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AETC commander discusses Continuum of Learning, force development at AFA

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) -- Learning. It's a mentality as much as it is an activity. In Air Education and Training Command, learning is being looked at whole-sale, to meet the demands of a modern force and to meet the needs of tomorrow's fight.

Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, AETC commander, speaking before a room overflowing with Airmen from around the Air Force, presented the redesigned Continuum of Learning in a discussion at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Sept. 19, 2017, in which Airmen were invited to take part and ask questions about how the shift in learning culture would affect them.

"The Continuum of Learning is a way of describing our deliberate effort of taking training and education, and combining them with experiences," Roberson said. "We have to do a better job to transform what we've been doing for the last 70 years--from a pipeline, industrial-age kind of production system--into a much more modern learning system."

Earlier in the day, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein discussed the importance of taking a big-picture look at how learning affects Air Force capabilities during the Air Force update brief.

"The question for us is, does our development plan today ensure that throughout the Continuum of Learning we are properly exposed to the operational art of how we bring air, space and cyber capabilities together," Goldfein said.

Roberson echoed this sentiment, discussing the imperative to develop Airmen and their capabilities.

"We have to have competent, agile, innovative Airmen who are going to be able to deliver (capabilities) in operational air, space and cyberspace," Roberson said.

He continued, discussing need for exposing Airmen to joint opportunities earlier to develop senior leaders who can operate better in the joint environment.

To the Airmen in the audience, Roberson noted broad range of the Continuum of Learning over the lifespan of their careers.

"Our intent is literally to individualize the training and the education you are going to receive throughout your career, and even beyond it into retirement," Roberson said.

The authority to implement many of the aspects of the Continuum of Learning comes in the recently-approved construct of the AETC commander being simultaneously the force development commander.

Roberson took the opportunity to explain some ways this is already impacting development force-wide.

"We need more coders in the U.S. Air Force, and we're starting to work on that already," Roberson said. "But, it came from the force development commander construct because there were conversations saying we need this capability--we need data engineers who are blue-suiters, we need artificial intelligence specialists now--in order to take the information that is going to be out there in a cross-domain environment."

Goldfein also offered some insight into the critical nature of Airmen development for the fights of tomorrow.

"There are two elements that are going to be absolutely essential going forward," Goldfein said. "Looking at the business of war-fighting in space, and looking at the business of the nuclear enterprise and how we do war-fighting has got to be central to our development in the Continuum of a Learning going forward."

"This is a big change," Roberson said. "And the only reason it's happening is because your chief and your secretary are willing to take risk. They are willing to look downrange to see where we want to be, instead of asking how we are going to get there."

To learn more about the redesigned Continuum of Learning, visit the AETC's Continuum of Learning website.

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