Tech. Sgt John Craven participates in a cadet training exercise April 15, 2011, at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Academy Military Training NCOs play a key role in the training and development of cadets. Sergeant Craven is the NCO in charge of Basic Cadet Training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)
Master Sgt. Scott Harris goes over test results with Cadet 3rd Class Brett Gudem, Cadet Squadron 32. Sergeant Harris is an Academy Military Training NCO with Cadet Squadron 32. (U.S. Air Force photo/Mike Kaplan)
by Gino Mattorano
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
5/2/2011 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- As long as there's been an Air Force Academy, an elite group of NCOs has played a key role in the development of future leaders for the Air Force, and now those NCOs wear a formal mark of distinction.
Academy Military Training NCOs, more commonly known as AMTs, were recently authorized to wear an aiguillette, an ornamental braided cord which is worn across their left shoulder to designate their status as a military trainer.
"If you look at the other (Air Education and Training Command) accessioning sources, the NCOs there all wear the rope to help identify themselves," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael A. Dahlhoff, the Cadet Wing training and support superintendent. "It's not so much for us as it is for the cadets. There are a lot of enlisted people here in the cadet area, and the rope helps the cadets know who to turn to when they have questions."
There are more than 120 AMT authorizations at the Academy, and AMTs are assigned to the cadet wing, airfield and the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School, serving as the enlisted representative for the units in which they're assigned.
"Our AMTs give cadets a proper perspective of the role of NCOs in the Air Force," Chief Dahlhoff said. "They provide day-to-day guidance and mentorship to cadets as they progress from high school students through various leadership roles within the cadet wing on their path to becoming officers of character for our Air Force."
Cadets fulfill all the duties and responsibilities of positions held in an active-duty squadron, from operations officer or section commander to element leader and first sergeant, and AMTs help ensure cadets understand those roles and execute them properly, said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Crespo, the 1st Cadet Group superintendent.
"We train cadets to properly train cadets," Sergeant Crespo said. "We work closely with (air officers commanding) to ensure cadet leadership has the right vision, and help them arrive at appropriate decisions."
Maj. Brian Wilkerson, the AOC for Cadet Squadron 30, said the NCO presence within the squadron is vital to cadet training.
"We work together to provide guidance to cadets when they have questions or concerns with issues ranging from academics and taking leave, to career field decisions," he said.
According to Chief Dahlhoff, AMTs serve in three primary roles within the cadet squadron: first sergeant, superintendent, and trainer.
"No two days are ever the same," Chief Dahlhoff said. "Our doors are always open, and we spend a fair amount of time providing cadet-initiated counseling. We don't solve their problems for them. We give them options and help them make their own decisions. Just like new Airmen, cadets often have questions about life outside the Academy, how to make travel arrangements and other issues they'll need to deal with once they leave the Academy. Our AMTs work together with the AOCs to provide that voice of experience."
Throughout the school year, AMTs also provide instruction through cadet commissioning education classes. These classes provide instruction on the profession of arms as it relates to being effective commissioned officers and leaders.
This instruction extends beyond the classroom into all aspects of training, from the time a cadet enters basic, all the way through graduation, Sergeant Crespo said.
"One of the most-rewarding aspects of this job is working with a cadet from the time they enter the Academy as a high school student who knows nothing about military life, and watching them develop into an Air Force officer who is trained and ready to lead Airmen." Sergeant Crespo said. "That's when you really feel like you made a difference."
5/9/2011 1:43:35 PM ET Nice article summarizing the role of AMTs. Chief Dahlhoff, you were always one of the most cheerful people I've met in the AF. Nice to know you're still keeping up the good work.
5/8/2011 11:16:16 PM ET Having active duty NCOs', especially with the AMT, visual identity present in all areas, including the Cadet Dorms, may help prevent the abuses of the doolies that used to occur where there was no active duty AOC or AMT likely to be a witness. Hazing Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the like have no business in training future Air Force officers. Having Air Force NCOs present to show the true spirit of leadership and cooperation is a great step forward.