MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
On May 21, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III deferred the repercussions of failing to complete Enlisted Professional Military Education Distance Learning within one year of enrollment until Jan. 1, 2017.
The policy change, which only applies to Airmen notified to enroll in the distance learning course between June 3 and Dec. 31, 2015, allows test centers additional time to accommodate the influx of test takers and alleviates potential impacts to Airmen who fail for reasons beyond their control.
Airmen who do not complete Course 14 or 15 before the new deadline are subjected to repercussions such as ineligibility to reenlist, extend or promote until the requirement is met.
The distance learning portion of EPME was introduced to the Air Force in July 2014 and educates Airmen on official skills required of them at specific milestones throughout their careers.
Distance learning consists of two different curriculums, Course 15 for staff sergeants in the process of becoming technical sergeants and Course 14 for technical sergeants becoming master sergeants. Completing these courses is required before NCOs and senior NCOs can enroll in their respective in-residence training academies.
“The course is rigorous and time consuming, but it definitely helped me to view things more strategically,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Robinson, the 35th Force Support Squadron career assistance advisor. “I feel better equipped with different skills and perspectives than just those required for day-to-day operational leadership.”
Combating the growing demand for leaders within the Air Force, the Air University created the distance learning course to educate the enlisted force about different concepts more efficiently. NCOs are targeted approximately seven to eight years into their careers and Senior NCOs are targeted at the 12- to 13-year mark.
“Airmen at all levels need leadership skills and the Air Force has the right idea to instruct different phases of leadership training,” said Senior Airman Theda Shaw, 35th Force Support Squadron First Term Airman’s Council supervisor and Professional Development Center coordinator. “EPME prepares Airmen for the next rank, instead of waiting until they've obtained it.”
Robinson recommends approaching EMPE like a college course instead of a College Level Examination Program exam. Since the information taught is concept-based as opposed to knowledge-based, Airmen must read and understand concepts fully to accurately apply them.
“We’re so used to knowledge-based courses in which we read something, memorize it and answer it on a test,” Shaw said. “That is not possible with EPME.”
There are multiple resources Airmen can use to further their comprehension of the subjects reviewed including study guides and groups.
At Misawa, the PDC hosts CrossTalk study groups the first Tuesday and Thursday of every month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is designed to provide a forum for NCOs who haven’t taken the Course 15 test to gather and discuss concepts of EPME.
“Test failures have shown to result from 25 hours or less of study time and passing scores result from more than 100 hours,” said Robinson. “There’s no special trick, you just have to study.”
The deadline deferment ensures Airmen have ample time to enroll in the course, study and comprehend the material, as well as ensures test centers can hold the influx of exam takers.
“Airmen are still required to complete EPME Distance Learning in a timely manner, yet we certainly understand we need to adjust to ensure all Airmen are able to complete the course on time,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody. “The policy deferment is necessary for us to assist Airmen through the transition to a blended learning program that delivers higher quality education to our Airmen earlier in their careers.”
For additional information, log onto MyPers or contact the Misawa Professional Development Center at DSN 226-7829 or by email at 35FW.CAA.CareerAssistanceAdvisor@us.af.mil.