit in a week. I particularly enjoyed the mentoring sessions with experienced instructors because it provided me with quality feedback and professional development."

Aside from the instructor's training and credentials, each CCAF-accredited course must go through a recurring Instructional Systems Development process whereby the curriculum must meet specified requirements. Finally, our students must not only attend the classes, but also pass mandatory tests.

The CCAF plays a huge role in the validation of formal training across the Air Force. When individuals like Airman 1st Class Eugenio Santana walk out of our doors after finishing their course work, they can be confident the training they received and skills they learned will be officially acknowledged by the Air Force and can be used to further their development as professional Airmen, regardless of grade or specialty. Providing CCAF credits for required training is not only an efficient and disciplined use of decreasing defense dollars, it also protects another scarce asset --Airmen's time. In today's constrained environment, the Expeditionary Center offers a great way to take care of Airmen.

For more information about the courses offered at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, please contact the registrar's office at (609) 754-7730.